Thursday, June 2, 2016

Seoul Impression

Seoul is the perfect mash up of the old and the new, divided by the Han River.  Work brought me here earlier this year and because of the complexity and issues encountered on the project, I felt like I was here a very long time.  (Indeed, I was working and living here for a total of 5 weeks… in the dead on winter no less!)

The winter in Seoul is excruciating.  At -17C, I don’t even want to leave the bed.  Luckily, Koreans have great design in heated floors.  I found myself hugging the floor in my apartment when it was too cold.  (After so many years of traveling and the increasing popularity of Airbnb, I found myself opting for apartments in residential neighbourhood near my office rather than staying at expensive hotels.)  How I convince my boss?  Well, I told him I need laundry and I am tired of eating out.  But first, you need an understanding boss, which I am so blessed in having not one, but two!  (One of them retired.)  But if you are adverse to colder climate, like you will actually get sick if it is too cold.  DO NOT COME in January.  It was painful (and I used to live in Chicago for almost 10 years.) 

Living in Gangnam-gu is very, very different compared to areas like Myeongdong, Hongdae, and Dongdaemun, which are flooded by tourists.  If you want to experience the real Seoul, live south of the river.  A curious observation I have made about Koreans is that most of them are fascinated with brands.  For instance, independent coffee shops are very rare and I hate to buy my coffee from big names, such as Star**** and Dun*** Donuts. 

And then there is the street fashion.  Koreans are meticulous about their looks.  (Hey, this is the city famous for plastic surgery after-all!)  Their hair looks perfect, their make-up natural, and their fashion style is polished.  It’s hard to imagine the shouting ah-jum-ma (아줌마) and the drunken a-jus-shi (아저씨) are of the same nationalities… the transformation… is more amazing than plastic surgery itself…  The beauty shops are like adult candy stores.  I love shopping in Sinsa-dong.  The only place I could actually find some independent coffee shops…
the infamous crazy pant
imo, if you can fit in these, you don't need them to begin with

One thing I do love about Korea is their FOOD!  I never leave a restaurant hungry.  I am usually half full by the time my main arrives.  Korean food is a lot of stews, rice, and kimchi.  To the contrary, BBQ was not as common as I thought.  Yes BBQ restaurants are everywhere and it is a national favorite.  However, real Korean beef is pricey (KRW13K/100g at Majang market) and it is not something Koreans eat every day.  It’s considered a treat.  However, most Korean food is not solo travelers friendly.  The situation has improved but still I have a hard time finding restaurants that I can go alone.  (More reason to stay in an apartment with a full kitchen!)  Luckily, a few groups of my friends happened to be in Seoul at various time during my stay so I still got to go out and experience the bbq, seafood pots, etc.  Below were some of the of the places I went (some were good, others were disappointing... I will leave you with the suspense.)

Finally, don’t leave Korea without some makeup and skincare.  There are so many brands out there.  You are guaranteed to find something you will enjoy.  As a skincare and makeup junkie, I found myself trying an new brand all the time.  The free samples culture have somewhat dwindled – I miss the days where I buy a product and leave with 10 more – but still, you will be getting some.  The brands I purchased this time were:

  • belif - the true tincture of chamomile, moisture binder, ultimate brightening cream (I wanted to try the aqua bomb but the sales urge me to try this instead) *using these now - luckily they are not too greasy for hot and humid weather here, quite like them!
  • Premera - super sprout serum, super sprout cream 
  • Mediheal - the masks (really like using the P.D.F then follow up with the N.M.F when I was in Seoul)
  • too cool for school - discovered and loving the rice scrub.  also bought the pink girl jelly base, which I adore.
  • banila - well, the cc cream, what else?
So far, I am liking them all!
Anyways, apologies for the lack of updates again... I am still here, just don't have the time to do frequent posts like I used to before.  :P


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