So my first full day in Seoul began today, and there certainly was an incredible amount to take in.
First – what I assumed and turned out being true:
South Korea is well, mostly Koreans. I guess what I mean is I expected more foreigners in the main city known to the world but really out in the open there are very few living a day-to-day life…it almost seems like they are all in hiding indoors.
Which leads to my next assumption: still extremely hot due to long summers…I thought i would be escaping the remnants of now 25 degree heat in Toronto, but Seoul has been enjoying 30+ and another 5-10+ in humidity/smog all this week! I am glad I brought sunscreen, insect repellent, t-shirts and my previously unused asthma meds!
Sigh…ok well I just lost the rest of my post after saving so I will now type what I remember below!
Another thing I expected was the cheap cost of food and wide variety in Seoul, its everywhere! You can literally find something you want to eat in any corner or alley of Seoul, especially at night where every edge of the city is bathed in neon hues and colorful signs, it feels like a Korean Las Vegas market! On the other hand finding goods for my inner vegetarian is somewhat difficult but if Google is honest with me, the stores and places are just spread out but indeed sufficient! Just need to find them, some good grocery stores and a backup Indian restaurant for those homesick days and I should be set! Even though I may eat out nearly every day, with food so cheap here I can spend my money on what really matters in Seoul, socks and school! 😛
As for my assumptions which were wrong:
I had though that since Seoul is in a similar East coastal setting at the same latitude as Southern Ontario, the climate and ecology wouldn’t be too different, ah I was so wrong! As fall comes in Ontario, Seoul continues to cook in high humidity and smog with 30+ degrees almost every day! This tropical weather comes complete with lush rolling hills and an amazing variety of colorful birds and insects (very loud insects) as well as trees and plants I have never seen before! What perhaps amazes me most is that I am so entranced by all this scenery and architecture and food, I haven’t pulled out my camera yet! But don’t worry, soon I will adjust and start snapping (just no government buildings!).
Realizing that Seoul and the greater area has a massive rail, subway and bus system, I had assumed getting around would be a breeze, but it really isn’t, atleast not yet! The system is so massive and complex that it made my head spin at one point – although I must give them credit for the fantastic one-card-fits-all transit device, basically what Presto will eventually be they already have (and it is based on distance, the ultimate strategy!). The amount of commuters on the subway is also staggering, at times there can be 500-1000+ people waiting in mobs outside subway entrances during rush hour…it would put the concept of crowded New York subways to shame! Did I mention rush hour is all day, every day? As for biking…lets just say it doesn’t seem safe, or even possible atm…
I think I will get used to the system eventually, I am really impressed that they have 15 subway lines (many which are over 20 stations!) as well as a 4-class colored bus system and the high speed rail system, KTX…considering how many cars there are still in Seoul, this transit goes a long way in helping keep commuting green!
I think have covered all I can for now, almost done getting settled in – got a great roommate and awesome dorm, expect lots of pictures in the next post! And now I will go enjoy some favorite Korean past-times: Soccer, Bibimbap and Starcraft 2 – talk again soon!