Day 1-2 in Seoul, South Korea (4/29/30-4/30/23):
-Seoul reminds me quite a bit of Japan in terms of architecture and landscapes. Obviously because they were occupied by Japan for quite some time in the early-middle 90s.
-Bukchon Hanok Village, N Seoul Tower, and Changdeok Palace – I’m not too blown away by the attractions here so far. That’s not to say they are boring attractions, but a weird con to traveling so much is that, after a while, every palace or tower starts to look the same unless they are unique like say the Eiffel Tower.
-Ironically, I took a cab where we were having trouble communicating then all of a sudden he asks me if I speak Spanish. A South Korean and an American ended up speaking Spanish as their lingua franca.
-I went to Hooker Hill in Itaewon on a Saturday night, not for what you think. Went to visit this bar called the Grand Ole Opry where the legend goes an old woman ran this country dive bar for decades and was the only woman to stand up to the Korean mafia back in the day. I met her and she was exactly what you thought, sweet but tough old lady behind the bar with a raspy voice and moving like a woman half her age.
-Moreover, Itaewon had a big Halloween crowd crush last year where hundreds were killed or injured and it hasn’t been the same since it seems.
-Insadong, on the other hand, is absolutely amazing. It’s fascinating to me to be able to walk down a narrow alley full of quaint restaurants and shops boasting a variety of different culture from French cafes to Mexican taquerias.
-As a result, I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve eaten more international food here than anything but I regret nothing.
-For some reason, selfie booths and dressing up in traditional costumes are huge here and everywhere. I get it but I don’t get it.
-Getting around here isn’t hard but getting addresses correct has been ridiculous. For some reason, translating English to Korean just doesn’t seem to work.
-I’m at almost 50 countries visited and have never seen a sink and shower sharing the same pipe.
Day 3 in Seoul, South Korea (4/1/23):
-The National Museum of Korea is mostly just a big, boring ceramic museum. Though I really liked their giant koi pond and interactive gallery depicting the Buddhist trials of the afterlife.
-The War Memorial was nice although the inside exhibitions were closed due to Labor Day. It was very cool to be up close with anti-aircraft guns.
-I was wondering why there were squadrons of police everywhere I looked when I was walking to the metro station. That is, until I stumbled upon a HUGE Labor Union march. Initially, I thought I was in serious trouble because there was a mic’d up guy standing on the top of a mobile stage starting a chant, there was a fight breaking out where a group of police were rushing in, and I was starting to see riot gear. Most importantly, I had realized I had gotten stuck at the choke point. Where everyone was getting wall-to-wall with each other and congregating. What did I do? Took my jacket off, put my back to the wall, and felt out how serious this could get as I scanned for an escape route like a back alley. After ten minutes, I realized it was simply a one-off fight and I started walking the opposite direction of the march and made it to the metro without issue.
-Cliche Korean cuisine is as good as they say. I could live off of soju and Korean BBQ.
-Korean people are the most attractive I’ve encountered in Asia thus far. The men are my height, more masculine, but clean- cut and fashionable. The women are just what you would expect if you Googled something like beautiful Asian women. Not overdoing their makeup, sexy but classy, and fit but curvy.
Day 4 in Seoul, South Korea (4/2/23):
-Seeing North Korea from the DMZ viewpoint wasn’t what I expected. For some reason, I always imagined North Korea to look war-torn or really third-world. The truth is, it’s indistinguishable from plenty of other Asian cities from this viewpoint.
-The JSA tour I did not realize has to be booked months in advance (the one where you’re pretty much face-to-face with North Korean military), but the DMZ tour I booked two days before without issue. It’s exactly what you’d expect and cost me only $60 with hotel pick-up.
-You get to enter one of the infiltration tunnels North Korea built, you get to see a big viewpoint of North Korea where, with binoculars, I could even see farmers working in their fields, and you get to experience a bridge where POWs were traded historically.
-The weirdest thing was that South Korea is trying to make the DMZ zone a family-friendly environment so they built a small amusement park and gondola lift nearby. They even made their own brands of black bean ice cream and apple juice which were actually really good.
-You’re strictly forbidden to take any phones or cameras into the infiltration tunnels, but oddly enough you can buy North Korean Wong as a souvenir.