Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sunday in Seoul

Hello! I have made it as far as South Korea. I left on Friday and flew to Los Angeles, where i had a tedious 3 hour layover (how can such an important city have such a crummy airport?).  I then flew about 12 and a half hours to Seoul. It was a delightful flight, i barely slept, but it flew by. Arrived in Seoul at about 4:40 am.

I caught the first train into the city. It took just under an hour and takes one right from the airport to downtown Seoul. For some reason my transit card wouldn't open up the turnstyle gates at the other end, so i couldn't get out. Some man suggested through the universal magic of charades that i jump the turnstyle, which i did. I figure, if a local says i should do it, it must be ok, right? That is the first turnstyle i ever jumped. 

After my act of deliquency, i then went to Namdaemun Market. I figured if i only had a few hours, that would be a god place to start. It is, except that at 7am on sunday morning, there isn't a lot going on. Most of the stalls were closed and some were just settign up, hauling in carts of meat and produce, knock off handbags, and K-Pop souveniers.  I did manage to find a charmingly decrepit restaurant and managed to say in Korean that i did not eat meat. They brought me kimchee and a steaming bowl of rice and odd spicy vegetables. I think it was a bibimbap, but i can't be sure. It was really good.

After that i decided to walk to the Insadong neighborhood. It was a pleasant walk, but the city was pretty quiet. When i reached Insadong, everything was still closed. I am glad i will be back here in 2 weeks so i can actually visit some of these places when they are open.

On my initial glances, Seoul is not very attractive, but it is interesting. On the face of it, everything seems painfully western; i couldn't turn a corner without seeing a collection of Burger King, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme... you get the idea. But fom what i could tell, there are a lof of cool looking dirty alleys with interesting eateries and shops that are decidedly not American. I guess it would take more then 6 hours to figure it all out. I kept walking around in disbelief, thinking, "I can't believe i'm in Seoul." It just isn't a place i ever thought i'd be.

Anyway, i enjoyed my walk; it took me back to the market, at which point it was much livelier. I wandered around taking pictures of large pig heads, sitting out in front of eateries. I imaginged they were all Lord of the Flies theme restaurants.

I really wish i had bothered to learn a few phrases in Korean. Almost no one speaks English, and i feel like a jackass opening a conversation in English. I just figured that for the limited time i'd be here, it wouldn't be worth it. But tonight i'll be in Uzbekistan, and my Russian is passable (for a North American).

It is fairly warm, but really humid here. I am only 2 days into my trip and i already look like a dirty bohemian. Soon i will smell like one too.

One other random note: i stupidly checked my cigars, so while i was wandering around today i didn't have any and couldn't find a cigar store. I did however find cigarettes that are supposedly made with cigar tobacco. For a cigarette they aren't bad, but they're a poor replacement for a cigar. I had to have a smoke though (all the other kids were doing it) and now that i am at the airport i can take advantage of their plenitful and civilized smoking lounges.

I am back at the airport now, readying myself for the third and final leg of my journey: Seoul to Tashkent. (How cool does that sound?)



luba said...

You can now add Korea to your list of countries visited. I look forward to more of your adventures.
Lots of love.

Helen C said...

Happy Trails Ms. North!!!