Saturday, July 27, 2013

A trip to Seoul

Since South Korea is relatively close to Nagasaki, and our classes are over, and we really wanted to visit Seoul, a friend and I made a trip there last week.
Gyeongbokgung, the big palace.
It was really interesting. Korea is very different from Japan, although there are many similarities of course. I felt like Seoul was much more lively, open, spontaneous, but also more rude and shabby than Japan. Some parts of the city were visibly poorer, the streets dirtier and the buildings deteriorated. There's more of a street culture, with stalls selling food and scooters and chaotic traffic, more like the image I have of China or South-East Asian countries. Japan seems more organized. I was shocked that people didn't neatly line up in the subway! And everyone is constantly looking at their smartphone, children and elderly included. I wonder if our country will be like that soon, too.
I don't really see what's wrong with the girl on the left picture, but I do see a lot of Photoshop on the right one...
The amount of advertisements for cosmetic surgery, and the amount of people who visibly had had surgery, was unnerving. Not having had your eyes 'done' is almost unacceptable for a young woman with ambitions. A girl we met there told us she didn't want to have surgery, but her mom had made her, so now here eyes were double-lidded. She said she had been very scared, but that her mom thought it was necessary in order to be successful. That scared me. Eyes, nose, even jawline are being changed. How can you recognize yourself after that? I can't imagine the psychological effects, let alone the disturbed self-image of Korean women... 

This guy drove away the Japanese army some centuries ago, so he got a statue. Sadly the Japanese came back a few times to ravage the country, the last time being WW2. Not nice. 
I felt like Seoul has a very shallow, consumerist side, and a rich cultural one on the other hand. We saw make-up shops lined up in the shopping walhalla Myeongdong, pretty antique shops and old houses in Insadong, and beautiful palaces like Gyeongbokgung. If you're ever going to Seoul, I really recommend those 3 places in particular.

Bukchon Hanok Village, near Insadong. 

The crowd at Gangnam station. Hellish.
If you like to party Hongdae is nice, with clubs and bars and noraebang (Korean karaoke), but apart from karaoke I'm not really fond of 'clubbing' and such so I wasn't too enthusiastic about it. Gangnam is much like Shinjuku, very, very crowded and very modern, with skyscrapers and designer shops, but I only went there shortly just to have been there. A place I recommend to avoid is Itaewon. It's apparently popular for going out but I really disliked the atmosphere. There are a lot of foreigners, which could be fun, but most of them are from the American military and that doesn't make it a friendly environment for young women (well, depends on what you want to do, but I disliked it). We went into a restaurant and got cat-called immediately by drunk American men. On the streets too, I felt uncomfortable and unsafe, and we left quickly.

All in all, I had the most fun in Insadong where I bought pretty souvenirs including a small jade Buddha for my brother, and in Myeongdong, a labyrinth of shops and stalls that's very lively at night. Most staff in the shops also spoke Japanese and Chinese, because so many tourists come there. English was more of a challenge, so I was happy I could communicate in Japanese, because I don't understand any Korean (only 'thanks', 'I love you' and 'toilet'. Still useful, I guess.). There were many stalls that sold hairclips, socks and earrings etc. for 1000 won a piece, which converts to roughly 0,70 euro (or around 0,90 US dollar). And cute, too! Needless to say, I bought a lot.
Here's my loot:

a ring, earrings, a new pencase and a wallet. 
hairthings! I love ribbons and flowers :) The floral headband is from Forever21, the only 'real' shop I bought from, but it was the first and only thing to break; it lost some flowers the first time I wore it. I've since glued them back on.
socks and a belt. 
Now I won't buy any more earrings or hairthings for a year at least!

1 comment:

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