One of the banes of living abroad (and especially in China) are visa runs – being forced to leave the country simply for the purpose of renewing your residence permit. So why not use the compulsory trip to catch up on some long due traveling, in our case bridging the 1000km distance from the Jing to the South Korea. More precisely to Seoul, the capital of South Korea, a stone’s through away from their atomic neighbors. The pictures below were taken on our five day trip to the capital, which is about the time you need to get a rough idea of the friendliness of the people and the cleanliness of the food. But first, let me (take a selfie…) give you a small list of impressions that were the most remarkable about Seoul, either compared to Beijing or compared to the general public opinion about Seoul:
- You don’t need a visa to enter the country (at least not as a German passport holder), which was a very good thing given that we talked about looking up the visa regulation for Korea but in the end totally forgot to check again (that would have been one nasty surprise at the border)
- Flight time between Beijing and Seoul is something like two hours (again, I didn’t have the time to gather more concrete travel information about this trip, so I simply assumed that it would take more than a few hours to get there. Which is also why I devoured that aweful plane meal, being under the impression that I wouldn’t get any food for the next couple of hours…)
- The traffic (and the general demeanor of pedestrians and car/bus/taxi/motorbike/bicycle drivers) generally adheres to the rules
- People in the streets don’t spit/fart/burp on a crowded sidewalk
- Contrary to common notion the people of Seoul don’t speak English (at least using English won’t get you much farther than it would in downtown Beijing and sign language is still the means of communication for any non-Chinese speaking visitor)
- You can buy beer that doesn’t taste like stale water (which is especially nice for people used to German brews)
- Juice is actually made from fruit (we bought the most amazing fresh apple juice in an ordinary convenient store)
- Koreans have a high quality coffee culture, so even smaller cafés tend to have portafilter machines (plus the milk that’s used tastes much better than in China)
- One can receive ashtonishingly decent public wifi connections (we didn’t manage to buy a mobile phone card, so we used the public wifi, and except for some smaller bumps we got along quite well)
- Art & history museum are for free, because the government provides cultural education for everyone (you do have to pay to gain access to the shrine and temples)
- Shockingly we weren’t able to use WeChat in every store (which is a major problem once you fully got used to the comfort of not having any cash in your pockets). AliPay would have worked though
- People tend to have good oral hygiene, so you don’t keel over everytime someone yawns in a crowded subway next to you
- The public education videos in the subway actually seem to have an effect on the behaviour of the metro users (i.e. the majority sits with their ankles crossed instead of shoving the soles of their shoes into your knees
- Contrary to the general opinion, Seoul didn’t turn out to be a shopping metropolis for us. With a european size 42 and shoe size 39, I didn’t find a single piece of clothing that didn’t look ridiculously like something a manga character would wear.
- It was however ok with regards to their assortment of cosmetics. Especially in the main shopping street in close vicinity to the M Korea Tower, stores specializing in body lotion, facial creams, lip sticks, fake eye lashes, contact lenses, neon eye shadow, skin masks, hand lotions, and whatever else you can think of to smoothen out those wrinkles or lighten up your tone of skin was offered in one street.
So without furher ado find some of our travel pictures below…Enjoy.