South Korea, that nice country where I stayed in my hotel, writing about North Korea.

I traveled to South Korea primarily because I had to “escape” China. On a week of national holidays, the “Golden week”, China is not very nice for foreign tourists, because half a billion Chinese are on vacation and if you want a train ticket, a hotel or a table at that nice restaurant, you can pretty much forget about it.

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After internet-less North Korea, South Korea was a BIG change in that department, with 2 of the 3 hotels I stayed at providing the fastest upload and download speeds I ever measured in the last year of travels. Connections are everywhere, like in the subway, but sometimes it is difficult to get access without a Korean cell phone number (to get the password by text message).

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I recently wrote about the fact that North Koreans can sometimes be strange, but the Southerners are also quite capable of doing it once in a while. “In your future, I see a flaming ball of twisted metal…”.

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Strange and interesting.

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All three hotels shared one feature I had never seen anywhere in the world. The rooms provide all sorts of toiletries, but not of the disposable kind: hair spray, moisturizing lotion, toothpaste, perfume, etc. Very convenient. I guess they assume their clients are normal human beings who won’t put crazy glue in the shampoo bottle or poison the toothpaste. Of course, as a North American, I assume they will, so I didn’t touch anything.

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The welcome package at my first hotel included the normal set of toiletries, as well as condoms and sensation dampening cream. Then I realized the parking was surrounded by very high fences hiding the cars from street view. Right. Unlike the other clients, I had neglected to bring my secretary with me, so I only used the soap.

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The South Koreans eat the same things as the North Koreans, just more of it. Excellent seafood soup, which I ordered by pointing at what someone else was eating. Outside Seoul, I was surprised to find few people who understood English. With so many adds in North America for English teaching positions in Korea, I would have assumed differently.

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They eat kimchi, the traditional fermented vegetables, but they also eat KFC, and they have the fat kids to prove it.

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Glitzy Gangnam is where I stayed in Seoul, but I doubt I picked up the famous style. It’s a very flashy place and I saw something I had never seen: a man got out of his Maserati and gave his keys to a valet… at a coffee shop! The Starbucks-like place had three valets working the parking lot. I also notice the valet backed up the Maserati right next to another Maserati.

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Other unique things about the Gangnam neighbourhood:

1 – Rubber sidewalks. Very comfortable when you walk long distances.

2 – Every half hour you run into women who got into severe car accidents or were terribly beaten.

3 – Every 5 blocks you see a plastic surgeon’s office. Oh, wait, that explains number 2.

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After Pyongyang it was fun to see advertisements again, on a massive scale.

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But it came with Christmas decorations in October, which completely disgusted me.

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I flew to the popular touristic island of Jeju, South of the mainland. Lots of festivals there and when you don’t plan your stay the way I did, you arrive right between two festivals.

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The weather was also not cooperating. I wanted to climb some famous volcano in the middle of the island, but ended up doing a lot of this. I also spent a lot of time sorting through my thousands of pictures of North Korea and writing about the experience.

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I did make it to Jeju’s Cultural Centre during a brief interlude of sunshine.

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The most interesting thing was to realize that visiting museums really seems to be a collective activity in South Korea. This is the centre’s car parking lot. You would think the place is empty.

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Across the street, the bus parking lot!

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As you can see around this recreation of traditional Jeju fishing boats, only groups in the museum. I think I was the only person alone and I may have seen 2 or 3 groups of only 2 people.

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It was an interesting place, when they bothered to translate.

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A 14 m Bryde’s whale, the largest on display in Asia.

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And re-creations of delicious traditional dishes of Jeju. They also had “Salted viscera of sea-urchin”. I’m glad this was a museum and not a restaurant. Especially when I order by pointing!

#SouthKorea

2 thoughts on “South Korea, that nice country where I stayed in my hotel, writing about North Korea.

  1. Sounds like you stayed in a “Love Motel”! Next time keep an eye out for this sign out the front: bit.ly/1cBdvMd so you know what to expect 😉 My other hot tip for South Korea is that what you think might be a barber’s pole is actually advertising a brothel. That was awkward.

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