South Korea: First taste of SeOUL

20 June 2012

Flying over new apartment blocks

The 90 minute flight with 178 other passengers flew over new residential blocks in the outskirts of Seoul and eventually landed in Gimpo Airport. With 11 million out of South Korea’s 25 million people living in Seoul alone, the capital city is twice more than New York in terms of population density. The airport help desk provides travellers with all sort of information and a nice Korean couple helped me to find the correct 601 Bus. The bus ride was long and took me around many residential areas and streets in Seoul. The bus driver and passengers looked after me- they clearly sense that I don’t speak Korean. A nice elderly man went out of his way to stop me from getting off at the wrong stop. What a nice welcome.

Cleaners tidying up after a demonstration? gathering? outside city hall. The palace is towards the left.

Seoul is home to many palaces and to make it easy, you can buy a group ticket for all the sites.  Before the sun sets, I must pay a visit to Deoksugung Palace (located near City Hall).  When I arrived, I realised that it’s completely surrounded by a concrete jungle.


Rebuilt in 1906, Daehanmun became the main gate of the palace
The main throne hall
I’ve interpreted the sign as an indication of the ministerial ranks. This one is the highest.
Entrance to the throne hall

Deoksugung Palace is the symbolic seat of modern Korea and center of modern Seoul. It was the main palace for a very short-lived Empire and it remained as the royal residence before being invaded by the Japanese. It was intentionally destroyed during the colonial period of Korea and what you see is only one-third of what it used to be. It is divided into the main gate, main hall of the palace, living quarters and administrative buildings.

Plastic surgery (Internet)
Plastic surgery (Internet)

As I took a stroll around the busier parts of Seoul, I became somewhat surprised by how many intoxicated people there were walking around the busy streets filled with pubs and flashy lights….and let’s not forget about all the plastic surgery clinics and in- your- face ads ” Unhappy with your looks? cut up your face and make yourself pretty!”- hmmm…

Taking a stroll in the markets

Some observations so far

  • You can get your shoes fixed and polished in the wooden cabins found on most of the main streets. The people who work there are all elderlies.
  • Many residential developments and lots of cafe.
  • It’s all about collectivism.
  • The roofs in South Korean building are always aligned with the mountains- similar direction, angle and slope.
  • Metro announcements made in three languages and unlike full scans in Beijing, security is not tight here in Seoul.
  • People love their baseball and are not afraid to go under the knife to alter their looks so that they can be accepted and loved ( it is a shallow society after all).