The city is overwhelming. The size of the city. Another city around each corner. All of those mulit-storey neon-light-streets postcards coming to life right in front of you in every direction for as long as you walk. Awesome, but initially just too much. Not knowing where to start or where to go breeds anxiousness, then irritation, then depression. Flat.
Then you let go.
Seoul is just awesome. All of the small things and all the big things. A mega metropolis of 10.7 million people. Asia’s best kept secret. Millions of groups of people out every night, smiling, laughing, walking amongst the neon, bars 2 levels below ground and eight storeys above, restaurants whose tables spill onto the road, diners having their menu choices cooked for them at their table, clusters of Seoulites crowded around street vendors selling fried snacks. Scooters and cars edging past one another, pedestrians instinctively moving out of the way at the last moment without even looking, teenagers watching movies on their hand-held devices walking through the subway as they pass elderly women selling rinsed lettuce leaves on large tea-towels. A city so massive but with pockets of personal and intimacy everywhere you look.
It’s such an amazing energy, it’s intoxicating.
People always go on about how great Asian food is. Here’s an example: We went to a local cafe in the Hongik district. I ordered Mackerel, my friend ordered congee. Which we got… along with 11 other dishes. Small bowls, each a different condiment, each exquisite. And mine cost W5000 ($7).
And the condiments aren’t exclusive to meals. You almost won’t need dinner when you order a beer; the condiments don’t stop! And different wherever you go: once I got prawn flavour stick-chips, another time a 3-part bowl of stringy white squid chew things, coconut chili peanuts and sweet seaweed sticks, but my favourite was at an art space bar: With my beer, I was served 4 sao crackers and 6 piping hot steamed green beans, all neatly arranged in a line.
Other fave things about Seoul: vending machines for toiletries, others for 45cent coffee (didn’t taste that one); motorcyclists who ride with their phone sticking out of their helmet so they can still talk while riding; icecreams at milk bars are 70 cents; bars with names like ‘Beatles’, ‘The Doors’, ‘The Velvet Underground’ and ‘Judas and Slayer’; and my favourite bar in Sinchon: it’s underground, a cat and its kitten are usually sauntering up and down the bar, you have to get your beer from the fridge and open it with a bottle opener yourself, and the guy always plays cool music – he even played “A Ghost Devotion”!