Seoul, South Korea 2019

Because of the COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, coronavirus crisis or whatever you like to call it I also saw all of my Saturday plans being canceled. Instead, I took the time to fix a couple of issues with my website and go through my massive collection photos of my trip a couple of months ago to Seoul, South Korea ??.

Last December I went to Seoul for a short city trip. I explored the city, the older part (north of the river) and the more modern & rich part (south of the river, also known as "gangnam" - yes like the song ?). I also checked out a few of the old temples and the more traditional neighborhoods.

Smog ?

When I arrived the first smog alert of winter became active that day. They were handing out KF80 mouth masks (those filter out 80% of the 0.6μm dust particles) at the airport and there was almost no visibility ?. It was a very dystopian feeling and first impression. There were almost no people on the streets, only 50% of the motorized traffic was allowed on the road, less public transport, air conditioning in hotels was not allowed, a very thick layer of fog that you immediately feel the first breath and just a pale gray filter over the entire city.

Luckily after 2 days the smog started to fade away and I bought myself one of the more expensive KF94 mouth masks, those filter out more ultra-fine dust and last a bit longer ?. Not just because it was cool, but because the government kept sending out security alerts to all phones in the area that you should stay in.

This was my first experience with this built-in system in iOS. The first time it went of I thought "SHIT THIS IS IT, North Korea has fired the missiles, GGWP" ?. If your phone is on silent or not it doesn't matter, it just starts making this crazy alarm sound showing some Korean that took me 5 minutes to translate. And the best part is, when you're on the bus it's like 50 phones that start doing this at the same time ?...

Transport ?

But talking about public transport in Seoul, IT'S GREAT. It's quite cheap and super quick with a unified payment method. Busses, metro, train, you use the same card for all — and they stop like every 2 – 3 minutes. Overall I spent maybe 35.000 KRW on public transport over 5 days (which is roughly €25).

In some of the more expensive neighborhoods (Gangnam-gu) busses seemed less accessible. You see more of these 5 – 6 lane roads and pavements of 10 meters wide. They did have some Lime steps over there so used those a couple of times. Some of the steeper streets uphill that didn't work very well though.

North Korea ??

What was supposed to be one of the highlights of this trip, and I was looking forward to, was the border with North Korea. I booked this a couple of days upfront with a local tour operator to go and visit the tunnels that North Korea dug, visit the JSA zone (you could enter one of those blue cabins and stand theoretically in North Korea), and watch the fake villages from the border. Sadly, this didn't go through.

Last-minute the tour operator informed me that there was "wild boar" detected, and they quarantined the entire area. While that might be true it could also be there were some tensions again as North Korea did a missile test the day before ?. I am a bit sad I didn't get to visit the border but overall it was a great trip!

I definitely want to do a longer trip to Japan somewhere in the near future and might stop by for a day or 2 in Seoul while I'm so close anyway, flying in from Tokyo is only a couple of hours. But I guess for now I'll just wait out the corona pandemic ?.

Photos ?

While I have over 600 pictures, a lot of them are very random, and the smog didn't help make up for that nice photo you want to show. So went through all of them and made a smaller selection ☺️.

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