This is a city built for the solo traveller, apartments are tiny, look lost long enough and someone will ask where you are trying to go, most restaurants are just counters, staff talk to you, bartenders talk to you, if you are walking past a ramen shop and made eye contact with the chef through the window he will nod and motion that you are welcome to stop in.
Landed at Haneda around 2pm, it’s a two hour flight from Seoul on a big new 787. Got a little confused by the massiveness of the train/subway system at the airport but just went instinctual and somehow ended up at my Airbnb, it’s a cool little tiny townhouse down a couple alleyways, love it. Got a PASMO card and loaded it with cash, PASMO gets you on all trains and all subways and pays at vending machines and storage lockers and 7-11 and such, so cool.
Grabbed a bowl of rice and meat and gyoza at a place around the corner and stocked the Airbnb fridge with various canned coffee products from the plethora of vending machines around me (they really are everywhere).
This city is amazing, the size and scale of Mexico City with an additional layer of money and tech overtop.
First stop the National Museum of Korea, great museum but the robotic Stephen Hawking voice in the audio guide was so distracting I eventually had to turn it off. Learned about the Jikji, a Buddhist text printed with metal movable type 80 years before Guttenburg, had no idea. Also had no idea that humans were here pre stone age, I had assumed the human migration happened later.
I don’t know if it says anything or not but I found it interesting that all the items in the museum list the year they were found rather than the year they date from as you would find in a western museum. A vase exhibit would have no indication of when it dates to but would say “Discovered in 1978″… different.
Acceptable Korean lunch at a sort of buffet, was fine, cheap. Still feeling the effects of the mountain day in Kyrgyz and it’s pouring rain here so I headed home for a quick nap, was awakened by the building intercom making some very important sounding announcement, no clue, all in Korean of course.
Headed out again to the Samsung Museum of Art. An extremely impressive example of how to do a gallery right, in terms of subjects and the technology of the place.
I love cocktail bars that really get it, headed to d.still, a well reviewed speakeasy. Great drinks, great atmosphere, unfortunately very little English, my problem not theirs but I headed back out after a couple (they tried their best to make conversation and their mixing skills were impressive, my fault for knowing no Korean)
Hmmmm…so far I love Seoul, it’s a much more 24 hour city than I’ve ever seen before, including NYC. But…I was looking for dinner after a couple d.still cocktails, entered first place, sat down, waited ten minutes, went looking for waiter, Nada, nothing, just got stared at, OK fine, left.
Went to another random restaurant, sat down, waitress came over, I got halfway through ordering when she started yelling and pointing to the door, OK lady I can take a hint. Sulked to a third place and found them more typically friendly Korean, ate some sort of amazing fried chicken and soju and headed home for the night.