So far, I sure do love Seoul, South Korea, a city of 10 million people that feels more like a small town. It’s friendly and clean and calm. People talk to us like they will meet us again somewhere, like the grocery store or a PTA meeting.
No one and nothing is in your face. It has a roaring economy and a consumer culture, but feels low on glitz and class distinctions. It has a sense of style that is (except for the neon) subtle and elegant, and sometimes playful.
Although the city seems to be a very homogeneous — mostly Koreans — it’s all kind of mixed up in a nice way. Ancient palaces are within sight of skyscrapers. Buzzing, old-fashioned night markets are in the alleys behind high-end boutiques. Old people, young people. Old stuff, new stuff.
Almost all the sites and neighborhoods are accessible on foot or using a very modern and inexpensive metro system.
Probably because the community is very Korean, there is a strong sense of Korean culture and history. The museums are user-friendly, including free. Locals wear traditional dress to visit the sites, and the newer clothing styles are designed with traditional lines and fabrics.
The food here is very meat-focused. Or maybe it’s not in some places but I can’t tell because I can’t read Korean and I haven’t learned “I am a vegetarian” in Korean. In the Korean alphabet, it looks like this.
나는 채식주의 자이다
and is spelled like this in English: “naneun chaesigjuui jaida” Still not sure how that’s pronounced.
Anyway, I have not gone hungry — among the vegetarian specialties are onion pancakes, bibimbap (rice and vegetables), miso-based soups, and fermented vegetables, like kimchee. Seoul also loves bakeries.
Seoul is such a nice surprise…