Sunday, 12 February 2012

Seoul, South Korea

It's taken me a while to compile these posts for two reasons:                             

  1. It was surprisingly difficult to find a cheap place that would develop our regular 35mm film on site. Will ended up driving to Burnaby to the last Shopper's Drug Mart that would do so. To people unfamiliar with suburb-speak, that means he drove half an hour to a place where no one wants to live, let alone visit, to find a drugstore chain that already has at least 20 stores in Vancouver alone. Sad stuff.
  2. I've been trying to gather my thoughts about everything that happened while we were away, but real life and doing stuff keeps getting in the way.
But now we have real photographs and I have some time on my hands, so here's the first part of an amazing adventure. 


We arrived in Seoul on the evening of January 16th. We were there for one whole day and two nights. I would like to go back. Here's a journal entry that reeks of jet-lag:

5:25am January 17, 2012
The Westin Chosun, Seoul, South Korea

First notes:
  • the most impressive hotel I've ever stayed in (elegant, professional, heated toilet seats)
  • everyone speaks to me in Korean first; I like it, it's like getting a free pass but for what I'm unsure
  • the man who showed us our room studied English on Robson Street, said he drank too much Granville Island Honey Lager
  • the area we are in reminds me of Berlin's business district on steroids

Our first and only full day there:                              

Dong One 

Seoul is divided into dongs or neighbourhoods, which makes me wonder if English is the only language in which "dong" sounds hilarious (also see: DONG Energy, Denmark's leading energy company). 

We took the train to Insadong-gil, which is a "traditional" street selling ceramics, calligraphy materials and antiques, and is said to represent the country's culture as a whole. It's also a major tourist attraction, but since it was January it was fairly quiet. 

Side note: No one dresses down here. I got the feeling that wearing sweatpants outside your house was probably akin to being naked. Contrast this with our LuluLemon-yoga-pants-so-what culture and cringe. 

This neighbourhood had amazing shops with handmade paper in assorted colours stacked to the rafters, and calligraphy brushes the size of small cats. One of my favourites was a soap shop where the liquid soap was poured into large segments of bamboo and left to harden; you can then remove it to cut off pieces as needed. The packaging in that store alone was worth the train ride (see above). There were also a few stores with hand-quilted and embroidered pieces, a lone woman usually sitting at a table with her needlework.

Dong Two

We left to visit Samcheong-dong which was a little more modern, with a lot more locals. 

If I could live in one neighbourhood forever, Samcheong may as well be it. Each boutique, café or gallery is its own small building, and the (micro) architecture is completely charming and perfect for a tiny human like me. It's a foil for the skyscraper madness many people associate with Seoul, not only in scale but in spirit. Almost every object in every shop in Samcheong had a visible human handprint. (I mean, have you ever seen a store that exclusively sells handmade quilts from recycled fabric??) 

The next morning we were on our way to Bangkok. Stay tuned for many more things, including:
  • a duplicitous tuk-tuk ride
  • mall adventures
  • monitor lizards eating garbage in a public park
  • more of Will's photos because his are better

1 comment:

  1. I want one of those huge Calligraphy brushes!