Over my 2-and-a-half-month winter break my family came to visit me in March for about 3 weeks. During this time, we travelled to many places and did a lot of sightseeing. A must do thing to do in Seoul is to go to the Han River and have fried chicken while enjoying the always busy and bizarre picnic traditions the Korean people have. A tent is not only used for camping.
We wanted to have our lunch at the river and then spontaneously decide what to do next. The fried chicken was amazing as always, and we as well as hundreds of other people enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of Hangang Park.
Due to the fact that Han River flows right through the middle of Seoul there are many bridges connecting both halves of the city, and on a couple of them there are river view cafes. Since the beginning of my Korea adventure I’ve always wanted to visit one of these cafes at sunset and take the most amazing pictures and enjoy the views.
As we were close to the river and coincidently only a short bus ride away from one of these cafes, we decided to pay one a visit. Little did I know that that day would be one of my most nerve-wracking and memorable days during my whole stay in Korea.
After finishing our chicken (which wasn’t hard to do) we set off to the bridge café. We took a total of 2 busses, but each only took about 5-10 minutes. When we got to the café bus stop, we had a 5-minute walk to the café and when we arrived I was ecstatic, I finally got to see a bridge café up close! I took a few pictures of the outside of it and then made my way to the toilets below. This is when I realised that I was missing my bag…
First, I panicked but then thought that I probably gave it to my mum to hold as I was going to the toilet. When I calmed down a bit and went back upstairs to the café and found my mum and cousin without my bag my panic level increased tenfold. My bag had all my important cards and items in it as well as my rent money for the month that I was supposed to give my building manager that evening. I was panicking and tried to remember where I had left it. Through some great detective work by my cousin (by looking at the pictures he took throughout the day) we were able to narrow down that the only time my bag was unaccounted for was on the busses.
I then googled “what to do if you left something on a bus in Seoul” (luckily I put my phone in my jacket pocket and not my bag otherwise I have no idea what I would have done) and a helpful blog gave me 2 numbers to call. The first one was for general helpline for foreigners and tourists in Seoul and the second one was a helpline for lost property in Seoul. I tried to call the first number, but its operation time had already ended and would only open again at 9am the next day. I then called the second number which was still in operation, I then chose the English option and spoke to someone explaining my situation to them and they told me to go make a formal report at a police station.
This surprised me as usually trivial things such as bags left on buses aren’t police matter, however, after retracing my steps and not finding my bag at the bus stop or where we had lunch, I decided to find the nearest police station and make a report. After firstly mistakenly going to a high school and receiving directions to the nearest police station by some eager to practice their English high school students we finally arrived at a police station that was still open in the heart of Seoul around 9pm.
When we arrived at the station it really didn’t look like it was open however the policeman at the front gate let us in with a surprised look on his face (they probably don’t have a lot of foreigners visiting their station). After walking up some rather dark stairs we arrived at the station’s main door and although the lights were on the station seemed empty and not at all like its portrayed in the Korean entertainment media. Slightly disappointed we entered the police station and were greeted by a policeman who already was dreading the fact that he had to interact with us in English. He asked us if he could help us with anything and I explained my situation to him. He then asked us a few questions such as the approximate time of me loosing the bag, the bus numbers and what my bag looked like.
This seemed to have been where I made a mistake, the thing is my bag is Disney themed and in the shape of micky mouse. When the policeman heard this, he immediately stopped filling out the report and gave us the address of a lost property website where you could register your lost items and people who find lost items can do the same. I was already aware of this website however due to the website being entirely in Korean I wasn’t able to register my lost bag there. The policemen must have obviously thought that I had only lost a trivial children’s bag and not my handbag with all my important cards and purse.
Having slightly given up hope we left the police station and made our way back to my families Airbnb as my house keys were also in my handbag and I couldn’t get into my house. Even though I had just lost my bag, the real tragedy I thought was that I didn’t get to enjoy the bridge café that I so longed to see and therefore swore to go back there at some point before leaving Korea.
The next day I set of to my apartment so that I could get a spare key from my building manager and explain why my rent might be slightly late this month. However, when I arrived at my building, he was nowhere to be found and I decided to wait until he comes back. After a few minutes of waiting I decided to try the first foreigner helpline number from the day before as it was now past 9am. The operator connected me to a very nice lady who asked for the bus numbers I was on and the approximate time and told me she would call the bus company for me and find out if my bag was given in.
About 5 minutes later I received a call from the same lady asking me to describe the bag I lost and its contents, I immediately started describing it and the things that were in it. The lady asked me if I had any beverages in the bag and I quickly replied that in fact I had 2 in the bag an iced tea and a Sprite. The lady then told me that my bag was found on my seat at the back by the bus driver and that I could pick it up at any time.
I was so unbelievingly relieved and told her that I would come get my bag straight away. Unfortunately I had left my bag on the bus that goes all the way to the outer zone of seoul and it would take me about an hour and a half to even reach the bus station. Nevertheless, my bag wasn’t lost anymore, and I couldn’t wait to be reunited with my bag, so I set off to retrieve my bag straight away. After the long journey to the outskirts of Seoul, I finally arrived at the bus station and entered the main building I followed some signs to the main office and entered a room where I now was the centre of attention, they probably also don’t see a lot of foreigners in this area. I walked over to the man behind the desk and he instantaneously knew that I was there for lost property and pointed at a bag on the floor next to several others and I immediately told him that that was my bag with a huge smile on my face. He then told me to sign the logbook and then let me take my bag home. After about a million thank yous I left bus station and, on my walk, back to the subway station I checked the contents of my bag. Everything was still there all my cash rent money, my purse, my drinks everything! I was so relieved and over joyous at the same time and swore never to let my bag out of my sight.
I must say this whole situation would have gone very differently if I had left my bag on a bus in London, the chances of me getting my bag back untouched and in the same condition are near to impossible. I am really very grateful for the fact that Korea is a very safe and trustworthy country to live in and me getting my bag back is also something that could only happen in Korea.
As I couldn’t fully enjoy my bridge café visit that day, I went back to make more pleasant memories there with a friend and loved every bit of it. The view is really very amazing and is definitely worth visiting.