The South Korean capital is a feast for the senses, writes Shauni James.
As I overloaded my arms with shopping bags in a vibrant maze of stores, stalls, and eating places, admired the details in a palace's architecture and tasted dishes of unknown ingredients, it was fair to say that Seoul gave me a full sensory experience.
The Myeong-dong area in the South Korean capital, Seoul, was a whirlwind.
A whirlwind so enjoyable and conveniently close to the hotel, that I went there multiple times to get caught up in the flurry of shopping and delectables.
Myeong-dong is a maze of shops, stalls, eateries and street vendors and if you really wanted to get stuck in, it could easily take up your whole day.
I loved getting among the jostling crowd and taking in all the sights and smells.
If you love clothes, animals and cute knick-knacks, Myeong-dong is the perfect place to have your wallet at the ready.
My favourite store was Line Friends, which featured characters based on the stickers from messaging app Line.
From clothes and toys, to electronic gadgets and kitchen utensils, this store had cute characters on all sorts of items, and is where I picked up a lot of my travelling gifts for loved ones.
The giant bear placed in the front of the store with the opportunity to take your own photos with it was naturally a constant source of attraction.
It could be hard to stay focused when looking for a particular shop or just window shopping, as there were staff out on the streets with signs and brochures yelling out to potential customers.
Those who love makeup and want to get their hands on some of Korea's coveted k-beauty products would be in cosmetic heaven. Myeong-dong has no shortage of cosmetics shops, with many having staff out the front trying to press a face mask into your hands so you will enter the store.
I would highly recommend going to Myeong-dong for a night-time excursion as well as during the day. I went on my last night in Korea, a Friday night, and I was still popping into shops at 9.30pm.
It is even prettier with the shops and streets lit up, and delicious aromas waft all down the main street with many stalls set up for those looking to dine on street-food.
Trying out a range of meat kebabs and battered seafoods had my taste buds singing - although biting into one and having a full baby octopus emerge, including all eight tentacles still attached was a bit too much for me.
Adding to the chatter of hundreds of shoppers and the yelling of shop deals, the sound of music and K-pop songs was pumping out from shops.
There were a number of "star" shops where, being an avid K-pop fan, I was able to pick up knick-knacks and items representing my favourite groups.
- Insider tip: Hold a jacket or other items in both hands if you have no interest in going into the cosmetics shops. I found the number of face masks presented to me ceased considerably when it looked like my hands were already preoccupied.
- Insider tip: In the middle of Myeong-dong's main street you can find people in red jackets who speak a number of different tourist languages and can provide you with a map of the area's streets.
K-pop is big business in South Korea and is growing more and more popular internationally. As a lover of the genre, finding out I would be visiting MBC World and SM Entertainment Coex Artium was music to my ears.
Both of these places take the industry to a whole other level and showcased how big K-pop is in its home country.
MBC World is a broadcasting theme park with an array of interactive activities to help you feel like a part of the K-pop and K-drama world.
I had my guide happily snapping away with the camera as I posed in set up K-drama scenes, pretended to be an actress in a show, gave some K-pop choreography a try and pretended to sing along to a song I didn't know the lyrics to.
There were so many activities to take part in and a highlight for me was taking a moment to sit and enjoy a holographic performance of K-pop singer G-Dragon.
SM Entertainment Coex Artium was amazing to the point of being overwhelming. It includes SMTOWN Museum, which is where the stories related to the birth and growth of SM Entertainment's artists are displayed. The museum was a blur of colour, photos, videos, outfits and accessories.
It was big, colourful, had amazing production value and sucked you right into the dazzling enormity of it - just as the K-pop music does.
It felt special to be able to set foot in one of the dance studios, a recording studio and an example of a backstage makeup area for performances.
The Artium also had what was possibly one of the cutest combined shops and cafes I have ever seen. It was pretty busy while we were there, with many groups of youths laughing together over a drink and flicking through albums for their collections.
While in Gangnam for my Korean entertainment adventures, we briefly visited the Starfield COEX Mall, an underground shopping mall, in which Starfield Library was the most amazing library I have seen. With bookshelves reaching to the ceiling and soothing music in the background, it gave a feeling of magic to the middle of the mall.
It would also be a great way to take a break from shopping.
And it wouldn't have been a completed trip to Gangnam without making sure to get a photo under the giant golden statue of hands representing Psy's popular Gangnam Style song.
If you are in Korea with that special someone in your life, I would recommend taking a date excursion to Yeouido Hangang Park.
As I strolled along the Han River on a beautiful blue-skied day I found myself imagining couples stopping at many of the park's little quirks to take photos and capture romantic memories.
A little passageway of hearts, cherry blossom trees, an abundance of flowers, tables with umbrellas to lounge and eat at, one of the iconic 'I Seoul U' signs, and the view across the water to the city stretched out on the other side are a few of the park's charms, which make it the perfect spot to relax and take a moment.
Even if you are travelling solo, I recommend checking it out. Although we were there in the middle of the day, you could imagine how the riverfront would be just as pretty at night, twinkling with fairy lights.
My guide also mentioned that it was a popular location spot for K-drama scenes.
The air was full of the chatter and laughter of children while we were there, as apparently this time of year is popular for school trips.
If you want to steal some quieter moments at the park, the middle of a weekday may be your best bet but it is said to become a flurry of liveliness after work and at the weekends.
Changdeokgung Palace was a marvel for the eyes and was a personal highlight of the trip.
It was the second royal villa built following the construction of Gyeongbukgung Palace in 1405.
Changdeokgung Palace was recognised as a World Cultural Heritage site by the Unesco World Cultural Heritage Committee in 1997.
The architecture was unlike any I had seen before, and the buildings had both a simple and grandiose feeling to them at the same time.
The closer you got to the buildings the more you could see the colours and complex details.
The interior of the Injeongjeon (the throne hall) was stunning and I could not imagine how long it must have taken to complete all the intricate design details.
Climbing up the big steps to the hall and looking up at the high ceilings and grand elevated throne made me feel quite small, although in the best way possible.
Seeing rooms where royalty and servants lived and the way the king and queen lived, along with hearing about how they would all have interacted, was fascinating.
It was a beautiful and insightful way to learn more about Korea's history, and it felt like I could have stepped back in time. People in traditional clothing only increased this feeling.
Insider tip: Make sure you don't just pass by the souvenir shop at Changdeokgung Palace. It has some darling trinkets and memorabilia so you can help share some the history and magic with others.
Being over in Korea with a delegation of media representatives, it was only natural that we would visit Joongang Media Network and the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS).
The Korean Broadcasting System operates radio, television, and online services, and is one of the biggest South Korean television networks.
Coming from our fairly small NZME office in Rotorua, these two media buildings seemed massive and intimidating at first.
It was a unique experience getting to stand right in one of the live television studios at KBS, and to see the myriad cameras and technical equipment that keeps this giant ticking.
The trip was everything I expected and more. On my last morning in Seoul as I sat in the beautiful Momoyama restaurant on one of Lotte Hotel's top floors, eating my tasty Japanese meal, looking out at the web of cars and noisy city life below, I could not help but feel sad I was about to head home. There is no doubt that I would recommend booking a plane ticket and jumping on a flight to this stimulating city as soon as you could.