Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Living in Korea

Having a sister in love with the Country, I had heard SO much about Korea, however, it was never of my particular interest...to be quite honest. How and why we decided to come spend some time here is a topic for another post. Today I wanna tell you about my experience in Korea so far.

We've been in Seoul for almost 2 months now and we've been doing too many things, many of them as tourists would and so many others as locals would. I gotta admit that it was kind of hard for me when we first arrived as we came straight from Japan, and after spending 5 weeks there, I totally fell in love with the country, so leaving was a bit tough on me and Korea is SO different that it took me sometime to adjust to it, even though it is QUITE similar to Mexico City. That is actually what I dislike the most about it, I mean, don't get me wrong, I love Mexico and particularly Mexico City (obviously) but I left for a reason so the least that I wanted was to come across the world to live in a parallel city. 

Even the Bikes System is very similar to Mx -in looks and all!

Cultural shocks are quite common and that's what happened when I got here; in Japan, everyone is super polite and behaves a certain way, it's safe and well, everything that Mexico isn't, so I really liked it and got used to it pretty quickly and then came to Korea and people on the streets are -generally- rude, especially old people (who I believe still think they're in war or something O.o), it doesn't matter if they're walking, driving, on the subway...they just have a common disregard for other people; they're absolutely dirty and are used to leave their garbage anywhere and everywhere (something you'd never see in Japan!), also, they push you every chance they get, it's like they get a kick out of it (maybe they actually do) and well, little things like that which I (or anybody, I think) don't really care for. However, one of the best things about Seoul is that it is not Mexico, and that's good enough for me.

And well, all those little things aside, I have actually came to appreciate the City a lot more, I've become acquainted with it and now I even appreciate it and enjoy it as much as I can. Korean food hasn't -surprisingly- been as hard for me to deal with as Japanese was and I even eat things I never imagined I would, silly common things for everyone but it is a big step for someone as picky as me. There are like a million cafes in town, even more so than in Paris and all of Italy together I'd dare to say, and most of them (the ones that are not franchises) are absolutely gorgeous and cute and all you wanna do is spend your day hanging out at any of them. Food cost in general is pretty okay considering it's the First World lol and, especially compared to Japan, but it's also cheaper than Europe; many things are similar to Mexico, fruits and vegetables being some of the most expensive (and not even as good and varied as in Mexico) things to buy here -which makes me suffer a lot as I'm used to fresh and varied fruit.

Most of the fruit at the super market is all wrapped up and/or packed in a pretty way, unlike real markets, almost as if it was a luxury item.

The weather in Seoul is another thing I really like, when I first arrived it was still a bit humid, though never as Japan so I could at least breath normally and, well, live. And it's been getting better as it is now a bit colder...sometimes I even think Winter is right around the corner -and so do Koreans.

Fall in Korea

The Metro system is kind of complicated at the beginning as it's not very well planned and, sometimes, you have to transfer a lot to go to nearby places; the bus system is also kind of confusing and they don't precisely go in circles but they have this weird detours, so you have to be very careful when you ride one, that you're riding it on the right direction, otherwise, you'll end up stranded in the middle of a deserted area having to wait for another bus (the same route) to go back and in the opposite direction. Once you get the hang of it though, moving around the city by bus is quite a comfortable way (and my personal fave) to do so. Taxis are, if not cheap, affordable. I was very used to taking cabs to and from everywhere in Mx City but it's usually not the case when I travel as cab fares are crazy expensive outside my hometown, however, in Seoul, the base fare is 3,000Won (about 2.5USD) -it just went up a few days ago, it was 2,800- and it goes up 100Won every 10 secs, which is quite fair if you consider the comfort it provides, and very convenient, especially if you're doing short distances (and there's no traffic) or if it's raining. If you're staying a long period of time, a T-Money Card is quite convenient as not only it works for the subway, buses and taxis but also for your 7/11 purchases and some other places; also you get a discount fare on the transport when using it.

Another thing that I like about Seoul is how the modern meets the traditional in several places in the city, you can see a very modern building right next to an old Pagoda, Palace or something with years and years of history.

