The days we spent there were full to the brim with activities. Here’s a quick visual diary of how they were spent. This is also possibly the longest post ever on AndFarAway :) Don’t I make an excellent tourist or what? The whole nine yards.
The first thing I noticed upon arrival is how everything is so well designed in Korea. I am not referring to visual design, but experience design. It is no wonder that Koreans produce such innovative technology, everything from the way the streets are built to signage is a great user experience.
We were welcomed by the lovely Jane, our tour guide for the trip.
Koreans are really sweet and hospitable. For our first meal, they wanted to show hospitality by taking us to an Arabic restaurant, and we had dinner at “Layaly Dubai”, run by a Syrian man. It was the most trippy experience in Korea, complete with fake ful.
We stayed at the Shilla hotel, which is owned by Samsung, and definitely the most elegant hotel I’ve ever stayed at.
On the first night, we went to the Seoul N-Tower, which has a breathtaking 360-degree view of the cityscape.
The N-Tower is a shrine of love, where couple padlock their names all over the area. So cute, just like everything in the country is.
On the second day, we visited the Samsung DLight shop and museum, which was truly a delight. I personally didn’t spend enough time there checking out the awesome new innovations taking place. I could have spent the entire four days in the 3-story building, learning more about upcoming technology.
Afterwards, to further feel lots of “awww” factors at how welcoming Koreans are, we were taken to a mosque in time for the Dhuhr prayer, so that the Muslims among us can pray.
In the evening, we watched a Korean non-verbal performance. Again, I was mindblown by how intune Koreans are with user experience design. Even in a performance, the way they kept the audience engaged was genius in terms of engagement. I was totally amused by their engagement techniques, which included throwing things at the audience and involving them in ways I never thought possible.
We also went for a walk on the Chonggyechon Stream, which used to be a wasteland until the government developed it.
After we said good bye to Jane our travel guide, the lovely Mr. Howell, who is one of the senior managers at Samsung, took us around a very traditional area for a long and amusing walk.
Even after a super busy day, some of us wanted to sample the nightlife in Korea, and we went to three bars; a cosy one on a side street, a fancy one with dressed up people, and a trashy one with lots of American army personnel. I must say the last was my favorite.
The next day, we went to the Korean Folk Village, which is a marvelously-built outdoor museum that is a testament to Korean history. In this country, they build things well. It’s just amazing how realisticly built it is. Also, there were over 3,000 school children in those few hours, and yet, everything was perfect, with nothing out of place. That’s what being civilized means.
Koreans are so civilized that I’m so jealous. I wish I was born Korean.
Korean kids are the CUTEST. They smile at you, wave, and then say hello. I wanted to hug them all. And look, cute little Korean babies come with Hello Kitty nametags on their back:
And Korean kids really do eat sushi for lunch. They even had me try some of their lunch :)
After the village, we visited Everland, which is a themepark that is also owned by Samsung.
In Everland, I did the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life, which is ride the T-Express, the steepest rollercoaster in the world. You see, I’ve always loved roller coasters but the T-Express was so goddamn scary that I think I have enough adrenaline in me to last me a year.
Image from Koreanna
Here’s a video (that someone else took) of the ride. Just looking at it makes my heart drop, hehe.
Never again. My heart was not built for THAT much adrenaline.
Everland also has a real safari ride, complete with actual lions, white tigers, cute bears that dance, penguins, polar bears, and more.
The next day, we went to DMZ, which is the demilitarized area between North and South Korea. It is the fact that South Korea was brazed down to the ground about fifty years ago and that today it’s one of the world’s top industrialized countries that totally inspired me. We Arabs are good for nothing, are we? It just made me so ashamed of us.
Below, for example, is the terminal to “North Korea”, a beautiful idealistic train station that is fully functional with immigration and everything, waiting till the day when North and South Koreans can travel freely. How beautiful is that?
We spent our last night walking around the streets of Hongdae, which is the “university district”, if you may.
The business card of my new friend Jieun, who blogs at Costrama:
As I am sure you can tell from the honesty of this post (I haven’t felt like an overexcited blogger in YEARS), this trip was one of the best of my life. I will share with you more posts and insights over the coming few days, but for now, I am just happy to have experienced a new culture and made new friends.
Here are the posts on the trip:
On Falling in Love with South Korea