City Break: Seoul (South Korea)

As mentioned, we spent one day in Seoul, then three days in Ulaanbaatar, and then another three days in Seoul, as part of the Hot Cities of the World Tour back in 2014 during Reading Week. Seoul is the capital of South Korea, a country which was created in 1948 after the division of Korea into two parts: North and South. Seoul is the largest city in SK and merges modern skyscrapers with ancient temples.

In terms of the meetings and visits we did, some of these include: Samsung (a traditional Korean chaebol = large business conglomerate), Deutsche Bank, the Seoul correspondent for the Financial Times and McGill alumni now living in Seoul.

For the sightseeing and cultural visits, we went to the beautiful Bongeunsa Temple with its red lanterns and giant Buddhist statue, the vast grounds of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the lively Hongdae district, the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone – which separates North and South Korea) and obviously, karaoke. Something I found interesting was the bar scene in Hongdae. Instead of a layout like the one were used to (open space) they assign to you a private room where you and your guests can hang out, eat and drink in privacy, away from everyone else. I guess it works if you go with a group of friends, but if you want to meet people, then opt for a different bar. Another thing I found amusing was the “workshops” available at the Seoul airport. Because our flight was delayed, we ended up spending a good amount of time there on our way back home. Therefore, I was able to do make a traditionally dressed Korean doll, a copy of a Korean script roll and take photos in traditional clothing. I have been to many airports around the world and have never seen any other airports offer such activities.

And last but definitely not least, the food. The food is Seoul was so good and cheap that I often ate two meals a day; something that my friend (and former roommate) Jo and I still laugh about to this day. One of the most typical Korean dishes is bibimbap, which basically consists of a bed of hot rice topped with slices of meat (usually beef), an assortment of sliced vegetables, chili pepper paste and a raw egg. The presentation is very nice, but don’t forget to mix! The raw egg may sound weird but once you mix it all, it is a delicious combination of ingredients. Another very typical dish and one of my favorites, is bulgogi. Bulgogi is basically grilled marinated beef, usually served on top of rice. It is very similar to bibimbap, minus the raw egg, pepper paste and vegetables. Another one of my favorites is ramen (noodle soup). This dish is apparently typically a Japanese dish, but Koreans have their own twist and spicy adaption of it (plus, the two countries share a lot of common history, so its normal that Koreans would have adopted this dish).

Seoul also had a very strong street food game, which I unfortunately only had the chance to sample a bit (we had already eaten dinner). There were steamed mussels, tempura fried vegetables, pan-fried dumplings, spring rolls and many, many more.

Other delicious meals I had the opportunity to eat include: Korean spicy fried chicken, a variety of non-ramen soups, Korean hot pot and Korean BBQ. I also enjoyed a few Cherry blossom lattes from Starbucks, something which we don’t have here in Canada (not in Montréal anyway). It gave it a nice sweet touch, so I didn’t have to add any sugar to my coffee.

Overall, my experience in Seoul was definitely different than the one I had in Ulaanbaatar and memorable for its own reasons.

UP NEXT: my review of Estérel Resort – a well executed marketing strategy

*All photos are my own (or taken by someone with my device, or of me)

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