You've gotta have Se-oul
Trip Start Oct 10, 2011
41Trip End May 08, 2012
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Where I stayed
a. No party scene/beach/islands this time of year.
b. No Internationally recognised raves.
c. A severe lack of sun.
d. A heavy price tag on all goods.
and e. the food, according to some, is abysmal
Still, after some enthusiastic conversations with Anna and Craig from Sweden, whilst in Cambodia, about Korea I decided it was well worth a go, no matter where it lies on the priorities of most back-packers
Everything about Seoul from arrival to the day I left for Busan (pronounced Pusan) just reeked of Japanese influence from the main shopping district of Myeong-Dong to the subway system that ran on the dot with WiFi and even carriages containing a GP on call and baby-feeding room. The last part is new to me, not even Tokyo in 2010 could match the subway trains here.
As similar to Tokyo as Seoul may be it still had real distinct Korean charm and character. The students had their own unique fashion sense - frame-less glasses and bow ties were pretty popular in a non-pretentious way and the small area of Jongno-gu contained many tiny traditional houses used for home-stays, antique, coffee and nick-nack shops.
It's easy in Seoul (and Korea as a whole) to eat like a Westerner with Dunkin' Doughnuts, Krispy Kremes, McDonalds and Pizza parlours scattered all over the place - my favourite being Paris Baguette, that patisserie is AMAZING
I didn't have a clue what was going on, lots of food being eaten and sold both cooked and raw and absolutely nothing in English. The safest thing to eat from these sort of places I've found has been anything that looks like a pancake, and thankfully this came through again. I down'd a couple of vegetarian pancakes and made my way out before my ears would be ringing for days!
As well as a penchant for copying some aspects of Japanese modern culture, who themselves like to imitate and change cultures to fit their own needs, the Koreans love and I do mean love to go Mountain Hiking. Not only Mountain Hiking, but Mountain Hiking in style...well, what they think is style!
After a 3hr train journey north to south it's clear why, there are mountains everywhere.
I chanced upon a whole street of outdoor shops dedicated to their favourite activity and found myself falling into the trap of thinking I need slightly better clothes for the conditions I was about to face for the next 2 weeks
After that lavish expense I treated myself to one of my favourite all-time dinners, Japanese Kontatsu! Yes I was in Seoul but the best Korean food I've had has been in Tokyo so why can't the opposite be true? As far as I could tell it was good, I'm sure not as good as something in Japan but it was great to eat something a little different from rice and curry.
I really enjoyed Seoul for those crazy 24 hours and looking back on it I know why, it reminded me fully of Tokyo and as you may or may not know, Japan is my favourite country in Asia. I managed to mix in very old, old and new Korean culture in that one day and was very impressed - I think being left alone whilst walking down the street was a massive factor in this, something the current country I'm in (Indonesia) has been more than willing to reacquaint me with.
Hoping I'd have a couple of days left on my return to Seoul to explore the city some more I boarded the KTX (The Korean Bullet Train) in the early hours of a Saturday morning bound for Busan. All I knew of it was it's the main ferry port that takes people to and from Japan, being so close was going to be a great temptation but luck was on my side...the weather was proving to be abysmal.