Five reasons to travel to Seoul

When we had the idea of Japan at Easter, our plans were almost scuppered by the astronomical flight prices, hiked by the many cherry blossom seekers and the fact you've now got to fly round Russia. Well, turns out FinnAir has done a solid and while it's Helsinki-Japan routes are still pricey, the Helsinki-Korea routes are a lot cheaper and Seoul is a mere hop, skip and a jump on a regional budget airline. Sorted. That's how we ended up in Seoul on the way to Japan and decided to incorporate six days' exploration of the city. And aren't we glad we did? Turns out Korea, and indeed Seoul, is a bit of a corker of a destination and our new place we can't stop raving about. Why? Read on my friend...


SHOW ME THE BANCHAN: Imagine you are settling in for a few rounds of Korean BBQ and some cold beer when the waitress comes over unprompted with a huge tray full of dishes upon dishes of cold pickled things. Some daikon? Kimchi versions one, two and three? Something clever and pickled done with some daikon? A crunchy bamboo shoot salad. Mouthfuls and plates of deliciousness casually slung across the table. And this happens meal after meal.

SCULPTURE INNIT: Am I going to sound like an early 2000s tour of Shoreditch if I mention street art and sculpture? Either way I'm a-gonna do it because there is nothing I look for more in a city than buzzing around pedestrianised walkways lined with trees, snapping a few photos of some sort of humongous balloon installation, or climbing all over. Always something to see, always something to climb on. And probably a good measure for the overall accessibility, cleanliness (I kid you not, you could eat your dinner off the floor. Indeed the kids tested this out) and welcoming feel of a place. If they've bothered to put interesting sculptures and public art everywhere, they are bothered to create a city worth visiting. 

THE FRIED CHICKEN CRONCH: I thought I'd had fried chicken. Tom thought he'd had fried chicken. Even London-riffs on Korean-style fried chicken came absolutely no where near the most casual baskets of crispy-cronch we found in even the most basic-bitch of beer bars. Galaxies away in fact. We didn't even start to seek out the true chicken hot spots but were able to stumble face-first into perfectly cooked chicken, a crispy-clag of crumb... I am trying really hard here not to say finger-licking but the sauces... oh the sauces. And don't for one minute think you want to go up from the entry level spice rating, you are the uninitiated here. 

EVERYONE IS SO BLIMMIN FRIENDLY: with the exception of that git who wouldn't let us sit in the sun on the bench outside the beer bar with the buggy, everyone was filled with an undeniable joie de vivre. Special mention for the spritely and immaculately coiffed pensioners in the natty co-ords who love a bit of baby bothering. Not sure why and whether it plays out in real life, but there wasn't the downtrodden misery of London (can you tell I'm on a post-holiday downer). Maybe that's saved for north of the border? Clearly generalising massively to a nation from a small sample size, but people seemed as pleased to see us as we were to be there. And why wouldn't you be when you have access to weapons-grade skincare that makes you glow from within?

CREATIVE USES WITH SPAM: I love a holiday where you learn something, you grow and your perspective slightly shifts. For me, that was with spam. I wouldn't have given it a second glance pre-Seoul, but it was ubiquitous there and, in a land where food is taken very seriously, if they are giving it the time of day, maybe so should I? Or maybe given I was tripping over the pinky pork stuff at every turn, it chose me more than I chose it? Either way, I'm now a convert. Spam and kimchi kimbap for breakfast? Sign me up.


You might not have thought you want to go to Seoul. You might not even have thought a jot about the place. But trust me, put it in on your holiday wish list particularly if, like us, Asian city breaks are your jam. Stick that old-school pin in the map or begin your virtual frenzy of pinning and tagging. This won't be our last visit.


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