The Seoul of Asia?
Having just returned from a very busy week in Korea this morning, I am feeling the usual "it's good to be home." We worked in Suwon all week and through the entire national holiday of Friday to finish at 2am Saturday morning, and then I had all of Saturday and most of Sunday to actually be a tourist in Seoul.
Seoul is an interesting place. The first thing that caught my eye is just how complicated the metro system is. There are 9+ different lines, and they all seem to intersect between each other. The nice thing is that there is some English here; most places have very little. It was a little disappointing to effectively press the reset button, when I had gotten used to getting around with the limited set of Chinese characters I recognize. Hangul is an entirely different beast. Additionally, Google Maps is severely lacking for Seoul.
It was interesting that at the company I was at, maybe one-in-five people were either Indian or caucasian (mostly Russians). I didn't expect that kind of multicultural feel anywhere in Asia.
Walking around Seoul, one learns very quickly. It's all about the little things. For example, I had no idea that Seoul actually got snow in the winter. I was approached so many times by kids who wanted to try their English. It was usually just "hello," but some kids actually carried on a five minute conversation. There were even numerous groups of kids being taken on tours by English teachers, and their grasp of the language sounded perfect.
I spent all of Saturday walking around the various palaces in the city. It was rainy, making it surprisingly cool. It was a little hard to keep up with what was what, the various dynasties, and so on. What I did note was that there was a lot of shared history with China, so some of the names and major events were familiar.
Sunday, I had to check out of the hotel, so I took my luggage and checked it into lockers at the Korea War Museum. I spent the entire day there. This was time very well spent, as it really filled in all of the gaps in Korean history, like only a museum can. Also, I finally got a complete understanding of how World War 2 set about the Korean War. The museum is top-notch and highly recommended.
The flight back was interesting. Leaving Seoul on Sunday at 21:20, with a 13-hour time difference, the plane arrived at Toronto on Sunday at 21:25. A thirteen hour flight in the span of five minutes!
In the end, if I were to contrast Seoul and Taipei, I would say they are very similar. Seoul seemed more "international." Taipei is less expensive and has more written English everywhere. It was good to visit and learn.
There is plenty more Asia left to experience.