April 30, 2013 by rkpcs
The team had a whistlestop acclimatisation day today prior to arriving with the host district tomorrow, and it was spent exploring the metropolis of Seoul.
Each team member started the day differently, with some taking to the bustling rush streets for an early morning run, whilst others caught on some overdue sleep. When we all caught up with each other it was decided that each member should choose a destination to visit – Sally chose to either explore a local market or jump aboard a city tour bus, Ed a visit to the famed Gangnam, Sulinda selected to drop in at the Hard Rock cafe as per a long running family tradition, and Lucy elected for a light show with a hike up to the top of North Seoul tower to follow.
The first team challenge came in the form of working out how to obtain a day long underground pass (no mean feat in itself) which was successfully completed – finally- with a large degree of help from an extremely patient employee of the underground service
Having worked our way south to Itaewon, we began our team plans with a thorough search for the Hard Rock cafe, only to find, having spent some time committed to the cause, that it had been closed down several years before. The team nevertheless spent some time exploring the main street of Itaewon, which is marketed in Seoul as a popular shopping area for tourists. Needless to say, with 165kg of luggage still to drag to the host district, our minds were certainly not on taking advantage of the shopping opportunities, however it was a quaint and interesting district to see.
Next, the team crossed the river heading further south into the successful business district of Gangnam. Described in the guide books as a “futuristic avenue”, Gangnam did not disappoint, with street after street of towering buildings.
The team then headed north through the city to join a tour bus which circled the city, a made a great way to see the main sights with very litle time to spare. The tour included included the war museum, the five main palaces in Seoul, and the impressive bus ascent to the North Seoul tower which passed between some stunningly beautful hillsides of blossom.
After a short stop in the hotel, the team headed back out towards the North Seoul tower to spend some time soaking up the city from the heights of Mount Namsan on which the tower is perched. En route, we visited a sweet potato bakery for some unusual yet delicious dinner on the go, and then took a cable car to the top of the mountain. From there, the team watched a ten minute light show which consisted of a series of video images being transposed on to the entire height of the tower, after which we ascended the tower to take in Seoul from the top. The city sprawls a far as the eye can see, making an impressive spectacle to finish the team’s busy day.
And to finish off, a few thoughts on Seoul. We have spent the day exploring a polished, sparklingly clean, friendly, beautiful city. There are all sorts of things to see, but just walking from street to street throws up a series unexpected sights, in the form of artwork, statues and a wealth impressive buildings (both old and new). The general feel on first blush is something akin to an american or european city, with large gleaming sky scrapers towering along every street. However, when you take the time to look around carefully, beautiful nuggets of Seoul’s asian heritage remain dotted throughout its streets, in the form of palace complexes and small traditional korean buildings nestling between towering office buildings.
Whilst looking around, it is scarcely believeable that the wealth and success which is so apparent in this modern day city has entirely grown within a space of little more than 30 years.
Tomorrow, the team have a final few hours in Seoul before flying south to the host district of Jeollanam-Do.