Last week Val and I made our first trip to Seoul. We took the high speed train from Busan which took about 3 hours. I was looking forward to seeing some of the country while I was on the train but to be honest there wasn’t much to see apart from a few paddy fields. Anyway, when we got there we headed straight for our hotel. Now rather than roughing it and staying in a hostel (I don’t think so) or a traditional Korean minibak where you sleep on the floor, we decided to stay in a more up-market hotel and it was definitely worth it. Comfy beds, soft pillows, a shower door and a luxury toilet seat (one that warms, squirts water etc – I’ll leave you to work what you do). What more could we ask for?
So after a good sleep on Friday we headed out into the big bad city for a bit of exploring. We went to one of the most famous Palaces in Korea, Changedeokgung. We saw lots of beautifully constructed buildings within the Palace but I’d say the Secret Garden was the highlight. I’ve uploaded a few photos.
After our history lesson at the Palace we decided to check out a local tea house where we had the chance to sample a variety of teas. One of the staff members spent over an hour with us explaining the ins and outs of tea making and letting us sample a few (it wasn't as boring as it sounds). Who knew so much effort goes into making tea? There was one tea for sale which cost 8 million won which is about £4,000 or $6,000; unfortunately we didn’t get to try it. Anyway, it was a lovely afternoon, a very cultural experience.
That night we headed out for a few drinks to Itaewon which is another area in Seoul. It’s a popular spot for Westerners, especially the US military as their base in close-by. I can’t say I was overly taken with the place and won’t be rushing back there anytime soon. The military soldiers were a ‘tad’ loud, overly confident and slightly cocky. We did come across some/several d**kheads (both American and English – apologies to my American and English friends, I know the Irish have their moments too). But we did meet quite a memorable Korean man, dickied up in a full suit who ended up sitting beside me in a Korean style rock bar, now he was very entertaining. I’m not sure if he was speaking Korean or English with a heavy Korean accent or just a made-up language, anyway he kept trying to talk to me and was pulling the funniest expressions I’ve ever seen. He was hilarious. He was also very fond of hitting me quite hard on the back when ‘chatting’ to me. I can’t say I understood anything he said but his facial expressions were enough to keep me engaged for a while. I assume he had part-taken in a few glasses of the old Soju. Either that or he was just a funny little Korean man.
I have to say my first impressions of Seoul were a little different to what I thought they would be. I went there thinking it would be a really crowded, polluted and smoggy city but that wasn't the case. It was definitely busier than Busan but not as crazy as I'd expected. The city is obviously more westernized than Busan as more signs were in English, including menus Also, there were were a few more western stores like Zara, Accessorize and of course Subway. For those of you that know me well, I used to eat quite a lot of subway's especially in NY so Val and I did make a pit stop there for lunch. That's one thing about the lunch time meal over here, Koreans don't really do the 'sandwich / soup / snack' thing, they have the full sha-bang of rice, kimchi, soup and some sort of meat/fish. They don't buy into the 'grab and go' culture that we're accustomed to. Anyway, all in all it was a good trip and I’ll definitely be going back soon. We didn’t make it to the DMZ this time around but it’s on my list for the next time. You can't come to South Korea without getting a look into the 'Secretive State'. Let's hope there aren't anymore nuclear tests anytime soon and Kim Jong Il doesn't launch any nucks this way
Well, that the latest from me. Feel free to post comments or e-mail me with your craic.
Miss you all