Monday, November 10, 2008


The road from the airport to Seoul resembles some parts of Arizona, in a good way. There are some sculptures on the way, unlike in Arizona. One of them, of which I unfortunately did not manage to take a picture, is especially baffling: if it's a penis, why does it have only one testicle, and if it's a missile, why does it have any testicles at all?

There are no women in high-heeled boots. When there are women in boots, they are carrying a Japanese-language map of Seoul.

I've always known that I can't easily tell the Chinese, the Koreans and the Japanese from each other individually, but I can do it in a big group. This is the first time I've seen so many Koreans together, though, and as a group they look a lot more different from the Chinese and the Japanese than the Chinese and the Japanese from each other. Unfortunately, and unlike in Japan and China, there are pretty much no good-looking men in Korea. Not that they are ugly; it's just that there are no good-looking ones. When you see a good-looking man in Seoul, he is also usually carrying a Japanese-language map of the city.

Myeong-dong in general and our Ibis hotel in particular are great. Unlike in Japan, , the toilet has instructions in English. The toilet bowl in Kyoto, and IIRC in Seoul as well, started making pissing sounds as soon as you sat on it. Very encouraging.

I had a pretty nice view from the window.

In Myeong-dong there is a cafe in every building, and in every self-respecting building there are at least two. They are much in the Japanese style, except that in Seoul the situation with non-smoking areas is much better. Either the whole place is non-smoking, or the smoking area is very well-separated.

The Koreans speak somewhat better English than the Japanese, and they are not shy to use it.

The city features shopping areas, cute skyscrapers, and lots and lots of street sculptures.

There are also a lot of street vendors selling mysterious foods. The least mysterious was a potato on a stick, fashioned into one spiral potato chip.

We spent the evening with an old Russian friend who's been living there for many years. He taught us to eat Korean barbeque.

There might be some American restaurant chain that is not present in Korea, but I can't think of any.

They write without using the Chinese characters nowadays. The only places where I've seen Chinese characters are museums and palaces, and there they are in brackets as an explanation. I think that as a writing system ditching the Chinese characters is a great improvement, but for my own purposes during this trip I sorely missed them. In Japan I got accustommed to being able to read a tiny little bit, even though I don't know the language, and it didn't seem like much (just basic things like "meat", "forbidden", "chicken" or "exit"), but I sure missed it in Korea where I couldn't.

The signs on the old gates and suchlike are written from right to left. When did they switch?

The palaces are pretty colorful. I like them.

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