More notes on Seoul


– There are a surprising number of Christians here. Like way, way more than any other Asian country that I have been to. Churches are everywhere, and so is proselytization. Maybe that explains all the early Christmas decorations.

– Many of the shops and service establishments are tiny and in very out of the way places, tucked into seemingly unfindable nooks and crannies of back alleys and dead ends. How do these places survive and thrive? Or do they?

– Similarly, any type of business could be anywhere, they are all stacked up on top of each other in improbable places and sizes. A bar in a broom closet on the 4th floor of a walk up. A nail salon behind a piece of corrugated metal propped up between two buildings. A church on the 3 rd floor of an office building. A “storefront” made by taking over the side of a public, very steep staircase. (To be fair, this kind of micro organization of space and lack of zoning is the hallmark of many Asian countries I have been to, I just haven’t seen it in a while and it is impressive and disorienting to Westerners)

– Apparently they did away with public garbage cans several years back because people were dumping their private trash there (and thus avoiding taxes related to home garbage pickup), so there is no place to throw anything away. Now what happens in the public space is people will wait for one brave sociopath to drop some garbage, and then everyone feels safe to add to it, creating large public piles of garbage that apparently will then get cleaned up by the city.

– cell phone service (signal) is pervasive here, in every nook and cranny and deep underground. And everyone is always on their (mostly Samsung) phone.

– On several occasions, especially early morning when things are generally quiet, I have come across people repeatedly chanting some sort of prayer loudly while walking down the street.

– I note with some disappointment that the bibimbap I have tasted here does not compare well in quality to the ones I have had in NYC. I am sure I am not finding the right or better places to go, but I would still expect this to be one of the best things you find almost anywhere here, but no. Same story with the BBQ grilled meats, which while better in quality than the bibimbap, are not as good as what I have had at some places in NYC. The only real standout food wise so far has been the street food, most especially the meat and kimchi filled steamed buns I had the other day.

Soju, on the other hand, is way cheaper here and I love it.

– I have had a great time here, especially with the people I have met. I highly recommend coming to Seoul. However, I feel that 4 or 5 days in Seoul is more than enough to get to know the place.