Photo of the day: The glitz and glamour of Gangnam in Seoul, South Korea.

Culture and Tourism

Seoul is definitely the hotspot for everything beauty and fashion. It is difficult to come here and not do any shopping at all, even for someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy shopping. The population is very young and the trends are very obvious. Their influences are mainly from Hallyu or the Korean cultural wave (whether it’s from k-pop or tv dramas). They even have replicas of earrings with a photo of a star who has worn that same style next to them. Having fair skin is prevalent almost everywhere in Asia, but they take it to the next level here. The majority of people wear a full face of make up here including the Ahjummas working in the kitchen. This where also where impressive plastic surgery facilities can be found. This was very apparent in the Garosugil area where people walked into coffee shops post-op with huge bandages over their faces.

Food is rich in fats and carbs here. They not only love their hot pepper sauce with its sweet and spicy flavour but they also love their cheese, found in everything from Buddae Jjigae to cheese lattes or just straight fried cheese on a stick. Fried food is ubiquitous and well as huge plates of grilled meat. Eating alone is rare here and food items are usually ordered in number of servings, with 2 usually being the minimum. You will not starve as your meal is always served with Banchan or side dishes which can be refilled. Cost of living is definitely higher with fewer cheap food options. Even the street food costs are much higher than in Southeast Asia.

Street food in Myeongdong.
Street food in Myeongdong.

Weather

I’d have to say that this is probably not the best time to be visiting Seoul. It was pretty cold, mostly in the -1 C range while we were here. This really limited our ability to walk around and explore. We had to rely on the subway more than we actually would have needed if the weather was warmer. The street food scene is also limited because of the weather as well, although it was still impressive despite the cold. Snow and rain was not common but just remember to check the forecast and bring an umbrella with you, if necessary, because when it rained, it rained the whole day.

Language

I found the language particularly fun to learn because it was not tonal and it also had some similar sounds as Chinese. For example, the Sino-Korean numbering system was not difficult to pick up at all. English is not widely spoken here compared to Thailand and Vietnam, although Mandarin-Chinese is very useful.

Top Food Picks

  1. Dumplings @ Myengdong Gyoja
  2. Jummulock @ Tong Tong Dwaeji
  3. Chicken Galbi @ Happy Yoojane
  4. Gamja Tang @ 동원집
  5. Croissant Taiyaki on the streets of Myeongdong

Top Sights

  1. The view of the city on our walk up to N Seoul Tower
  2. The bustling streets of Myeongdong and Hongdae
  3. The glitz and glamour of Gangnam

Firsts

  • First time in South Korea
  • First time using a portable wifi device – pretty handy but having data would still be more convenient
  • First time seeing so many cosmetic shops in such close proximity to one another
  • First time colouring my hair
  • First time using a bidet (and it wasn’t as messy as I had expected)
  • First time eating breakfast from a convenience store
  • First time trying legit Bulgogi
  • First time trying Makgeolli
  • First time feeling the urge to go shopping everyday
  • First time trying Korean street food
  • First time trying a traditional Korean meal (Hanjeongsik)
  • First time seeing so many policemen and being near a million person protest
  • First time taking a dance class in South Korea
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