I’m still so very excited over our trip to Seoul, so let me get this out of the way: the past week in Seoul was amazing! Even though I don’t like to read much about my future destinations, as I don’t want the element of surprise to vanish completely (same for movies, music, etc), I still couldn’t have anticipated Seoul. Everything we read prepared us for something closer to a mix of Tokyo and a very traditional town, but truth is I found Seoul more similar to Bucharest, believe it or not 🙂 Seoul however is located in the mountains, which is the major distinctive element and the reason why I feel so toned right now!
All in all, if not for their northern neighbours or their on-and-off disputed with Japan, Seoul is a very tourist friendly city. That’s the feeling that I’ve got after one week, but I would have liked to have allocated at least 3 weekes to South Korea all-in-all. The city doesn’t have a center per se, but same as Melbourne, it’s made up of several areas, each with its own character (expat-club-gay area, near the US military base, a student area, an old, traditional area, where all the old palaces are, the shopping area, the stadium area, universities, etc). Their subway network is incredibly easy to get around with, clean and efficient, plus we had a local train app, which was incredibly helpful. Lots of people understand English and speak it very well, so no need to despair. The food is great, their local beer is a new favourite and any form of shopping is available 24/ 24 h.
I’ll try to remember as many details as possible, but they’ll probably come more naturally as I go back to all the places we’ve visited. So let me start with the principal royal palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was the first on our list. Well, this palace plus other 2 in the area, but I had no idea that this one had 500 buildings (!!), obviously not all opened to the public, but as you can understand this took up most of the day. We also decided to walk from our hotel to this palace, but we didn’t estimate the distances so we only reached it around noon. Gyeongbokgung (Palace Greatly Blessed By Heaven) was built around 1395 and it served as the main palace for more than 500 years, until it got demolished by the Japanese occupation (over 90%). Thankfully, in 1990, they started rebuilding it all until it (almost) reached its initial state. Look how beautiful it is: