Monday, January 25, 2016

#ileftmyheartin Seoul – An Homage

6 hours later, we found ourselves in another city. That first night we arrived, we were exhausted and peering at undecipherable store fronts in Dongdaemun-gu with a lack of sleep, our nemesis. Fried chicken and spicy fried chicken (for me) without the beer, because we don't drink.

Here are some pictures that Matt & I would love to share with you from our trip (as if you weren't already bored of seeing pictures from Korea, hehehehe)

Seoul is a series of surreal sensations of sorts, something I've seen countless times in our weekly watch of Running Man or the dramas on TV but could never experience fully. But as we stood in the large neighborhood intersection by Paris Baguette (great but pricey bakery), waiting for the lights to change, I was excited to see this place and its people.

When friends ask me what I think, I can only answer 'Great, I love it!' without explaning why. You might be familiar that I usually find my travels hard to describe, because I feel that there's no way to experience a city without ever being present physically. And Seoul is truly a city that fits that description.

It is elusive in the night, and we made our way through the mazes of street stalls, its sellers indifferent; the young and the hip huddle together in the buzz of the night and soju, carefree and careless. Everything was so still, but so full of life despite its exhaustion – you see tired employees close up shops and dart to the nearest metro or bus stop.

South Korean (and Asia in general) convenience stores are just the best, really. Where else can you get ice cream with a soft coat chocolate crunch with a strawberry filling?!?! Everything is so quirky and so fashionable it hurt my ego. I don't consider Magnums proper ice creams, which could be why everything is so great in comparison.

Lotte snacks reign the racks, one of the largest conglomerates in South Korea, always in the news for the latest power struggle.

We wandered around more a bit more and found our way back into the cosy AirBnB flat on the 14th floor, overlooking the Seoul skyline, and Namsan Tower.

In the day, the streets are lined with all sorts, the tourists, the elderly, jubilant students and street performers. Night transforms the day into a whirlpool of culture and oddities. We trudged around different areas: Hongdae, Ewha, Myeongdong... I was eager to tick off my food wish-lists, which included everything and anything. The food markets were a highlight of our trip, not because it's always full with locals and visitors, but graced by the tireless energy from the stall owners, and you start to think about the part they play in the perennial legacy of a country like South Korea.

A capital torn between its brethren in the North, and a pioneer in tech and fashion in the eyes of the West, support from the military giant of US, Seoul is a place full of life. Its people are weary from day-to-day humdrum activity (my friend told us they only get 7 days of paid leave annually), and yet, it tries to cling on to innocence in the most unexpected of ways. We climbed atop to Bukchon Village, overseeing the city and its districts, where parts of the city unfolded and smoked unfurled in the mid-morning – a city influenced by Confucian ideals, the young work to repay their parents, or not at all, tainted by individualism conquered in the West.

Nonetheless, each night before I tucked in from the 14th floor - I sneaked quick glances over the city's skyline, wishing we had more time to explore this city's personal side: its language, laughter and love for life.

(A quick word before I say bye - I recently wrote a piece on Medium on how it took me 3 years to get a job in the UK and would love if you read it and share your thoughts :) it's a story close to my heart, and one that I don't share very much here because it's been difficult, but now it's gone live, cheeeeck it out pals!)

I wrote this for the #ileftmyheart campaign and competition where I could potentially win a city trip, so why not? I wish I was paid to travel and write this, alas that is untrue. But if you'd like to write about somewhere that means a lot to you, you can jump on the bandwagon here!

A lot has happened last week, and I look forward to catching up with y'all on all the above issues: traveling and your fave places, the more serious side of life on working and getting a job and what you have plans for this week! Adios amigos! :)
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