I went to Seoul last weekend….and I didn’t love it. Most of my friends love Seoul and many of them go there every weekend, so I worry that they may disown me. I know this is blasphemy of the highest order (well, maybe second highest), but it’s true. I realize that this may change your opinion of me, but I can’t lie to you.
Seoul was like Daegu, but with better restaurants and bigger crowds. Much bigger. There were times when it was difficult to walk down the street. It seemed like I was stuck in a Wal-Mart without a ceiling or an exit. I came pretty close to vapor-locking on several occasions. This is my term (stolen from friends at Lenoir PD) for when I panic and have to get the hell out of a crowd.
It wasn’t all bad, though. The neighborhood in which we stayed, Hongdae, was very cool. The name is short of Hong-It De-hak-gyo (Hong-It University). The neighborhood is very young and hip, full of trendy restaurants and huge night clubs. Though everything was more expensive than in Daegu, I was delightfully surprised by the fact that it was still cheap compared to big western cities.
I stayed at a hostel in south Hongdae called Kimchi Hongdae Hostel, about a ten minute walk from the campus and the heart of the nightlife. I paid extra to get a single room (as opposed to sharing with several strangers). It was well worth the extra $40 ($20 per night). It seemed like the perfect place to stay, until I discovered on Saturday morning that the air conditioning was broken. I informed the girl who worked at the front desk, and she spent a few minutes pushing buttons. Once she realized that pushing buttons at random would not fix the problem, she asked me to wait while she called the manager. She never followed up with me, so I spent the last 24 hours sweating like a whore in church.
On Sunday, I went with a Korean friend to a neighborhood called Myeongdong. Near the center of town, this is a huge and crowded shopping district that puts Daegu’s downtown to shame. We explored several blocks full of retail stores ranging from high-end names like Louis Vuitton to lower-end brands like Gap and Polo. I finally found a pair of sandals that fit and some shorts that weren’t two sizes too big.
By the time we headed back to Daegu, I was ready to leave. Two days were plenty of time for me. The trip was so exhausting (partly because I didn’t sleep well at the hostel) that I managed to sleep on the train, which is extremely rare for me.
I plan to give Seoul another chance. Though I imagine it is impossible to avoid the crowds, it might be less shocking the second time around. I am also interested in seeing some of the historical sites around town. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it when I return.
Until next time.