lauantai 18. kesäkuuta 2011

Seoul searching

Greetings from Korea! Got here on Monday evening after one bus ride, a ferry trip across the Sea of Japan and a train ride through the whole of South Korea.

The Japanese have a joke about how whenever they travel to Korea they can smell the kimchi even on the plane. But it's not just a joke. Both the ferry and train had that sharp smell of the Korean signature food. I decided to cheapo my way from Japan to Seoul which meant taking a 6-hour ferry ride from Fukuoka, Japan, to Busan, South Korea (instead of the three-hour one) and taking the 6-hour slow train from Busan to Seoul (instead of the 2,5 hour one).

As soon as I got to my wonderful hostel (Korea Central Backpackers, mark it down in case you ever come to Seoul) I met some other travellers and I joined them for dinner. One of the group was a vegetarian and in these hoods that can cause challenges in certain places, especially the kinds where the staff doesn't speak English. And our choice of restaurant was the kind where they didn't speak even a couple of words.

So we went back to the hostel where the owner wrote down the word "vegetarian" in Korean characters on a post-it and back we went into the same restaurant. The waiter was so happy to see us again she cooked the whole meal for us herself! Usually the guests fry the stuff on the heated pan themselves and then eat it.

If Japan was busy, South Korea and especially Seoul can be just crazy. I mean people are rushing into trains, escalators and through all kinds of doors like their lives are depending on making it through first. When we docked in Busan harbour I sort of got a feeling what an emergency evacuation on a ferry would feel like. People were elbowing their way out of the boat like they were running for their lives. I had an urge to shout: "People, it's okay, we're DOCKED not sinking!" but instead I just got pushed and shoved into customs and immigration.

You can really get hurt, too. In the subway in Seoul you especially have to look out for old people, mothers with children and invalids. They're transferring with a vengeance! So no matter how cruel it might seem, you just have to take your place - whatever that means - in the mass of people and hope you get shoved where you want to go. Mostly I've tried not to get aggressive and chill with an iced coffee or something and concentrate on my book (which has been knocked off my hands more than once).

One final thing: coming to Seoul I found some reeeeally nasty bug bites on me. And these are not mosquito, unfortunately. These are nasty enough to look like I've been shot in the leg three times. Thanks to an ointment I bought at the pharmacy, they're getting better though. The only weird thing: the lotion tube had a picture of a dog on it??

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