Among the touristy things I've done so far are: visiting the Cheonggyecheon Stream; going to the theater to see Nanta; to Gwanghwamun; which is the main Gate to the Gyeongbokgung Palace; N Seoul Tower; Myeongdong, which is a shopping district or as I like to call it: "Make-up Land"!; the National Museum of Korea; the 63 Building, which has an observatory where you can see the city and the beautiful Han River; seen the Guard change at the Gyeongbokgung Palace; been to the Gyeongbokgung Palace; Bukchon Hanok Village, which is a village full of traditional Korean houses; Bongeunsa which is a really nice Temple in Gangnam; the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone), which is the limit between South Korea and North Korea; the National Museum of Contemporary Art which is awesome and is in an area even more awesome with some kind of an amusement park, a cable car, a lake and whatnot; Yeouido Park, which is not only an amazing park but also my favorite place in all of Seoul! 

Cheonggyecheon Stream
Gwanghwamun Plaza
Han River view from the 63 Building

N Seoul Tower
Gyeongbokgung Palace

Bukchon Hanok Village
King Sejong The Great @ Gwanghwamun Plaza
Guard change at the Gyeongbokgung Palace
And as for the local (non-touristy) things I have: attended a Korean Traditional Wedding; I went to the Audrey Hepburn Cafe, which is the only one in the whole wide world; to the House of Sharing, which is a house where the victims of sexual slavery from the Korean-Japanese War reside; biked and picnic-ed at Yeouido Park; attended a lecture by famous film director Park Chan-Wook, seen K-Pop Group 2NE1 live a couple of times; been to the Line (app) Pop-Up Sale and gone crazy with the cute things and giant characters they had there; been to the movies a few times -most of them in Korean and with no subs (was able to understand the story most of the times lol); gone on the Cable Car outside the Contemporary Art Museum to get to the subway; been to the International Fireworks Festival and had a picnic while it happened; going nightclubbing in Gangnam where the preppy kids hang out; ran into 2NE1's CL + Dara, G-Dragon + Lydia Paek while clubbing at The A (the nightclub in Gangnam; attended 2NE1's Bazaar in Cheongdam, which is a pretty fancy area in Seoul where you can do some of the most expensive shopping (Masaryk in DF, Mx); ran into 2NE1's Dara and took a photo with her; gone to Tteokpokki (one of my favorite Korean food) Town for a Sunday Brunch; had Korean BBQ more often than I wish I had lol; been to Jeju Island, which is the most paradise-like island in Korea; been to a Broadcast recording at a TV Network (MBC, for the 10th anniversary of Dae Jang Geum -Una Joya en el Palacio in Spanish); seen G-Dragon live; attended Seoul Fashion Week (SFW) for a runway; tried a Hanbok, which is the traditional Korean Costume; made some friends (some Korean and some foreigners); tried out a few Mexican Food Restaurants as it is -according to the locals- very trendy at the time (I'll write a post about it later); shopped even though I know I shouldn't have; been to the Noraebang (Karaoke) a few times just to get the stress off; and well, many more things that I already forgot about haha Oh, I almost forget something that's very important, I've also learned how to read Korean, which is not that great as I still cannot really understand it but oh well, I guess it's some kind of progress.

My very first Samgyeopsal (thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat) in Seoul
K-Pop Group 2NE1 Mini Concert @ Time Square Mall

Having a cup of coffee at the Audrey Hepburn Cafe

Sculpture @ the House of Sharing in Gwanju
Biking by the Han River on a Sunday

Traditional Korean Wedding

Cony from Korean (IM) App "Line"

Cable Car ride from the Contemporary Art Museum

International Fireworks Festival

Dara from 2NE1 @ the 2NE1 Bazar in Cheongdam

Delicious Cheese Tteokpokki

Celebrating my BDay with a PicNic @ Yeouido Park

Korean BBQ

K-Pop group Crayon Pop @ the Dae Jang Geum 10th Anniversary Boradcast

All in all, I've had a ball here in Seoul and as of now, I don't know what is going to happen in the near future but there are only 2 options; we either stay here longer or we leave and continue with our travels around the World. Hopefully, we'll get to know soon.

Me + my sis @ the Bukchon Hanok Village doing a Korean pose lol