We emerged from the subway near to
where our hostel was supposed to be. We glanced around, trying to get
our bearings when immediately a man in a business suit, speaking English,
asked if we were lost. Of course we were. We showed him the
directions to our hostel, but he couldn’t make sense of them either, so he
just called the hostel on his cell phone and got directions. He said
he was heading the same direction, so he got a taxi and took us to our
hostel. Our whole time in South Korea was to be like that.
Whenever we were lost of confused for more than two seconds, someone
speaking English would magically appear and help us.
We dropped our things off in our room, then headed
back out to explore the city. We soon realized our hostel was located in
the “home improvement” district. Imagine Lowe’s or Home Depot but in dozens
of little shops. So our first impression of Seoul was a lot of bathtubs,
floor tiles and ceiling lights. We were famished and in search of a
restaurant. We finally found an area with lots of restaurants, but we
weren’t prepared for how different Korean food was from Chinese. Nothing
even looked good, and everything was expensive. So we ate at Pizza Hut.
We eventually made it to the downtown area. We soon
discovered that May 1st-5th was the Hi Seoul festival,
so there were a few stages set up and the streets were lined with stalls
selling food that looked very unappetizing to us. Seoul was the capital of
the Joseon dynasty during the 15th century, and had many palaces
dating to that period. I was disappointing to discover that most of them
were rebuilt, having been destroyed by the Japanese.
Seoul didn’t have the towering sky
scrapers I was expecting, but it was consistently impressive. The city
went on forever. Seoul has an urban population of nearly 10 million
and was the largest city I’d ever been in. We took a bus to the top of
a hill in the center of town with views of the whole city. The best
part about Seoul is that there are so many hills in and around the city that
despite all the buildings, there are still many beautiful natural areas.
I was amazed at the vastness of the city.