I’ve spent the past few days in Seoul, as a short holiday within my trip to Tokyo. I’ve wanted to visit Seoul for quite some time, and since it is only a 2,5 hours flight away from Tokyo, I thought it would be a good idea to make a short trip. I did read in my Rough Guide that the long and cold winter is the worst time to visit Seoul, but that was unfortunatly when I was already on the airplane. It definitly is a lot colder here than it is in Tokyo right now, but I’m still enjoying myself a lot. Here’s a summary of the past few days and my view of Seoul;
For some reason I expected Seoul to be quite similar to Tokyo, and it turns out that the city meets that expectation. Just like in Tokyo, people in Seoul are extremely helpful, despite the often limited English. The two cities have a similar combination of old, traditional style buildings and modern structures. Surroundings in Seoul can change from a noisy and crowded shopping street with huge department stores to a quiet area with low-rise buildings, just by turning a corner or two. This definitly reminds me of some areas in Tokyo. The overall atmosphere feels quite the same and if I don’t pay too much attention to the difference in writings, it sometimes feels like I’m still in Tokyo.
But there are also some differences, of course. What I particulary noticed is that the food (and therefore every street with restaurants in it) smells different. South-Korea has some great traditional dishes with a very different flavour compared to Japanese dishes. And there’s Dunkin’ Donuts instead of Mr. Donut.
Korean people are as helpful as Japanese people, but a difference is that they seem to be more approachable. Or at least they don’t hesitate to approach a stranger. Random people on the streets ask where you’re from, trying to make new friends. (Some even tell you that you’re pretty and ask if they can take your picture, but that might come with other intentions.) Shop owners and street vendors can be a bit more pushy. When I kindly rejected to buy some traditional tea from a lady, the price even droped, which had never happened to me before in Japan.
I’ve spent the past few days walking around the city visiting the major sights. Seoul has some beautiful historical highlights, including the colourful palaces. But the lively shopping areas are also worth visiting. And I have, of course, also enjoyed Korean food. Here’s some important advice if you ever travel to South-Korea: if you’re not good with spicy food, don’t try to ask for ‘a little bit spicy, but not too spicy’, because you will end up with your mouth on fire and not enough water on the table to extinguish it anyway.
Because pictures can tell al lot more than words, here’s a gallery: