I always wondered if Korea would be dramatically different from the other places I’ve visited in Asia. In many ways it was, and in a few obvious ways it was exactly the same. The thing the first struck me about Seoul was its sheer size. I’ve been to London, New York City, Bangkok, and several other capital cities, but nothing prepared me for the sprawl that is Seoul. Traffic in the Washington, D.C. metro area and in Bangkok has nothing on Seoul. The fantastic subway really leaves no excuse to drive – unless you’re visiting family and they insist you ride with them. As far as what was similar to the rest of Asia – the awesome food, and the vibrancy of the cities.
The next time I go I’ll bring my tripod since the nighttime lights are the best opportunity for beautiful photos in such a large city. Some of the older parts of the city were photogenic during the day, but for the most part the city looked like most any other modern city. The well maintained traditional Korean folk village was interesting but not too easy to photograph because of the crowds. Just imagine (for those of you from the US east coast) a Korean version of historic Williamsburg with the summer crowds.
Facts and Favorites
Favorite Eats: So much good food, but I’m an Southern boy at heart, so I have to go with the meat. The bulgolgi at a little place in Gangnam-du was awesome, as was the jjigae at another little place between Nonhyeon-dong and Yeoksam-dong in Gangnam. I’ll try to get the names of the places.
Favorite Coffee: No one place in particular, but I did learn that coffee is very trendy in Korea. Every block seemed to have at least a few coffee shops on it. Also of interest was that the coffee was almost entirely espresso-based. You had to make a special request to get drip coffee, so I learned to like the iced Americano while there. To this day I still order an iced Americano at coffee shops in the US.
Favorite Site Visited: I’m a bit of a history geek, so as cheesy as it was, I really enjoyed the traditional Korean folk village. I also really liked seeing some of the older neighborhoods near Gahoe-dong.
Favorite Travel Tip: Taxis are cheap (relatively speaking) in Seoul, but you’ll waste a bunch of time in traffic. Instead, use the fantastic subway system to get around. Keep in mind, though, that the subway stations often require a fair amount of walking underground to make your transfers.