The city of Seoul is twinkling in front of us, and we are surrounded by thousands of N Seoul Tower lovelocks, including ours. It’s a windy winter night, and my “born-and-raised in tropical country” body can’t tolerate the freezing temperature. But I don’t mind for I’m in the most romantic place in Seoul with Paul, my boyfriend of 4 years doing the cliché lovelocks. The view deck is almost empty, and after all the struggles we had to be here, it feels like we are in our own romantic Korean drama.
ONE HOUR AGO IN SEOUL STATION
My family travel group of 15 just ended our hanbok experience in Gyeongbokgung Palace and Insadong stroll at around 7 PM. There is still time to ride a bus and visit the N Seoul Tower because, as planned, it is our last destination before our flight later at 2 AM. One by one, they are backing out, saying they’re already exhausted and just want to kill time in the station. Okay, it is easy to just go with their decision to call it a night already since, like all of them, my feet and back are killing me too. But I was never the passive girl in both travel and life as general. This girl gets what it wants.
Paul and I had planned our N Seoul Tower lovelock moment months before the trip. We even bought a sturdy, unaesthetic padlock that we use to lock the gates in the Philippines, hoping that it will stay there until we return after some years. I was excited this morning because after visiting it on my first Seoul trip last 2015, I’m finally going back with him. So we decided to push through without the group.
We leave my family, who were all sitting pretty, in a waiting area in the middle of this enormous station. I can remember from my researches before that there’s a direct bus ride from Seoul Station to N Seoul Tower, just forgot on what exit was the bus stop is. Unluckily, I don’t have an internet connection because my cousin did all the navigation on this trip, and there’s no free Wi-Fi. As always, on times like this, my ever-charming boyfriend starts to search for the tourism information center to ask for directions. Navigation is something I’m better than Paul, but since I didn’t purchase a SIM card or pocket Wi-Fi for this trip, we stick by his methods.
Good thing, the guy behind the information counter can speak English. He tells us that we have to take the subway to Myeongdong Station and ride the Namsan Shuttle No. 05 near Exit 3. I ask him for the direct bus, and he answers me that there’s none. “Are you sure? There is,” then he flips the monitor towards me with an online map showing the directions we asked. His English seems limited, so there will be no use arguing. I take a photo of the screen and pulls my boyfriend toward the subway entrance.
Myeongdong Station is only two stations away from Seoul. It is a quiet 12-minute train ride, for we are both tired and feel like we are chasing time. We have to be back before 10 PM for the scheduled train ride to the airport. By Exit 3 of Myeongdong Station, I turn left toward Exit 2, following the photo of the map the guy from the information center gave us. There is no bus stop.
WE ARE OFFICIALLY LOST
From Exit 2, we continue to walk towards the last exit, Exit 1, and still, there’s no single bus stop in sight. This shouldn’t be happening right now. We don’t have the luxury of time to be lost. So, we walk back towards Exit 3 again to double-check if we missed it, but we didn’t. This is it; we are indeed lost. Helpless, I enter a convenience store and ask the cashier where the bus stop in my photo is located. She can’t understand me, so I go back outside and notice a Caucasian girl walking. Yes, she can speak English, but she just arrived in Seoul and didn’t have any clue about where the bus stop is. Should we just take the cable car just like last time? But that was a long walk, and I can’t remember the directions too. I should stick with finding, and praying, someone who can help us. It is a winter night, and there are not many people in the street.
Traveling with the other 14 people is tiring, and I can already feel my exhaustion closing my limit that tears will burst out soon. I can cry here in the streets, right? I’ve seen it multiple times in the drama. But Paul will freak out, and I don’t want him to babysit me given our current situation. He hates getting lost, and I know he’s holding himself up not to complain. So I look at him, put my right hand inside his coat pocket along with his left hand, and smile at him.
“Why don’t we walk towards Exit 4 instead, then ride the train back to Seoul Station from there?” I don’t want to end my Seoul trip sad, so one last walk in this Korean streets would be nice.
While walking, I’m telling him that we can always go back someday in a more relax and comfortable trip. I’m already planning on the other spots we will visit when suddenly he pulls out both our hands from his pocket and drags me closer to the street. He’s pointing at a bus with a number 5 on its upper-right window. There it is, third on the queue on a bus stop just across the Myeongdong Shopping Street. I should have turn right from Exit 3 in the first place.
Finally, we are riding Bus no. 5 to N Seoul Tower.
AT LAST, N SEOUL TOWER!
We hop on the bus and share it only with a Korean couple who is a lot more affectionate publicly than us. I’ve always preferred bus rides than train rides because I’m a sucker for the view of the local streets. Seoul is a lovely city to live in; maybe, we could consider living here and learning Hangul. Multiracial students hopped on from Dongguk University to stop and disturb the quietness of the bus. We don’t mind for at last after some days, an English conversation we can eavesdrop.
After 20 minutes, we reach the N Seoul Tower. It is freezing cold, empty, and dark. Well, I anticipate it to be colder since it is on top of Namsan Mountain, but I never expect it to be dark, with the lamp lights as the only source of light. It is borderline scary, to be honest, that it feels like zombies from the Korean series Kingdom will appear any time. Paul grabs my hand, and we run fast to the base of the tower. The university students surely think we’re crazy.
We stay inside for some time to prepare ourselves for the 0 degrees Celcius plus winter winds outside. We consider going up the N Seoul Tower Observatory, but the Korean crew tells us that it is quite cloudy. Okay, we have saved 250 PHP.
N Seoul Tower Lovelocks and Our Love Bubble
Our bodies have heated up and can endure winter weather again. I’m familiar with the place, so I lead him in the viewing deck just below the foot of the tower, where I also locked our first N Seoul Tower lovelocks in 2015. He is amazed by the view of the city above, and so am I, for it is also my first time seeing it at night. We’re like cats staring at our prey mouse for good 2 minutes.
I bring out the big and sturdy padlock that we bought back home to leave behind. Paul wants to lock it directly on the metal fence than putting it on someone’s lovelock, so we search for a spot that is not overcrowded. We pull some of the other locks and put them back into a different place. Seriously, these lovely heart locks are pretty to look at, but they’re so easy to open, given that it cost 500 PHP. I’m video recording our little crime for keepsake while he struggles to lock ours directly in the fence. He does it a few minutes after.
We throw the keys in the trees below and look at the city again. In case you don’t know, we never traveled alone together. Our travels are usually with friends and family because of my conservative family; that’s why this mini-date is quite an experience for us. I’ve always read how people in love are usually in their own love bubble in public. I’m quite sure we are currently in one that I forgot that I’m on the verge of crying an hour ago and that my hands are starting to freeze again.
“Can we not go home?” he disturbs my thoughts.
Ah, I want that too, but we both know, after all our like-this moments through the years that we wanted to stop time, that this lovely short date has to end. The Koreans said that if you and your partner locked a lovelock in N Seoul Tower together, then your love will be forever. I’m a woman of science, but a big part of me wants to believe in it. It is hard for me to burst our love bubble, but time is ticking for us. Before we go, we ask a Chinese family to take a photo of us in one of the love chairs around.
While walking back to the bus stop, I see this self-service photobooth that I’ve been bugging him to try in Hongdae. I still have a 4000 Korean won to spare, so I force him to do it. Technology is something I’m good at, but this machine ate me whole and alive. It has an English translation and a timer that I don’t know how our photos ended up having the weird and ugly dark N Seoul Tower background.
We are just laughing at our faces and how we look like we’re floating in the sky in our photos while we walk back to the bus stop. Some fellow Filipinos are waiting and, as usual, they thought I’m a Korean, so they are surprised when I greeted them. I look for the English version of the bus routes timetable to check what time our bus will arrive when something caught my eye. There’s a Bus No. 03, and it travels directly to Seoul Station. I knew it! My research has never failed me ever. If time permits, I’ll go back to that guy in the information center. We wait for Bus No. 03 instead while blowing and rubbing each other’s hands.
This 2 hours lovely date is like my own Kdrama pulled out directly on the TV screen. I can’t thank God enough for all the outpouring blessings to afford this trip and, of course, for giving me a spontaneous partner who says no to my tenacity. This N Seoul Tower lovelock is my favorite Seoul memory of us, and I can’t wait for more.