If you haven't already read Part 1 of this post, I recommend clicking here.
But if you're ready for Part 2, read on!
6. The Language
|An example of written English in Seoul.|
|This man was writing people's names in traditional Chinese characters, which were used as the main written form in Korea before Hangul was introduced in the fifteenth century. Thank goodness for King Sejong!|
7. The Roads, the Vehicles and the Transport
|The roads here are in some ways like those of any big American city: huge, busy and eternally noisy. They're also pretty clean, a lot more so than the ones in the UK.|
|The roads here are not only very big, but you also sometimes have to wait a hell of a long time before you can cross them. At the one in the photo above I think I waited almost five minutes before the green man appeared.|
|One thing I've noticed several times is that apparently it's not against the law for motorcyclists to ride on sidewalks and other pedestrian areas.|
|In fact they'll even ride through narrow marketplaces and shopping centres!|
|There are quite a few bicyclists here too, though not as many as in China.|
|There are some nice bicycle paths running along the rivers and canals.|
|This picture gives a better sense of how busy the Metro gets, and this was on a Saturday!|
8. The Technology
|One thing you notice right away is that practically everyone here has a mobile phone. Even little old ladies can be seen playing bejewelled or some other minigame on their phone whilst waiting on the metro.|
|Some of the toilets are pretty high-tech too. I didn't try finding out what all the buttons did on this one, but I know it warms the seat for you.|
|Gaming is famously a big thing in Korea (people have even been known to die from it), and there are quite a lot of arcades and internet cafes all over the place. I've still yet to see anyone playing Starcraft, which I'd heard was a national sport here. But there are always lots of people on the metro playing games on their phones to pass the time.|
9. The Markets, the Shops and the Merchandise
|Though there are supermarkets here, you can still buy lots of fresh food straight off the street.|
|One of the things I like about the markets is that you'll see people making the products right there in front of their store, so that you know what you're buying is completely fresh, authentic and handmade.|
|Koreans love their seafood, and an extremely common sight are seafood restaurants with live food on display right outside the establishment, ready to be caught and cooked in front of you.|
|Unfortunately, animals don't seem to be well protected by the law here (at least, not sea creatures), and many are kept in very cramped conditions before they're eaten.|
|The area in this photo is Myeongdong, a popular shopping district in downtown Seoul. One of the things I like about the shops here is that the vast majority, even small family-run businesses, stay open well into the evening.|
|While most of the vending machines here are pretty similar to those in the west (selling drinks, candy, snacks and the like), I've already encountered a few selling things like toys and items of clothing.|
10. The Tranquility
|Firstly, there are the parks, where you'll find lots of local Koreans resting or exercising.|
|The parks are a great place to find traditional Korean pavilions, and to witness the changing effects of the seasons on the trees and plants.|
|There is also no shortage of museums, large and small, throughout the country, ranging from subject matter as expansive as Korean history and culture (see my post A Rainy Day at the National Museum of Korea) to more particular themes such as owls, knots, teas and locks. I've even heard that in Bukchon there's a Museum of Chicken Art, which I'll definitely be paying a visit to at some point.|
|Another reason it's easy to find peace in this otherwise bustling country is that practically every town and city is close to a national park or hiking spot. The photo above shows where Bukchon in northern Seoul meets Bukhansan National Park.|
|And of course there is the Cheonggyecheon Stream, downtown Seoul's most popular walking spot, always serene even when it's thronged with tourists.|
Before I end this post, I thought I'd add a few other observations that don't quite fit in any of the previous sections but still seem worth mentioning:
Well, that's it, a rather long summary of my most notable observations of life in Korea over the last three weeks, finished! I don't know if I'll ever do a post this long again because it's taken a lot more time and effort than I'm really willing to invest in this blog. But now I've said that, in a few weeks or so I'll probably be making a post three times as long.
In any case, I hope you've found it an interesting read. Please let me know if I've made any mistakes in judgment or information, as there's a ton of stuff I've done little research on beyond a cursory glance at Wikipedia. Do feel free to call me out on my ignorance in the comments section.
For now, I'm going to sleep. I've been in Starbucks for four hours now and there's only so many christmas songs I can take in one evening (yep, they're already playing christmas songs here).