Seoul, Korea Apr 2009
My impression of Seoul: A very good Asian experience. Like Tokyo (which I saw during my Navy diving days), Seoul makes you think you’re in some exotic land, but it’s about as western friendly as a place can get. Food is safe. Streets are clean. There is no visible poverty. Transportation services are on time. They don’t have street peddling or that crazy price bartering thing that so many countries have. The only hardship in Seoul is that the signs are hard to read and they often serve smelly fish as a side dish. But that’s magic of the quasi-exotic destination, it looks just different enough to make you think you’re a daring traveler, but it’s not daring at all. Throw in a few palaces with some funny roofs and put Jackie Chan on every street corner, and you’ve done it, you’ve fooled yourself into thinking you’re in another world.
I really like Seoul for this exact reason. I don’t like traveling to places where poverty is everywhere. I don’t like to spend half my vacation sitting on the toilet. But I do like to see different things. I like to try foods that are different, but not so different that I don’t immediately recognize it as food. Koreans eat rice that looks like rice, meat that looks like meat. They eat vegetables also. Steamed veggies. Sautéed veggies. Excluding that stinky fish stuff they put to the side (anchovies maybe), the most exotic thing we found was kimchi, a dish that might not suit every westerner. It’s pickled vegetables (usually cabbage) with spices, served cold. Doesn’t sound delightful, but at least it’s stuff I’ve heard of. It’s not bat testicles or worm dung like they eat in some countries.
In additional to seeing Seoul, we took a tour of the DMZ, or demilitarized zone, the border between North and South Korea.