Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seoul Searching

A few weekends ago, my co-worker (Alix) and I decided to take a trip to Seoul. A friend of mine from university (Mandie) had just moved to Seoul to begin teaching. Since I had yet to visit the capital city, I figured St. Paddy's weekend was a fine time to go. So we went!

There are a number of ways to get to Seoul from Busan. You can take a bus, which is the cheapest way to go, but also the slowest. There are two different trains, the "slow" train or the "fast" KTX. And then of course, you always have the option to fly. We decided to take the KTX there and back. It was about 50,000 won each way and only took about 2 1/2 hours. In my opinion, the KTX is the most efficient way to get to Seoul. It was comfortable, fast, and took you right to the heart of the city.

We went to several different parts of Seoul, though I'd be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what they were called. We wound up in Itaewon, which I would describe as the foreigner or tourist district of the city. It was built up around the military base, so naturally there are a lot of foreigners in the area.

But let me make myself clear. I think there are a lot of foreigners here in Busan, depending on what part of the city you're in. But Itaewon was different. For a moment walking down the street, I felt like I was back in Normal, Illinois on my college campus. There were young kids everywhere in every direction I looked. I knew that Itaewon would be full of Westerners, but I guess I didn't realize the extent of it.

In Busan, almost every foreigner you meet is a teacher of some sort. Rarely have I met anyone here with a different story, although I occasionally do. In Seoul, I only talked to a handful of people who were actually teaching. Most of them were in Korea because it was military related.

We went to several different bars in both Itaewon and Hongdae (another popular area of the city). But I think what surprised me most of all was the fact that many of these establishments charged a cover. In university, I was used to and expected to pay cover almost every night I went out. But in Korea? I almost completely forgot about the concept until I saw a line out of a bar we wanted to go into.

Seoul was fun, don't get me wrong. It was great to see Mandie and catch up with her; nice to see a familiar face from home. And we did get a lot of luxuries that aren't avilable in Busan.

Taco Bell for instance:

And Forever 21:

And Bennigan's for dinner.

Yes, Bennigan's. The chain restaurant that couldn't stay open in America has finally found its niche in Korealand.

But for what it's worth, I am so happy I chose to work in Busan. In my opinion, Busan has a more laid-back atmosphere. People aren't always in such a rush. But maybe that's because there aren't as many people living here, which is another reason I like living in Busan. I grew up in a pretty small town, so I had a bit of a culture shock moving to a big city. I think my anxiousness would have sky rocketed if I moved straight to Seoul.

I love Korea on the whole and I admire every city I've been to so far. But my heart will always belong to Busan.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jena,
    I've been reading your blog posts about Korea and was wondering if you could tell me which school you worked for. I am seriously considering Busan and I'd love to have an experience like the one it seems you had. Please let me know if you can!