To get into Beijing, I took advantage of the 144-hour transit visa, which allowed me to stay in Beijing as long as I had a flight going somewhere other than where I came from. Seoul was the cheapest option, and so I went.
I visited Seoul, along with Busan and Gyeongju back in 2014, and loved every moment of it. Back then, it was relatively non-touristy with all of the perks of an undiscovered country. The cuisine is perhaps my favorite in the world, and the culture is something completely on its own compared to that of China’s or Japan’s. So, it was time to revisit this country I had adored so much.
Since I had visited before, I had no touristy spots to visit. I booked a little room in Yongsan-dong neighborhood, an up-and-coming hip spot of town near Itaewon-dong, the more expat friendly neighborhood. The first thing I noticed upon my return was how many foreigners live in Seoul now. When I went in 2014, it felt like I was the only Westerner in town. There were only a few other Western tourists I interacted with during the entire trip, which made the ‘undiscovered’ vibe even stronger. Now, it felt like a lot of people were from somewhere else.
This time, I revisited the Design Center, which had been so interesting to me back in 2014.
Back in 2014, the clothing shops next to the Design Center were malls filled with boutique designers showing off their small-scale production line. It felt like I was seeing up-and-coming designers selling straight off the production line. Now, those little stalls had been replaced by plastic smelling cheap knock-off clothes.
Seoul, in general, has changed a lot. There’s a lot going on, as tourism reached its peak a few years ago at the height of Gangnam Style, and has since quietened down a bit since 2016. Still, there are swathes of foreign students and tourists everywhere in the town. Which is not a bad thing, but it is very different from the city I once explored.
One thing that has not changed is the perfection of Korean cuisine. Samgyetang, BBQ, Bibimbap, all of it is so amazing. Every flavor is satisfied with a good Korean meal, and its the food my taste buds miss most when I have been away from the burgeoning Korean community in Denver for too long.
Seoul is an excellent mix of history as well. There are plenty of excellent temples and palaces to visit, such as Gyeongbukgong Palace.
And the giant Buddha statue.
Seoul is a city I could see myself living in for a little bit of time, as its people are nice and its food is amazing. It is clean and well organized, and everything about it is so well liveable.