First impressions of Seoul

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Seoul four days already. Hard to believe we’re on the other side of the world, period. The flights were kind of brutal, I won’t lie. Especially the third flight which was almost 15 hours. But Koreans know the routine — many of them lay down across seats and slept much of the way. Perks include free movies and lots of free meals. I sat next to a lady currently stationed at Osan Air Base. There are several military bases around Seoul. She gave me some good tips about living here, which was nice.

We’ve spent the first few days getting to know our neighborhood, which is the central business district of Seoul. So many places to see and things to do within walking distance from our place.

Our first day, we ventured out to Seoul Station, the subway hub. Beautiful structure housing the Lotte Outlets (not so “discounted” prices…), Lotte Mart (more on this place later) a food court and many other shops and eateries (including several American chains).

Seoul Station

Seoul Station demonstration

Seoul Station food court

Seoul Station food court eateries

Seoul Station food court dumplings

We kept walking and came across Namdaemun Market, an enormous shopping area spanning multiple stories underground and aboveground where you can find anything imaginable. Amazing and somewhat overwhelming. We just strolled through, but, rest assured, I will go back. Hehehe.

Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market 2

Namdaemun Market 3

Other things we saw that first day: Deoksugung Palace (more on this later) and City Hall, where they were cleaning up from the day’s Seoul Kimchi Making & Sharing Festival.

Deoksugung Palace

The new Seoul City Hall

Day two: A friend showed us how to use the subway and took us to see the U.S. Embassy (good to know where that is), located right across from the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts (where they were also hosting the Kimchi Festival) and the Itaewon district, a very “international” area where you find lots of foreigners and expats. We walked through pretty quickly which is why I don’t have any photos, but basically, it’s another area with lots of shops and restaurants. On our list to revisit. We also ate some fried chicken for dinner, which, apparently, is very popular in Korea.

Loading our Metro cards

The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts

Kimchi Festival tent

Kimchi Festival

Fun on the plaza with Pororo and friends.

Since I named this post First Impressions, I might as well share some of those. Seoul seems fairly easy to navigate, so far, thanks to the Metro system. The people are nice and most of them at least understand English. Several people told us most of the signage would be in English….I’d say some, not most. It’s cold, yes. Right now around the 40’s during the day and into the 30’s at night. Crazy drivers. Lots of motorcycles and mopeds, even in this cold weather. Lots of people smoke. Black seems to be the popular color to wear. More Americanized than I expected — Dunkin’ Donuts, 7-Eleven, Starbucks seem to be on every other block, and there are many cafes and burger joints — but there are also many hole-in-the-wall eateries offering cheap noodles, dumplings and more traditional food. The food is tasty and very filling. They don’t eat pancakes or oatmeal for breakfast >< and they don’t serve water with meals, you have to grab it yourself. SO much shopping! It’s a busy city, just like any other major metropolis, but we’re enjoying exploring and look forward to everything Seoul has to offer.

Up next: days three and four. Grocery shopping in Seoul, and visits to the  Deoksugung Palace and the Seoul Museum of Art.

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