Korea 2017


Korea is not very singles-friendly. Look at the size of a bingsu and it probably is alr evident. Most BBQ restaurants also only seat customers with a group of two or more. In a restaurant that I ate at, the meat was sold in portions of 100g, with a minimum order of 150g. So if I wanted to have both pork and beef, I would have to eat 300g of meat by myself. Of course it is possible for me to eat it all, but I would take too long eating just one meal. People who know me probably know that eating for me is a marathon, not a sprint. I eat a lot, but I eat slowly too. I had so many things I wanted to accomplish, I was not about to spend my time gobbling up meat. 

I really did find a lot of interesting things to do in Seoul online, but there was not enough time to see them all. But there will never be enough time, since even a lifetime is not enough to understand a place, seeing as how I am still continually culture-shocked by Singaporeans after having lived here for 23 years. But it is fine, since I am not the kind of tourist to think that my first visit would be the last time I visit somewhere. Those kind of tourists rush to complete too much in too little time, and end up not being able to enjoy themselves thoroughly due to the stress of wanting to keep up with their schedule. My schedule is highly flexible, and changes almost by the hour, depending on my mood. I have alr been to Seoul and Jeju twice, and the next time I go, I want to go to the DMZ.

Besides the fact that it is not very conducive for individuals to travel around Korea, I find that it has a very strong sense of cultural identity. They are also very protective of relics. Just like how Cairo builds around its pyramids, Korea does that for its relics too. It is possible to see a pavilion surrounded by skyscrapers in the middle of a busy district. And instead of demolishing the city walls, they built roads running parallel to the walls. The structure and outlook of traditional houses are also kept intact, though the modernity of its interior may be highly contrasting. My hotel was also a converted traditional house, and the synergy between the traditional exterior and modern interior was amazing. Unlike cities where old buildings and structures are torn down, or become gazetted preservation zones with entrance tickets, the idea of having history continue to be visibly present in the daily lives of its people is much better. History books always tell us the past is a part of the present, so why in architecture are we destroying the past or designating them as a different zone separate from the here and now?

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A lot of people have asked me why I joined a group tour, since I usually go on private tours or free-and-easy. It really was for my grandma. Firstly, it is uncommon for the metros in Seoul to have escalators or elevators at every exit or within the station itself, so I wanted a private car which meant that I would have to go on tour, whether group or private. Secondly, I wanted to soak in the Korean atmosphere and people-watch from cafes, or take my time to stroll around estates, which my grandma is not interested in. So I decided to extend my stay without her, which meant that I needed someone to guide her through the airport immigration both in Korea and Singapore, an option only made possible by group tour. There's the story of how I ended up doing a group tour. 

But seriously, once in a lifetime is enough. I am totally not cut out for group tours. In fact, I am such a self-sufficient tourist, I do not need other (unfamiliar) people around. I can even take jump shots of myself by myself, which I did on Some Sevit during my solo trip. When I get my hands on that square selfie camera I ordered together with Christine, I'd probably be invincible. But still, I have a problem taking clear night view photographs, though it is more likely a problem of the ISO range on my phone and camera than my fault. 

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Thanks Mr Cool and the other participants in the tour for making it fun as it was, and for helping me take care of my grandma.

Thanks Minje for making time for me despite the fact that you are still in the middle of your exam week.

Thanks Henry for being such a nice housemaster, I really enjoyed my stay in your beautiful hotel.

Thanks Mr Lee for showing me around Sungkyunkwan University and introducing me to its rich history, and even offering to buy me dinner.