Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Seoul: impressions

South Korea

Arriving at the Incheon airport, my first impression of South Korea was more or less what I'd expected: everything was new, very tidy and clean, blond wood and neutral colours, free wi-fi... everything was very... Scandinavian / Nordic, and for a brief moment I wondered if we'd ended up in Helsinki instead...

My jet-lagged brain kept seeing similarities, as if I'd ended up in a slightly warped version of my own reality: everything looks familiar yet out of proportion at the same time, as in a dream. It was Alice in Wonderland in reverse: everything is suddenly multiplied and exaggerated in size and quantity, and I'd suddenly turned illiterate...


After spending almost the entire Monday at our wonderful hotel jet-lagged and sleepy, we were ready to start the 'working' part of our trip on Tuesday. This was after all a business trip for Professor M, and I had a part to play as 'the Professor's Wife' at a lunch with the representatives of a local university. This was the part I had dreaded most: from what to wear to what to say, and was thus very glad that it turned out to be rather hurried affair.

After lunch, we were given a private tour of the campus by a lovely young lady. We also got to see the museum, which is open to public, and featured an interesting permanent collection exploring the lives and dress styles of Korean women during the Joseon Dynasty as well as a temporary exhibition on idealism in Asian art. As we had the cultural portion of our trip served on a platter this way, we felt no need to explore any cultural sites during the 'private' part of our visit...

EHWA Womans University campus
After the university campus tour, we left Seoul for Daegu (more about that in an upcoming post in August...) for a few days so that Professor M could attend a conference, and only got back to Seoul on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, this meant that we had about a day and a half before our flight home on Sunday morning...

So, what does a Bad Tourist do in such a short time? 

A quick bus tour in the evening to get an idea of all the places we might want to visit, if we only had more time, and a targeted shopping excursion and some aimless wandering around on Saturday. I'm not even going to pretend that these pictures, or my ramblings, represent anything more than passing observations and fleeting impressions...


Now, this is where my idea of South Korea as 'the Asian Scandinavia' fell apart... These wires hanging over the street, are they for telephone lines, electricity or what?


Professor M has a soft spot for parks, and as a Finn I'm used to seeing something green (lots of it, in fact) around, so we headed to the little park near the hotel.

Shopping...

When Professor M went to check out a the Youngsan Electronics Market (boys and their toys...), I braved the underground and the frustrating ticket system to go to Shinsegae department store. To use my own international department store classification system, I would describe it as a cross between Harrods and Selfridges, or Saks and Neiman Marcus for my American readers. The Main Building is definitely more Harrods / Saks, but the new building featured some interesting Korean brands (especially handbags and costume jewellery).
Professor M also found his oasis in the midst of the urban jungle: the 6th floor Café Payard (Main Building) serves excellent coffee and sweet treats, which you can enjoy on the beautiful rooftop terrace, Trinity Garden, and admire the interesting artwork and scenery while watching the sunset.

Trinity Garden, Café Payard

So, Seoul definitely deserves a second and a closer look, and maybe we'll get back there one day. In the meantime, stay tuned for my posts on the more luxurious and frustrating aspects of the trip, on the 22nd of July and 5th of August, respectively.

Tiina
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6 comments

  1. The campus definitely looks European! That's so weird! I mean I have never been to Asia but I wouldn't expect any European-like buildings there!

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  2. I agree with the comment above - it isn't exactly how I pictured it! Those pastries look absolutely delicious.

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  3. Well, I expected big towns in Korea and Japan to look 'Westernised', with skycrapers etc. But there was definitely something Nordic about Seoul (so tidy and organised, everything works, very modern transportation), combined with almost an Eastern European vibe (the monolithic tower blocs with numbers on them, the absence of colour etc).

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  4. Fascinating perspective on Seoul! Not quite what I imagined.

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  5. Wow I'm so surprised to hear that it's so scandinavian! That campus looks gorgeous and huge!
    Look forward to seeing the rest of your Seoul thoughts :)

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  6. Hey Tina! I'm impressed by these fantastic pictures, majestic I would say!
    Baci,
    Coco
    Coco et La vie en rose / Bloglovin / Facebook

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