Mittwoch, 6. Juli 2011

The Travelogue, Part XXVI - Korea: Conclusion

Since I left Korea a bit early, some people were assuming I was not fond of it. Not true. Korea is a very nice and interesting place. I am just very weary of sightseeing. Thank god I am now in a country with very limited cultural heritage, so I don't feel forced to see stuff all the time. :D


Passing out drunk in the subway? No biggie.

Korea isn't exactly cheap if you compare it with Thailand or Indonesia, but it's not very expensive if you don't need luxury. If you spend your nights in love hotels (hostels are very rare), you'll spend about 15 $ or 10 £, which is not bad for a double room and you usually get mood lighting and free condoms with it, too. Sights are in the medium range, usually costing around 5 $, but can easily double or triple if the attraction is considered special such as the Secret Garden in Seoul. Organized tours are usually quite expensive; going to the DMZ, for example, will set you back around 70 $.

Transport is fast and comfortable, even a notch higher than in any industrialized country I have been to, and South Korea's short distances make sure it is cheap as well. Drivers don't seem to blast love songs at you, but buses have TVs and will use them.


Grilling stuff on the table is just awesome.

Makkoli is low acohol rice wine served chilled with snacks
Food can easily be one of the best reasons to visit Korea, and my raving about it is only hampered by the fact that while Koreans have some of the most amazing food on the planet, they unfortunately also have some of the worst. There is reasons why people elsewhere don't eat sea squirts, and that's because they fail in every single quality, such as taste and texture, that makes food desirable. But then there is Kimchi, and you forgive them. My favourites are Bulgogi barbeque, marinated slices of beef, which is rolled in lettuce with red bean sauce, Kimchi Jigae, as spicy stew with lots of pickled cabbage and soy-fried mackerel.

Hooray for Kimchi-Jigae!

Food is very cheap for you're getting, around 7000 won (6 $) for a single meal including sides. It's much better if you go for food with several people, as many dishes are for at least two people, and restaurants frequently turn sole travelers away.


 Being more approachable than the Japanese, but still more complicated than the Chinese, Koreans seem to like to make connections, but are usually to shy to do so. In the big cities and while partying they buddy up quickly, but in smaller places they seem to shun foreigners. Be prepared for all sorts of prejudice among the older generation: Westerners are by definition seen as unclean, uncouth and a bit dense. If you are not white, even more so. From what I hear, long-term friendships with Koreans are difficult, due to the different social pressures, but manageable. On the plus side, old women regularly give you candy or extra food, just because they think you're nice.

Seoulites like to drink and party.

Pets are frequently dressed up and treated like kids.

Tourism Value

Apart from its culinary heights, Korea offers beautiful countryside with lots of manageable mountains covered in lush forest and littered with serene monasteries. If you can manage to avoid all the fasionable hikers in their space gear, it's an amazing place to find peace and tranquility.

The Seogram Buddha, one of the finest in the world.

If you have been to China and Japan, the appeal of historic Korea declines somewhat. Traditional Korean architecture and arts do not vary greatly from that of her more well-known neighbours where it's already easy to get bored with the repetitiveness of imperial East Asian architecture. Much more interesting in my opinion is the modern, futuristic architecture by which Korea aims to become a global landmark.

If, unlike me, you like shopping then I can definitely say that Korea is a heaven. Whether it be funky independent attire, antiques or furniture, Seoul definitely deserves its reputation as a design capital.

Seoul at night


Because both were ubiquitous, I dub Korea "Land of Fog and Penis"

Korea is a good place to visit, but it's not gonna blow you away. I think it's best visited as a two week trip to Seoul, or maybe three weeks if you take in Jeju Island and some national park. It's got plenty of interesting diverse things to see in a very small space for a reasonable price, making it ideal for a small holiday. Whatever "Western" needs might arise, Korea will be able to provide, so it's safe to travel for less adventurous characters. So all in all, it's been fun, but unless I find reasons other than tourism, I wouldn't necessarily come back. I will keep a strong love for Korean cuisine and a heightened interest in the fate of the country. Have I mentioned that Korean cinema is pretty good, too?

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