Yes Picasso is in Seoul. At the Seoul Museum of Art that is. The South Korean Capital City is a very interesting city. Not exactly a global city, it still has the finesse that I have come to observe from all Olympic hosting cities in the last two decades. Years of blindly aping the West in terms of architecture are all around to see. There are very many boring examples of mundane post modern, neo-classical glass boxes built some time in the 80’s but since then there has been a lot of change. A lot of the newer construction is of a better quality aesthetically.
Seoul embodies the collision of the sensibilities of the East with the capitalism of the West. Street vendors are perfectly at home outside posh 50 storey office complexes.
Road sense is as good as one can find in any Indian city, or as bad!!!. The motorcyclists have to be seen to be believed. They move around the same way as pedestrians do. That means they cross pedestrian crossings on their two wheelers by riding them. Most of the two wheelers are luggage carriers primarily as you will see in the pics below.
The subway system is sleek and quick. Newer cars and spanking clean platforms and tracks would put New York to shame.
We started our day with an hour long bus ride from Incheon Airport, where we did an early check in of bags. Got off at the Seoul City Hall and started walking around. The area was interesting but nothing noteworthy. We then moved to the Namdaemun Market and that was a sight for sore eyes. Just imagine the Grant Road Bazaar….below the Grant Road Bridge. Change the signboards to Korean, and there u have Namdaemun Market. Stalls of all kinds selling everything from food (amazing !!) to knitting wool and umbrellas and plastic tumblers and bamboo baskets and herbal roots and soccer tees. You name it and it was all there. And the best part of it was that the market was not for tourists. As a tourist I stood out like a sore thumb. Spent a good two hours getting lost in the alleyways here.
Then took a short train ride to Itaewon. Was highly disappointed by the area. It was the perfect poster child for American capitalism and consumerism. KFC, Burger King, Baskin Robbins, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts all on two blocks…..aaaargh. U dont see that even in NYC !
The next train ride brought us to the Digital Mall at Simyungsan. This is a three floor temple to electronics. I’ve never seen so many MP# players displayed in my life. Same with hundreds of LCD TV’s and cellphones and what not.
Korea is a cellphone crazy nation. In India, we have wada pav stalls on every corner. In Seoul they are replaced by cellphone vendors. That crazy!! But the blackberry did not work there. For all their cellphone craziness, they are on a strictly CDMA network and therefore GSM/GPRS cells…good bye. Bad City…!!
Another train ride later and I reached the Chandaekong Palace. Alas, it being Monday, it was closed. Walked around and bumped into a very interesting street, full of art galleries and fashion boutiques and what not. And that street had amazing street food. Of course pigged out a lot on it. How can I not ?? 🙂
Later on walked around the area a bit. Then took a ride back to the airport and checked in, boarded and seat belted myself for a 6 hour flight to Siem Reap and the Kingdom of Cambodia.
All in all I am sure I barely scratched the surface of the city, but this wasnt my first time there and as all things go with me and travel, am sure is not the last. So till next time, enjoy the pics below and leave a comment. Tomorrow…Cambodia…baby !