The quirkiness of Seoul

The past month has been a whirlwind of travel and exploration. After returning from Hokkaido, I spent a week or so in Kyoto, and then left for Korea, where I spent a week in Seoul with friends. The holiday consisted of many unusual experiences, including, but not limited to, stumbling into an ‘intensive prayer session’ at a temple and joining in, seeing a near uncountable number of advertisements for plastic surgery, and accidentally eating offal (twice).

Seoul is a fantastic place to visit, with an awful lot to see and do, such as exploring temples and palaces, visiting museums, enjoying street markets and nightlife and, in comparison to Kyoto, it is strikingly different.

Vibrantly coloured roofs in Changdeokgung Palace's secret garden

Vibrantly coloured roofs in Changdeokgung Palace’s secret garden

One aspect which I found most different was the food. Korean food is renowned for its spiciness, and it definitely lived up to this expectation. I’m now a dedicated lover of kimchee (김치 in Korean), a side dish made of fermented vegetables, often cabbage, and bibimbap (비빔밥), a meal of rice, vegetables, egg and meat. I’m now always on the lookout for Korean food at the local supermarket and I’ve just bought some kimchee, so hopefully it’ll be on a par with the Korean version! If you’d like to try out cooking Korean cuisine for yourself, this website is a great place to start: http://www.maangchi.com/recipes.

What I didn’t expect of Korean cuisine, however, was the occasional use of VERY questionable ingredients. When Googling Korean food with a friend before I left on holiday, we found a lot of unusual dishes mentioned, some of which even included dog meat. I didn’t think that we would actually come across anything that bizarre and, amusingly, I was very wrong. We learnt the hard way that choosing food randomly from a menu can lead to rather interesting outcomes. And even choosing food from a menu with photographs of the dish might not be what you think it is. As it turns out, intestines and noodles can look pretty darn similar…

I don't think these quirky cupcakes could have any unwanted surprises!

I don’t think these quirky cupcakes could have any unwanted surprises!

Another quirk which was evident is that the city seems to be a place inundated with young couples, who are sometimes even sporting matching clothing. If you’d like to woo your significant other in Seoul, wearing coordinated outfits and visiting Seoul Tower, an attraction solely focused on its appeal to couples, would be apt.

The copious amount of advertising related to plastic surgery was also completely fascinating. There seems to be fewer stigmas associated with plastic surgery in Seoul than elsewhere. Only a couple of months ago, this article was published: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-25881152. This explains that a plastic surgery clinic is Seoul was fined after making a decorative tower out of pieces of bone removed from the chins of their clients. This bizarre occurrence seems to show an entirely different attitude towards plastic surgery than what we are accustomed to in the UK.

Experiencing Korean culture was fantastic and I’d definitely recommend visiting Seoul, you’re sure to sample some unusual culinary delights and have a lot of fun whilst doing it!

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