Last November, when my family non-committally toyed with the idea of a mini-break to Sydney, Australia but ultimately settled for Seoul, South Korea, I had been religiously looking forward to the trip ever since. From reuniting with my aunt and cousin after four plodding months to beating a hasty retreat from work and responsibilities and promenading in the crisp spring zephyr, everything seemed ideal and much-needed.
Of course, when March 26 rolled up at long last, I was utterly keyed up. We swiftly departed for Fraser Place Central Seoul—our week-long lodging—which is situated in the heart of Seoul’s central business district. It was a breeze to manoeuvre around the city as a result: at least three subway stations are within walking distances and taxis, which were our primary and preferred mode of transport, are also reasonably priced.
When it comes to holidays, I noticed the like-mindedness of my great-aunt, mother, and three aunts: their undying penchants for eating and shopping. On the other hand, I personally luxuriate in sightseeing during a vacation, whether it is the breathtaking, spectacular cityscape of Marseille that appears to sprawl on and on towards the horizon or the immaculate, picturesque sunset in Santorini that, daily, legion of tourists from all walks of life flock to to witness in person.
Still and all, I endeavoured to make the best of the situation and, luckily, unearthed a handful of interesting shopping districts. For my money, Myeong-dong is the crème de la crème.
In contrast to the old-world undertone of Namdaemun Market or the garden-variety Dongdaemun Shopping Complex where, in spite of the bitter, three degrees Celsius ordeal, sprinklings of short-skirted lasses pervaded the metropolis, Myeong-dong exuded a more convivial atmosphere. At every turn, scores of sales assistants lined the congested thoroughfares, doling out freebies and yammering away in Korean—paradoxically—to lure holidaymakers into the stores to squander on skincare products.
Analogously, Hongdae Street also caters to the younger generation; aggressive salespersons gave way to buskers and street dances so that the vibrancy of the city centre perpetuated.
Besides turning twenty-four years old and celebrating my birthday in Seoul, one of the most special and fascinating experiences was leisurely traipsing in and out of Gyeongbokgung Palace in a historical costume that was ubiquitous amongst traditional South Korean women. My mother—who was my companion of the day—however, did not covet the moment as much. What a shame!
When all is said and done, I have no objection to returning to Seoul in the near future to ingest steaming hot vanilla lattes excessively day in, day out or to keep a weather eye on the weekly strike materialising every Saturday or simply to explore beyond N Seoul Tower.