Seoul. South Korea, May 2017: I arrived here some 4 weeks ago with the pre-conceived idea the country is full of glitzy shopping malls, Americanisation to the hilt and people like robots. While its true that developed Asian nations have largely followed the Manhattan path and its people have an addiction to all things digital, in Korea there is still enough culture among modernity that one can easily forget the plethora of American influence around the place. So here’s a summery of the ‘Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ of South Korea.
The Good: Seoul is a wonderful, vibrant and very modern city. Clean and organised for its 3 million inhabitants. Getting around Seoul and Korea in general is easy, cheap and overall a great experience on local transport. Andong, a great little town oozing with culture. and then there’s Busan. Another wonderfully vibrant city. Blue sea, clean beaches and not too much Americanization there, yet! Getting around is equally a great experience.
The Bad: The culinary experience is tricky to navigate. The local Food scene can be bland and expensive – meat eaters, fish lovers pay the heaviest price. Vegetarians can find their food options limited – Tofu and noodles, soups – nothing much under £4 – £5 for a dish. Koreans have an addiction to all things digital – even at the supermarket checkout leading to a degree of arrogance. Purchasing single and small quantities of items in shops is a frustrating task. I found it near impossible to buy a single tube of toothpaste, a small box of tea bags or a single banana. Groceries are outrageously expensive – Lipton’s Black Tea Bags, £6!
The Ugly: choking then Spitting in Public.
Costs: Cheap accommodation is hard to find in Seoul and Korea in general. Seoul, I stayed in a small box type room for £11 per night in Mokdong, someway from the city, found on Air BnB. In Andong the cheapest I could find was £15 per night to sleep on the floor in someones house. In Busan, I had to resort to a hostel, near the beach at £15 per night. 4 weeks accommodation came to £415.
I managed to average the food and groceries expense to around £7.50 per day thanks to free rice at the guesthouse in Seoul and I still managed to taste traditional Korean delights like Kim Bap! Food expense then came to £210.
With getting around on public transport and the DMZ trip costing another £90 my trip to South Korea, excluding flights came to around £715 for 4 weeks, £178.75 average for a week.
And so here’s the last word from South Korea – Awesome!
Next Stop: Phuket Thailand