Seoul is in my list of cities that i consider for a revisit.
The fact that, if you’re not a native language speaker, it is tough to get around in cities from the eastern side of Asia, holds true for most but not for Seoul. You don’t have to speak or know Korean, Japanese or for that matter Mandarin or Cantonese to get around. Plain old English would do. That said, knowledge about their cultures is quite handy. But hey, no worries, the people there do understand when you’re from out of town.
I had to write this post, just to capture those things that i loved about Seoul, and those things that i was going to miss.
First in the list had to food. The kind of foodie that i’m, this was inevitable. Yes, the food there has a certain smell if you’re from the South-Asia. But i call that a sweet appetizing aroma. So, here is a tip, never ever say that food from a country smells. It is simply disrespectful. They have been having that food for generations and if they happen to land in your country they might also say the same. If you ask me, you are not a foodie unless and until you can eat anything that comes your way. I have always claimed that if it is food, then i have no reservations.
Before even, i left India, i was constantly nagged with questions like – ‘How will you manage with the food?’, ‘What if you don’t find anything good to eat?’. Well the list of people who had asked me these questions is quite long and that includes family, friends, colleagues and some random strangers. My reply to all these have been, i’ll eat what ever is available.
So the first day there, the first meal was dinner and it was Korean food. Oh, boy! I just couldn’t contain the pleasure and joy i had. The first sip of Tteokguk was quite assuring that i was going to love Korean food (I think what i had was Tteokguk, but no worries, the dish was awesome). The only problem i had was with chop-sticks. All the restaurants i went i had to ask for fork. If had given the chop sticks a try, they would have seen flying-jumping food tricks by an Indian and i was in no mood to give them a free show.
Then it was literally one after the other Korean dish everyday. Thanks to my colleagues there who were kind enough to take me to all the restaurants they went to and for explaining what kind of food it was. I can still taste the food and the aroma every time i think about Korean cuisine.
This post would be incomplete, if i didn’t mention about Korean people. They are one of the most welcoming people i have met. And thanks to their habit of greeting every customer, the only thing i learned from Korea is to say “Annyeonghaseyo” which means Hello. They give and take with both hands and it is considered impolite to offer something with one hand.
If you happen to visit any of the local markets there, you would know that knowing just English could get you around and get what you need. Even if the vendor doesn’t know English, all it takes to close a sale is to communicate the price with the customer and back. They had a trick up their sleeve, the calculator. They would type the cost on a calculator and show it to you. Simple nod of the head and gestures would be enough to communicate your agreement to the said price or else you can show them the price you’re looking for.
Korean Metro is really good and can get you to most places within the city. Get a map, hop on the Metro, visit places. Period.
The connectivity that i’m talking about is internet connectivity. Just stand by the corner of the street and you would be just blown away as to how many WiFi signals you can get and there is a good chance that one of them would be an open network. Yes, for a person like me, i wanted to stay connected and i did hop on some free WiFi.
It doesn’t matter where you are, there would be at the minimum 2 WiFi signals and if there are more than 5, then there is a good chance that one of them would be free.
This mode of connectivity explains, why most Koreans are addicted to their handheld devices. If they don’t have anything else to do, they are immersed in one or the other activity on their mobile.
Apple products are expensive. Well what more can you expect from the land of Samsung. The kind of device you use is something close to a status symbol.
Louis Vuitton and Man-Purses
I have always heard about Louis Vuitton products, but i never realized that the Louis Vuitton products were such a fashion statement until i was in Seoul. Every other lady on the street will have a Louis Vuitton bag. The markets there sell more Louis Vuitton imitations than any other brand. If you look close enough you can find Louis Vuitton bags, purses, dolls, shoes and even chaddis. No kidding! Thanks to Seoul, for teaching me about Louis Vuitton.
Remember Joey in FRIENDS and his man-purse? Well there are a lot of man-purses in active duty all around Seoul and i just want to leave that fact at that. I’m not going to make any assumptions and conclusions.
Seoul is definitely a place to visit. It doesn’t matter which time of the year you are visiting, the city can mesmerize you. So give Seoul a thought for the next vacation that you’re planning.