Seoul’s throbbing heart

Downtown at night - quick snap from our taxi. Giant video screens were eberywhere.

Downtown at night - quick snap from our taxi. Giant video screens were everywhere.

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.)

Power buildings in downtown Seoul

Power buildings in downtown Seoul

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.

The Happy Forever building (blue). Naff names are where you find then, and you find plenty of naffyness in Korea.

The Happy Forever building (blue). Naff names are where you find then, and you find plenty of them in Korea.

Sculpture in downtown Seoul.

Sculpture in downtown Seoul.

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.

Lotte shipping centre where I didn't find any shoe laces.

Lotte shpping centre where I didn't find any shoe laces.

Smaller shops on the outskirts of the main downtown area.

Smaller shops on the outskirts of the main downtown area.

Shopkeeper wrapping a vase I bought for Liz. Lovely man - couldn't speak a word of English, but he made me welcome in his tiny shop full of lovely ceramics.

Shopkeeper wrapping a vase I bought for Liz. Lovely man - couldn't speak a word of English, but he made me welcome in his tiny shop full of lovely ceramics.

Seoul is a wonderful mixture of tackyness, naffness and sophisticated modernity.

Seoul is a fascinating mixture of tackyness, naffness and sophisticated modernity.

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2 Responses to Seoul’s throbbing heart

  1. Bill Carter says:

    Great pics. Which camera? Time you commented on the relative merits of the Panasonic and the Canon.
    Looking forward to meeting the kitten.

  2. Thanks for the compliment. All those photos were taken on my older Canon Ixus 800 IS. But I took many photos on the trip with the Panasonic Lumix LX85 I bought as a backup camera, and I think they were just as good as the Canon photos. The big advantages of the Canon was that its proprietary battery lasted much longer than the 2xAA alkalines I had in the Lumix. Also, the Canon feels like it has a much solider build than the Lumix and may last longer. On the other hand the Lumix zooms to 4x rather than the Canon’s 3x, and it is 8 megapixels compared with 5 megapixels. For a well composed photo, 5 megapixels is perfectly adequate, but if you want to do some serious cropping, those extra megapixels will always be helpful.

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