Well, move aside Munich, as Seoul has pipped you for my award as best preserved Olympic site. Melbourne aside, of course.
Not only does Seoul have an Olympic Park, eternal flame, Olympic Museum, and countless monuments, everyone knows about the city`s status as Olympic host. The park was a buzz, the excellent museum (which also toted a simulator ride) was packed with school groups, and tourists snapped away happily in front of the stadium. The Olympic rings were visible everywhere. I was oh-so very happy.
But I wasn’t too happy with the city`s markets, however. Perhaps I’d been spoiled too much in China, as the massive markets were expensive, monotonous, and this time foreigners didn’t get any special attention. Wanting to give it all a chance, I pressed on, purchasing a couple of things, the best being a vivid orange t-shirt with what looks like a washing powder label on the front, stating; ‘Obama: Articulate and Clean’. And only three thousand won, a bargain.
I got back to my hostel late that night and was dragged back out again by my roommates, Marlen from the US, Andre from Brazil and Tom from France. Together we tried a Korean barbeque, and with help from vast quantities of soju (similar to sake) we made friends with some Korean businessmen at a nearby table, who proceeded to pay for our entire dinner and drinks. I love Koreans.
With one of the worst hangovers of my life I made it to Busan, three hours away by bullet train. Along the way we passed a number of medium-sized towns, all with massive high-rise apartment buildings. Nobody seems to live in a house in Korea. Neither did I on my last night, as my hostel was on the 29th floor of an apartment building in downtown Busan. Feeling dead from a combination of soju, the heat and lack of sleep, I skipped temple-hopping and instead headed for Korea’s most famous spa and sauna complex.
Good thing I’d had practice in Tallinn, as everyone was quite content with walking around starkers. I submerged myself in spas at every opportunity, the best being the grape spa, which was bright purple.
I was really surprised by Korea, and will be keen to head back one day. In the spring, though perhaps.
And I’ll stay away from the soju.