Mention the words “South Korea”, and the capital “Seoul”, and the images of K pop, K dramas, hunky Korean actors with rippling abs and pretty Korean girls with long shapely legs come to mind.
For me, it was the food (and drink) that caught my attention. The wonderful and lovely shabu shabu – I can only wax lyrical about it now that I’m back in Singapore. I’m missing the limitless dollops of kimchi, bean sprouts and stir fried vegetable pancakes. Apart from that, I would have to dedicate a post just on drinks – Makgeolli being my favourite.
Beyond food and pop culture, Seoul boasts glittering skyscrapers of world renowned brands Samsung and Hyundai, amidst the traditional palaces of the Chosun Dynasty. Witness the changing of royal guard at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, and it takes you back in time to that of Da Chang Jin and her life in the palace.
Be sure to bring lots of won, because apart from all the gigantic flat screen TVs that seem to be ubiquitous around Seoul, shopping is a delight (even for the anti-shopper) like me. If you are a Gmarket fan, you get prices of clothes similar to that of Gmarket, without the delivery surcharge. If you’re on the look out for beauty and cosmetics, South Korea is home to a bevy of Face Shop, Skin Food and Etude House products, that are in heated competition with each other, hence the endless promotions that are up for grabs.
Though I hurt my knee during my time there and wasn’t able to do any trekking, a journey to the Seoul Grand Park (Seoul Zoo) revealed some beautiful scenery, with trees turning a slight golden colour to welcome the autumn.
But what strikes me most is the Korean culture in a city that never sleeps. A city with inhabitants partaking in udon accompanied with Soju at 2am on a Friday morning. A city with so many good looking and fashionable people, (that even the high esteemed Phebe felt a little out of place at the Coax Convention centre with her short skirt and slippers).
I just get a sense that South Koreans know how to enjoy themselves. In the midst of managing their hectic work schedules and start-up dreams, they still manage to find the time to have a Soju (with beer) and chat with friends until the wee hours of the night. They still find the time to go to Nami Island with friends, or even to Jeju to look at nature. They still find the time to make a statement and voice their opinions, as seen from the two displays I came across during my six days there.
Beauty aside, maybe this is what Singaporeans should strive for – a unique culture of our own, distinct and admired by all.