Tuesday, June 26, 2012

#970 Seoul, South Korea

The walk up Pukansan, one of the many climbable mountains to the north of Seoul.
I spent a year working in Korea when I was fresh out of university, and I have to say that I have very fond memories of a vibrant place. Because I worked evenings I think I was probably more nocturnal so am sure I missed lots about Seoul, but what I did see impressed me. I loved Dongdaemun and other old city gates, sitting in the middle of large roundabouts. I enjoyed all the different products and food for sale in Namdaemun market with its golden ginseng stalls. Seoul Tower had great views over the city -- and what a landscape. Lots of sharp tree-lined hills with excellent walking trails (Koreans are fit!).

Very close to the border with North Korea, the DMZ is a very interesting place to visit, a sober memory of what is still an officially unresolved conflict.

Memories on a fence in the DMZ.
The Korean architecture in places like the Deoksaegung and Gyeongbokgung Palaces was incredibly picturesque: I particularly liked the green decorations underneath the eaves. Other places like Bongeunsa Temple often had beautiful decorations to celebrate festivals.

Seoul has a lot of things going for it: a harmonious social mix of Christians and Buddhists, lots of Noriban (Karaoke), exciting vibrant street festivals, great shopping, a general orderliness and a fantastic subway system.

Perhaps not on everyone's itinerary, I enjoyed Itaewan (the foreigner's district!), the nearby ski fields such as Yongpyong, the handy port of Incheon, the War Memorials
gawking at the many US GIs (loved their TV channel!), and seeing movies at COEX Mall. 
And something I particularly remember as an English teacher: children, all with high-tech phones watching tv well before smart phones even existed. A very cool place! 

 Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seoul

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