Seoul: The Old, The New, The Perfect

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Korea, like an onion (or Shrek), is steeped in layers. Ancient history and tradition hold fast as trendy and progressive thinking prevail. It has an interesting dynamic of old and ultra-modern, most likely due to an age-old history of invasion. The fiercely held traditions are entwined within a country that is, literally,  freshly built. Nowhere is the gap more dramatic than in the country’s capitol of Seoul.

Perhaps that is part of its charm. During my time in Korea, I would visit the electric streets almost weekly to take in the dense history in the morning, the teeming markets by afternoon, and the hip clubs by night. Seoul was my refuge, it was my insight, and it was my wonder.

Hemishpere echoes this with a “perfect” three-day itinerary for Seoul, introducing the city as, “a major metropolis with pockets that feel untouched by industrialization. The joy of a visit is in plunging into both sides of Seoul—the old and the new — and imagining where the city will go from here.”

Many of the sights suggest get the personal Jon Wick seal of approval (as if that matters, really, but at least I can vouch for them). For modern, head to Yonsan Electronics Market, where I picked up an Ipod for a killer deal, then to Dongdaemun to experience the youth phenomenon sweeping the globe. After catching up on the latest Girls Generation hits (Check out Gee Gee— you’ll be singing it all day), take a ride up the N Seoul Tower over looking the labyrinth that makes up the city.

For old Korea, and one of my personal favorites, head straight to the Insadong neighborhood, a hub of old world in the throngs of the new. Start exploring at  Changdeokgung Palace, built in 1405, then to the Insadong shopping street  for some traditional crafts (if you’re lucky you’ll get a to catch a traditional style impromptu street dance), then hit up the changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace — all within walking distance.

* Photo courtesy of TheExpeditioner Flickr Group and  jonwick04.

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