Seoul

Seoul is the Capital of South Korea, and has been the capital of the area since 18 B.C. with people living there since around 4000 B.C.

The Arrival

I flew in from Dallas on American Airlines in business class. It was a 14-hour flight. I landed at 4 something pm, and I had a carry-on and checked bag. After customs, I went to the long train from Incheon to downtown Seoul, and then the subway to near Gangham. With a large bag in addition to my carry-on, it was rather awkward to traverse the few blocks from the station past the college to the hotel.
The college
I stayed at the Sheraton Gangham, and you can look at that review there. It was 7 or 8pm when I arrived. I was put in a perfunctory room; after I hit the hotel club lounge, I went to bed.

Going around

I took the subway system mostly. I got the subway transit card at a station and just put money on it to pay for my travel. I walked through a bit of Gangham to the subway, taking it to the palace areas in the north of the city and went to the Changdeokgung Palace where I spent the day exploring. Given it was so cold (28F degrees), I just gave up for the day and went back to the hotel. Also jetlag was playing a role in my decision to forgo further exploration of the area.

Being an individual of European ancestry, riding the subway was at times interesting. The younger people were not keen on me being there. I would sit down, and people who were near me would actually get up and move. Women were a degree worse. The people who were chill and nice to me were the older men, who I figure were of an age to remember the war and know what it was like back then and appreciated America's help.

The next day

I went out east to the Lotte Centers, a popular mall chain in Asia to get a Hard Rock pin for my oldest daughter's collection (yes, such an American thing, I know). The subways are a little confusing on transfers between lines. You have to pay close attention to colors and line number when you are going between. Many times, you have to leave the subway station areas and traverse other tunnels before entering the next one. They charge by distance, so every entry and exit usually is another bit off your balance.

Next, I headed off to the North Tower, which is a tourist spot on top of a mountain overlooking downtown and most of the sprawling city.

There are various walkways and vantage points at the base of the tower, situated some way up on the mountain. I took the cable car up because it's steep. Almost every inch of the fencing is covered in love locks. I just see this as an extension of an issue I perceive with Korean dating culture. The women are convinced what makes a good relationship is basically spending money on them and doing what they want. I feel sorry for the Korean guys who are stuck in this. How bad is it? A lot of Korean guys are now going to Thailand, like Europeans and Americans, to look for a wife.
Yeah right...
At North Tower, I ordered a fish batter-covered sausage with chili sauce on it, and walked down the mountain back to the streets. It was... a very strange taste combination. I did not finish it.
Then I took the subway downtown near the massive department stores of Lotte and Shingshae. They carry everything from squid to $15,000 refrigerators. Think if Saks 5th Ave won the lottery...

There are lots of hotels and shopping, most of it very expensive due to the VAT (value added tax) Korea has. One thing you can get is extremely high-end Korean cosmetics at a better price than elsewhere. With the recent popularity of the K-beauty trend, that's the only thing I would recommend shopping for, if you're into that kind of thing.
Christmas was in full swing, and Asia loves a good reason to shop. The area was full of Christmas trees and other holiday d├ęcor.
I returned to my room for my last night, and then back to the airport for the trip home the next day.

Summary

Seoul is huge city full of massive amounts of high-density housing, office buildings, temples, street food, and shopping, shopping, shopping. Clubbing and bars for the younger set. Sunday brunch is huge, especially at 5 star hotels. Get a reservation early or don't get one at all. Winter is so cold, also there is some anti-American sentiment still running especially near the colleges, with protests that can turn somewhat violent. US Army MP's cruise some of the popular districts like Itaewon looking for soldiers breaking off-limits rules, and have been known to mistake any American for a soldier.

Cold in winter, nice in summer. Not high on my list of places to revisit yet. Others are taking precedence over it.

Comments

Eric Reisinger - 2020-06-04
Fascinating post! Especially regarding the way the locals treated you on the subway... Why do the younger people dislike all Americans?


Rob - 2020-06-04 From the Real Rob
Well, there is a lot of socialist, communist influence, and in that they see America as an occupying force, and the propaganda from the North is American troops being there keeps the North and South from peace and reconcilation. My personal feeling is it's a scheme to weaken the South so eventually an invasion will be successful, but I may be wrong.




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