We arrived at Seoul’s new Incheon Airport at 7.30am Wednesday and flew out at 8.30am Saturday. Certainly not long enough to claim any real knowledge about the country, but I did learn a lot, partly because we had English-speaking Korean minders. In general I found the country more modern and sophisticated than I expected – at least in Seoul itself, which is a huge (20 million) fast-moving city, that I thought made even Hong Kong look a bit provincial. (Acknowledging that Hong Kong makes any NZ city look sub-provincial.)
Seoul’s CBD is big and brand-spanking new. There’s hardly a building that looks older than 10-15 years. We first went into the area at night, when it was gleaming combinations of blackness and building lights. Especially the vast movie screens that seemed to be on every other building. Almost a Bladerunnerish glimpse of the future. It was less mind-boggling but still impressive in daylight. I had a free morning on our last day, and took a taxi to the CBD outskirts, then walked through streets of small shops until I got to the power stuff.
Unfortunately my limited time available was reduced even further by having to find a place that would sell me a shoe-lace – mine decided to break at just the wrong time. I looked for a men’s shoe shop and saw none, while passing at least a dozen women’s shoe shops. I went to the vast Lotte department store and found a lot of shoes on sale in the menswear department. But they didn’t sell spare laces. That’s assuming they understood what I meant when I tugged at my frayed lace. Language was a problem wherever I went downtown – no one spoke English. Eventually I found a little shoeshine booth that sold laces. Just a little thing, but it really held me up. Memo: put new laces in my shoes before my next overseas trip.