Seoul Travel Blog› entry 35 of 41 › view all entries
Before coming here Korea was a bit of a mystery to me. I had never met a Korean in my life and, apart from Samsung and the Korean war I am embarrased to admit that I knew very little about this country. My closest encounter with Korea was a delicious (and incredibly epxensive) meal I'd had at a Korean restaurant in London about a year ago...
Seoul's motto is "Soul of Asia". Arriving here, I find it hard to believe this is something more than a wordplay (which I 've also unimaginatively attempted here). After visiting Cambodia, Korea will really have to prove itself!
I arrive at Incheon International airport - the largest and busiest airport in Asia and ranked as the best airport in the world - after doing a red eye from Bangkok and get my first taste of Seoul's impressive public transport.
Not having the luxury of $10 rooms with AC and swimming pool anymore, I have booked a bed in a dorm of 6 at Banana Backpackers (http://www.bananabackpackers.com/). A great hostel located only 5 minutes from the popular attractions of Insadong and Changdeokgung palace. It is clean, modern, has free internet, a kitchen and the staff are friendly and speak english. It's a really popular place so booking in advance is highly recommended.
After a few hours of sleep, I set off to see the city. I arrive at a food stall which is surrounded by dozens of teenagers in their school uniforms dying to get their hands on what looks like a korean snack. This must be good I think, so I approach and wait in line for my turn. The girls giggle at the site of a tourist and one of them orders a cup of spicy tteokbokki for me. It tastes good and makes me happy that I'm already sharing food with the locals. My first encounter with Koreans is trully representative of their behaviour towards foreigners. As a country which is skipped from most Asian itineraries, the sight of a tourist still causes fascination among the locals, even in Seoul. However, Koreans are very unique in their behaviour: they are very shy when it comes to speaking English, even if their writing skills and reading comprehension are at a high level.
My favourite place in Seoul was Namdaemun market. It has loads of stuff to buy, from travelling equipment to urban clothing and food. I walked around until my feet were aching and managed to bargain for a couple of tshirts. Having spent a few months in SE Asia really came handy in this case...
The feelings after a couple of days in Seoul are mixed. Landing at one of the world's biggest cities after spending a month in Cambodia is difficult to cope with and it takes me time to adjust to the "modern" world.
She recommends Gyeongju.