(31.10.2016 – 06.11.2016)
We lucky ASBE participants. Each of us gets the unique chance to spend a semester at a selected country in Asia, we have an accommodation right at the campus, and the best part, we are left wit enough time to travel around. As we all knew each other from our studies or from the programme meetings before, one weekend we took the chance and booked a last-minute flight (this came in handy at the price level) to Seoul, South Korea’s capital, to visit the 5 girls from Paderborn, who have been living, laughing, and studying there since August.
One thing in advance, Seoul is just awesome. Even after only three days there it already ranks in my Top 3 visited cities. And with our lovely tour guides it was even more fun, as they showed us around all the major tourist places but were at the same time able to give us an insight into the real life in Seoul. So here’s my photo diary of an unforgettable weekend escape.
Arrival and getting around
Well, what can I say. There was a flight from Oita Airport directly to Seoul Incheon that took less than 1.5 hours and was super cheap. So, no questions about that. We were 5 people so we booked an AirBnB that was super affordable (we later found that that was mirrored in the condition of the flat – I am talking about non-isolated windows and broken water heaters, but well,… at least it was cheap). We were lucky that it took us only 10 minutes by foot to walk to the next subway station from where we could go to every place in the city. I just love how easy to use and self-explanatory big cities‘ subway systems are nowadays! So after we checked in at our accommodation, we met the girls in the city for a first glimpse at eating culture and nightlife in Seoul. So we went for fried chicken! Delicious and freshly prepared – just great. Fried chicken is also an Oita speciality but in Seoul this is almost a life style (you will read later why). After that, we called it a night and went home to be ready for a full sightseeing tour the next day.
Seoul is full of things to see and do, I could have easily spent two weeks there only to explore the different districts. But as time was – like always – limited we had to focus on the main attractions. One of them was definetely the large Gyeongbokgung palace. It lies right in the middle of the city with a big traffic crossing in front of it and many visitors each day. However, after you entered the main entrance, bought a ticket and went straight trough the gates, where you will find yourself in is nothing but a quite and peaceful park with lovely buildings and water areas.
In Korea (as well as in Japan btw) you are not born under a special astrological sign depending on your day of birth but under a zodiacal sign depending on the year of your birth. So, I was born in 1992, which was the year of the monkey. Right outside de palace area, we could learn about our zodiacal sign from a statue circle.
Next stop was the observatory on a mountain top, where we could enjoy Seoul from above. We stayed there until dark to watch the sunset, which I would definitely recommend.
After that, we met with a lovely Korean friend of the Paderborn girls who showed us an important part of the life of Seoul’s youth: Hangang-Chi-Mek. Meet your friends after dark at the Hangang River and order Chicken and Mek (Beer) from one of the local restaurants closeby. Then enjoy a late night picnic while watching the river and listening to street musicians and performers. Awesome! What a great last evening in Seoul.
A few notes on culture
Korea is a country that is very rich in culture. Of course, Seoul as the capital city is very modern and also kind of Western-oriented (like many bigger cities in Asia) but nevertheless, you can find hints and examples of Korean traditions and culture everywhere. Not only the food (definitely check out one of the many great food markets, both day and night! My favourite: Bibimbap and eg cake) and the sights are a main aspect here but also the traditional clothing and the little markets and narrow streets that burst of life. So, if you ever come to Seoul, definitely take your time and explore also the areas which are off the beaten track. This is where you can see the real life and not only the touristic side.