31 Hours in Seoul

I’ve wanted to go to India for as long as I can remember. Korea… eh, not so much. Still we began the longest trip in our life with a three-night, two-day whirlwind visit to Seoul.

The whimsical logic of airline routing explains why we did this. You can’t fly non-stop on any airline from North America to India. With a stop somewhere between the two, you’re looking at 20-24 hours aloft. If Steve and I routinely flew Business class, that might not be too bad. But we don’t. We’ve come to dread super-long trans-oceanic stints crammed into the Deep Vein Thrombosis zone. So last November when I saw a bargain fare on top-rated Singapore Airlines that would take us from LA to Seoul, let us lay over there for three nights, then continue on to Calcutta, via a 7-hour stop in Singapore, we jumped at it. We could rest up a bit in the South Korean capital, begin to recover from the jet lag, and add another country to our Visited list.

I’m composing this post on the flight from Seoul to SIngapore, and with the taste of garlic and kimchee still lingering in my mouth, I can report that our Korean interlude was strenuous. But satisfying. In the roughly 31 hours we were awake there, we:

— figured out the city’s superb metro system and covered a LOT of ground using it. My iPhone says we also walked 24 miles per the two days.

— went to our appointment at the International Travel Clinic for additional vaccines for India

— took a 2.5-hour free walking tour of a recently renovated riverside park and walkway course…

— zoomed through one of the city’s oldest (but still eye-popping) food markets and eating mega spaces…

— gaped at the incredible building and “culture park” designed by the late brilliant British architect Zaha Hadid…

— took a 90-minute walking tour of the most beautiful of the city’s ancient palaces…

— walked for several more hours through one of the few enclaves of traditional Korean houses (hanoks)…

A cultural appreciation event happened to be unfolding that day, so the streets were filled with young girls clad in traditional Korean dresses.

— ate breakfast at one of the most breathtaking bakery/confisserie/cafes I’ve ever visited…

— and enjoyed four good Korean meals, including two that required sitting on the floor.

Dumplings were the specialty of this place.

The city crackles with so much energy, I felt I might get zapped every time I touched something metal. The year I was born, Seoul lay in ruins. Since then, its tough, crazy-hard-working people have created things that have changed life all over the planet: electronics and cars and trucks and ships and steel and K-pop and cosmetics and more. The wealth and power that has flowed from all of that is evident everywhere: in the safe and spotless streets; the towering buildings; the profusion of public art. Through simple ignorance, I always overlooked Seoul on my mental list of Earth’s Greatest Cities. But it belongs there. The thought that it lies just 30 miles from the Demilitarized Zone, on the other side of which lies what it arguably the worst hellhole on the planet (populated by the literal cousins of the Seoul residents) left me speechless every time it crossed my mind.

One fear I had in making our oh-so-brief stop here was that it might result in our never returning to Korea. (“Been there. Done that.”) Now I urgently want to return. I’d like to see the DMZ myself (it still feels so unreal). I’d like to do dozens of other things in Seoul that we had no time for, as well as to glimpse some of the beautiful countryside. Steve is less keen to come back, but we’re a bit tired at the moment. Soon we’ll be relaxing in the chill vibrations of India. (Right.)

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8 thoughts on “31 Hours in Seoul

  1. Natalie Fiocre October 14, 2018 / 2:39 pm

    Great photography Jeannette. enjoy

  2. Carol Escovedo October 14, 2018 / 4:38 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful pictures and descriptions, Jeannette! Looking forward to more! Safe travels. Enjoy!

  3. kflouv October 15, 2018 / 2:09 pm

    What a wonderful start to your vacation. And how great that you turned what most people consider a boring layover into a fascinating, enriching adventure.

    • jdewyze October 15, 2018 / 2:13 pm

      Thanks, Kathy. And now that we have arrived in Calcutta, our heads are REALLY exploding!

  4. Ruthe Plache October 15, 2018 / 8:38 pm

    Love all the picturesque descriptions and visuals. You two are amazing with your creative ideas.

  5. jessicaalilly October 16, 2018 / 4:52 am

    Your writing is so riveting and enjoyable Jeannette – thanks for painting a beautiful picture of this experience!

    • jdewyze October 16, 2018 / 11:38 am

      Thank you, Jessica. Hope you week has been wonderful.

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