SOUTH KOREA – THE UNDERDOGS OF ASIA?
I didn’t have any expectations of Seoul. I’d never been to Asia but I’d heard on good authority that the South Koreans were extremely accommodating, approachable and about to take the world by storm. “They’re the Asian underdogs” the Minister would tell me on the plane. I was intrigued to meet these South Korean ‘underdogs’. Little did I realise that I would fall in love with Seoul despite being there for only one night.
For starters, the landscape is stunning – mountains with a misty mirage and long roads full of bustling traffic. There was an sapphire blue sky that remained in the sky all evening and it felt rather magical. There was something intensely modern about the city, but also something ancient and under-developed.
Seoul is like a very laid back, slower paced, Tokyo. The streets were very clean and spaced out and there weren’t oodles of crowds pushing into you from all angles. All in all, it was as chilled as it could be and a good way to start the evening.
When I arrived with colleagues we took a stroll around the town centre and found a bar called the Texas Bar (not very South Korean but the Minister had been there before and wanted familiarity). The beer was good, the food menu didn’t look so glam. So we supped a couple of beers and made our way to a little pizza place near our hotel. I was tempted to eat the Chocolate Pizza, and was under severe peer pressure, but I resisted and went for a run-of-the-mill pepperoni classic. A storm had brewed outside so my colleague asked the waitress for a clear plastic bag to shelter her brand new Prada bag from the rain. How bemused that waitress looked!
Now, I won’t bore you with details of my meetings the following day but I will let you know about the sit down lunch with had a South Korean Government Director and his cronies. We removed our shoes, crossed our legs and sat at a long table in a cave like room – apparently the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK had been there the week before (must be good then I thought). Then out came a series of small dishes containing rather unusual and unrecognizable delicacies. I kept prodding the food with my chopstick (which quickly turned into a fork) trying to suss out what it was. To this day, I have no idea what I ate. Some of it I liked, some of it was far too ‘out there for me’. I did like the sticky rice though.
We ended the day running from car to meeting rooms in the epicentre of a tropical storm before heading to the airport to fly to Tokyo for the next leg of our trip.
I loved the vibe of Seoul and would love to explore it more one day. I give it a 9/10.