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|South Korea: Flashback
Seoul (South Korea), September 17th 2010
The train from Busan to Seoul finds its way through the hilly landscape of the central part of South Korea. There are a lot of buildings along the way, but still, also this part of South Korea makes a ‘green’ impression on us. Most of the hills are still covered with forests and the agricultural activity that is still going on between the cities and the villages gives the area a rural atmosphere. Our visit to South Korea comes almost to an end, so it is time to put our impression on paper.
We remember a brief conversation that we had with a South Korean backpacker in a small hostel in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. He was very clear in his opinion when we talked about South Korea: “I don’t understand why people come for a holiday to South Korea; there are much nicer places in Asia to visit”. After three weeks of travelling through South Korea, we have the opinion that the South Korean backpacker was both right and wrong.
The immense Jagalchi fish market in Busan
He is absolutely right when he mentioned that there are many other places in Asia that are more beautiful than South Korea. Most South Korean sights are nice and worth a visit, but aren’t really special. You can find for example some very nice national parks in Korea, but because of the fact that hiking is very popular and that many local tourists visit these parks, it is hard to enjoy a visit to one of the popular parks. Visiting a park on a weekend or during a national holiday is like visiting Disneyland in het high season. South Korea also has some historical and archaeological sights that even made it to the Unesco world heritage list. Also these places are beautiful and worth a visit, but they didn’t make an inerasable impression on us. These sights (most of the times temples or palaces) are completely restored and lost most of their charm and religious function. They are transferred to a sort of museum with which the local government wants to earn as much money as possible.
But, the South Korean backpacker wasn’t right when he said that he can’t understand that travellers come to South Korea for a holiday. Also we have absolutely no regret visiting this small country. South Korea is a country that is easy to visit because of its size and the fact that the transport infrastructure is world-class. A private car is of course comfortable, as it is almost everywhere, but it is absolutely no necessity. There are hotels and motels everywhere, making it a perfect country to travel on the off chance and to see where the day brings you. The knowledge of the English language is incomprehensible limited for such a modern country, but travelling around is still comfortable. The level of the prices is also interesting, especially when you are used to western and Japanese prices. And finally, the country maybe doesn’t have spectacular or world-famous highlights; it is still a beautiful country with loads of sights that definitely worth a visit.
A culinary explosion in a Korean all-you-can-eat restaurant in Sokcho
|Another major reason to travel to South Korea is the Korean kitchen. Most tourists fall in love with the Korean kitchen and especially when you are a fish lover, Korea is a culinary top destination. The dishes are tasty, colourful, special in design and difficult to compare with other kitchens. Also the price-quality level of the food is good in Korea. We found for example a restaurant in Sokcho where we enjoyed a very tasty Korean all-you-can-eat buffet, including a broad assortment of fresh sushi, for only 7000 WON per person (= € 5).
So, we really enjoyed our time in South Korea. As mentioned before, we have to say that we didn’t see spectacular highlights, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great time in a country. South Korea is a beautiful country that is easy and comfortable to visit. It is also a great country to experience the new and modern Asia. It is certainly not the hot and steamy Asia that many people have in mind when they come to Asia for the first time. South Korea is an example of the Asia of the 21st century. Compare it with Japan, Taiwan or Hong Kong.