Published: July 24th 2011July 24th 2011
It’s funny that I actually felt a little culture shocked in Seoul after coming from Kathmandu where I felt so comfortable. I was like a deer in headlights. I couldn’t figure out what to eat, where to go, what to do…and then we met up with my old roller derby pal who lives here and she showed us the way! It was so nice to have her with us to help us navigate and take us to the amazing shopping markets and help us communicate and eat.
For our first day in Seoul we went to the Dragon Hill Spa, which is a Korean sauna/bath house. It was an interesting experience. Certain parts of the 7 floor building are separated by gender and the other floors, such as the salt saunas, pine wood rooms, pool, golf center, arcade, and horse riding, were co-ed. On the women only floor, you are expected to strip naked and shower before getting into the many different soaking baths. I was scolded by several old Korean women for having a bikini on. It's interesting how there are different levels of modesty in different cultures. The baths were super relaxing and filled with different healing minerals
and different temperatures. The place was sparkling clean. There were all ages of women from young girls to very old women and it seemed like a traditional bonding time for the women. The salt and wood burning rooms were really bizarre. They looked either like pyramids or caves and you ducked down into these little doorways that opened up into the saunas where people were laying around everywhere. Overall, it was pretty cool.
The next day we went to the North Korean/South Korean border, which is called the Demilitarized Zone and is the most heavily armed border in the world. It was both sad and fascinating. There were thousands of ribbons hanging with positive words for the North Koreans. We went way underground into a long tunnel that the North Koreans had dug into South Korea that the South Koreans had discovered by chance during an excavation. It was very eerie. The South Koreans have found 4 tunnels so far and they believe there are probably more that they haven’t found yet. We went to the Freedom Bridge, which is now obviously closed, and also to the observation deck overlooking North Korea. It was really foggy, though, so we
didn’t see much. I learned a lot about the history of North and South Korea and I certainly hope one day the North Koreans are liberated.
Last night we ate dinner at a place where we sat on the floor and supposedly the food was really yummy (I’m struggling with Korean food, so I went on the hunt for American food and eventually I found a sandwich and some grapes). A few Korean men were next to us and one of them serenaded us with a harmonica and guitar with songs such as Puff the Magic Dragon and John Denver tunes. One of them told me he loves me and I told him I’m married and he said, “Oh, no. I only love you. I don’t want to marry you.” It was pretty funny. Then we went to an area called Hongdae, which is a sparkly, glittery shopping heaven! We walked around and had a few drinks while taking in the Korean nightlife. The women and girls here are beautiful and they dress impeccably. It seems like image is a pretty important thing with Koreans. They are always done up to the nine with, I would guess, 90% of
the women are always in heels and mini-skirts. They do tend to cover their shoulders as it is considered inappropriate to wear sleeveless and low cleavage tops, but they can wear their skirts as short as short can be.
The first 3 nights we stayed at a little guesthouse in a cute, “hip” neighborhood. Tonight, we have switched to a “love motel” in Insadong, a traditional neighborhood that my friend said would be better than the guesthouse. Sparrow and I were a little weary of the “love motels” because you can rent them by the hour, but our room is actually really nice and cleaner and cheaper than the guesthouse. Apparently, if have any experience in Seoul, you know that these hotels are the way to go. Typical hotels, like the Westin, are double what you would pay in the states for some reason.
Overall, I really like Seoul a lot. I would have a shopping problem if I lived here, that’s for sure. I hope one day I can come back to South Korea for longer and see the rest of the country!
There are more photos below