South Korea; is the most underrated East Asian country in my humble opinion. This was my fourth trip to South Korea, although like most of my trips, it was a blur of BBQ, beer, the real KFC (Korean Fried Chicken), wet markets, rooftops and abandonments.
My first mission when I landed in Seoul was, in some way, get to Busan, where I would link up with my friend, Christine, who was kind enough to host me for a few days during my time there. I thought I knew Korea until she brought me into a BBQ establishment that has a ring of cheese on the grill that you could dip your bacon into. To this day, I have not found another establishment that has this sorcery.
During my short stay, I remember primarily two things in Busan: Korean BBQ with cheese and the Jagulchi Fish Market. I have no photos of the BBQ, mainly cause I was a little bit preoccupied, but the wet markets are always something I fantasize about, mainly it’s salt water air and incandescent light.
Back in Seoul, I met up with my long-time friend Jon Dunbar and a new friend Josh, to do some solid exploring, to include an abandoned overpass thats turning into a park not too different from the NYC high line. At some point, we also went out to Suwon to check out some abandoned neighbourhoods and get some more BBQ; apparently the Galbi BBQ in Suwon is the country’s best. He also wrote an article about me in the Korea Times, which can be found here.
One of the things I love about Seoul is that the whole city is built in a valley of mountains; not that it would be a fair statement since the entire peninsula is just a massive mountain range. However because of these mountains, there is never a straight skyline, as everything always seems like its tilting from far away. On another note, I found that Sense8 has some parts taking place in Seoul, so I’m definitely excited to see how other popular media outlets portray a city that I’ve consistently visited for the last four years.
I have a fascination with wet markets no matter where I travel, whether it be Toronto’s St Lawrence Market, NYC’s Chelsea Market, or in this case, Seoul’s Kwangjang market; which is basically a hodgepodge of street stalls under a roof, coupled with some strange clothing shops and discount shoe stores.
On my second last day in Seoul, I decided to go slightly touristy, and decided to check out some of the palaces in Seoul, since the previous three trips I had neglected to do so. I first started with the Gyeongbokgung Palace, which I immediately regretted because it was full of tour groups which really spoiled the whole ‘this-palace-was-built-in-1395-AD-therefore-it-deserves-reverence-and-respect.’ However, a quick look at Google Maps revealed that there was another palace called Changdeokgung Palace roughly 15 minutes away, so I decided to head on over to check it out. This palace completed its construction in 1412 AD, and definitely captured the serenity of Korean royalty and culture, and best of all, there was only one tour group in the entire palace when I was there. I was also fortunate enough to run into some people wearing the traditional Hanbok, which made for some great photo opportunities.
To everyone that is curious about Korea, know that it is (I believe) the most underrated East Asian country, and that if you love Fried Chicken and BBQ, know that you will have an epic time in this country.