It’s been an interesting two weeks – some schizophrenic weather happening as the season transitions from spring to summer. There have been a few scorchers and then some crazy rain and wind storms, as if a very drunk God was peeing and farting at the same time. But it has also been fun – hanging out with my girl Carolyn again and seeing Seoul through her eyes – she used to live here and has since been living in South East Asia, South American and India – so she brings an interesting perspective.
We have, in fact, been extolling the virtues of this complex wonderful-awful, beautiful-ugly city. “It really is an amazing city,” Carolyn said as we were walking along a lantern-lined street at dusk. For once, I had to agree. We proceeded to throw out a series of reasons why – the cheap, safe, efficient, convenient public transportation, the abundance of western shops, restaurants, cafes etc, the flourishing salsa scene, the relative safety and affordability, the mountains so close to the city center, the mix of the traditional and modern, all the interesting things off the beaten tourist track, the diverse expat community…we could’ve gone on.
Then, a few days later, we were sitting in a cozy restaurant in the trendy Hongdae district. It was evening, and the sun was slowly dimming. Rain was gently falling from the sky, the lights in the boutique stores shone, there was a Vespa or two parked outside the restaurant. A well-dressed mixed Korean-Western couple ran across the road, sheltering under a large umbrella. Although just minutes away from the throngs near the subway station, it was eerily quiet. It felt almost European, but with that Seoul aesthetic that I know well but struggle to express in words.
And things like this are coming out all the time, telling the world just how cool Seoul is. I don’t believe all the hype, but I know the city hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserves. Let’s hope that changes.