If I ask you about South Korea, it is likely that two things will come to your mind: the famous song and dance of few years ago, “Gangnam Style” and the name of Gamal Al-Ghandour along with the memory of the “Spanish National Team” defeat in the quarterfinals of the world Cup in Korea and Japan 2002 at the hands of the host team. Yeah, okay, we know it was an unfair defeat, but it’s time to put the past aside and look to Koreans with different eyes. It’s time to open our hearts to a country that is much more than just a world superpower. And, with its tradition, culture, technology and gastronomy, South Korea is a country that grabs you, hypnotizes you and makes you fall in love from the first moment.
South Korea, SEOUL
The Republic of Korea (대한민국), or South Korea, is a country in East Asia located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula bordering North Korea. Its capital, Seoul (서울 특별시), located in the northwest of the country, has about 10 million people, 25 million if you count the metropolitan area, making it one of the largest cities in the world besides being considered as one of the which offers better quality of life. And here, in Seoul, is where elapsed our entire trip.
ARRIVAL TO SEOUL
In spite of the nerves that always carries catch a plane and a trip of this magnitude, I was fully decided and there was no turning back. After more than 14 hours of flight (Madrid – Dubai – Seoul), customs control and collect my suitcase, I could say without fear of contradiction, that I was in South Korea. And of course I was there, I did not understand anything! For those who do not know, the Korean writing system is the “Hangul”, which was invented in the fifteenth century by Sejong the Great and has not the slightest resemblance to Spanish or English. Fortunately, everything was translated into English. ((Little advice, if you do not know either Korean or the language of Shakespeare, it will be a bit difficult to move around Seoul.))
The first thing that catches the eye upon landing, besides the small islands around the runway in the style of Dragon Ball, is the impressive airport. And is that, Incheon International Airport has been awarded as the best in the world since 2005.
After leaving the airport and get to my studio, it was time to rest and recharge batteries. After sleeping about 10 hours I was strong enough to start my adventure. Thanks to the invaluable help of my guide, translator and partner, June, I was about to go into all corners of the megacity par excellence, SEOUL.
If anything highlights the Korean capital is by the countless monuments, restaurants or activities that you can see, enjoy and practice on it; and is that Seoul is a city that never sleeps, opens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
A common feature that applies to all Koreans is that they do love to eat; they are eating all the time and this is something that manifests and feel in every corner of the Asian city. Countless are the number of restaurants, street stall or local fast food stalls that you can find there along one day.
SEOUL AND THE FOOD
In Seoul we can enjoy everything from the finest tea in an exclusive cafe in Insa-dong (인사동) to the most authentic kimbap at street market Gwangjang (광장 시장) through all kinds of snacks and Korean dishes such as the famous noodles of Myeongdong Kyoja (명동 교자), the super addictive fried chicken Gamaro Gangjung, delicious Jaws Ddeokbokki (죠스 떡볶이) and of course, the traditional and well-known “kimchi” (김치). For those who are listening for the first time the term “kimchi”, I must say that kimchi is a traditional Korean dish par excellence, as it is added in most recipes and is the most widespread in the country’s gastronomy ingredient. But if there is something you must try in Korea is the Chimek (치맥). Although more than “try it” the perfect definition would experience it. Since Chimek alone is nothing but fried chicken accompanied by beer. But what makes it special is that it has to be taken with friends and in a special place, which always triggers into a great night. Without going any further, one of the two times we got Chimek in Seoul, I was watching a baseball game and the other enjoying a splendid night on the benchs of the Han River.
SEOUL AND THE BASEBALL
Now that I mention the baseball game, what an ambience! And not what we have in Europe! Home team, Doosan Seoul faced against the Daejeon Hanwha Eagles. The game was played at Jamsil Stadium which seats 30,000 people. And despite not being full, the atmosphere was ideal. On one side of the stadium the local fans and on the other side the visiting fans. Supporters of both clubs take turns during the game to cheer their respective teams. Impossible to see this in Spain where there is only room for the songs of the local team. However, with each entry we exchanged songs and each more catchy choruses, all spiced of course, with dance and choreography performed by dancers from both teams. All was really South Korean style, definitely amazing.
Usually, the concept that we have about Seoul is to be a chaotic city with a crowded subway. While the latter is true at peak times, Seoul is much more than that.
Seoul is palaces. As the palace Gyeongbokgung (경복궁), one of the five palaces in the city and which was the main residence of the royal family during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Or the Changdeokgung Palace (창경궁), which was originally a summer palace of the Goryeo Emperor, later becoming one of the “Five Grand Palaces” of the Joseon Dynasty. Or Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁) which was inhabited by the Korean royalty until the Japanese occupation in the early twentieth century.
Seoul is monuments. As the N Seoul Tower (N 서울 타워) with 236’7 meters high has become an icon par excellence of the Korean capital and one of the places of pilgrimage for couples who want to demonstrate their affection and sealing their love with a padlock. As Namdaemun Gate (남대문), also known as the Great South Gate, at the entrance of the market with the same name, one of the most traditional and picturesque of the city. Or as Dongdaemun Gate (동대문) or the Great East Gate, which stands in the heart of Seoul.
Seoul is fun. As the fun you can find in Lotte World, the world’s largest indoor theme park, located in the center of Seoul and that has an artificial island inside, a rink ice, malls, movie theaters and a hotel luxury among other facilities. Fun as you can find in Everland, the largest amusement park in the country which also includes a zoo and a water park called Caribbean Bay. Or as the fun of taking pictures wearing the typical Korean costume, Hanbok (한복) and then edit them with the wildest stickers and stickers.
Seoul is history. Throughout all the city you will stay astonished to see how monuments or entire old towns remain almost intact , as the Bukchon Hanok village, a small town where seems to have not spent the time. History contained in the walls of the Museum of the Korean War, where thousands of stories and objects that tell the memories of the Korean nation are enclosed.
Seoul is technology. Because despite having maintained the traditional things, they have managed to implement the latest technological advances in their culture, making them his own, as they have done with their world-famous brands Samsung or LG, or with construction of new and advanced buildings as the Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
Seoul is landscapes. Landscapes as you can find on the Namiseom island (남이섬 종합 휴양지), a famous island for appearing in a Korean soap opera well known in Asia and in which the views and surroundings are heavenly. Or landscapes as those present in “Petite France” (쁘띠 프랑스), a small town created at the finest French and Mediterranean style where you seem transported to another time.
In short, Seoul has everything you want to find in a city. If you are considering a trip, South Korea is your country and Seoul your destination. For all this and much more I can only say one thing. I LOVE YOU KOREA!