Complex Travel X Seoul, South Korea
I finally made my first trip to Asia. Definitely, something I had on my Bucketlist. I spent about 3 weeks in Seoul, South Korea and it was beyond a vibe; it was incredible, to say the least. I was contemplating making a blog article series about my favourite areas and spots but most of my photo footage has been held hostage by an enemy of progress.
Therefore, I will give you the 360° overview and visualise it with my Instagram-Story highlights - After all I am a millennial.
It all started with Esra. I originally wanted my first Asia stop to be Thailand because everyone in Europe was raving about the low living expenses and amazing sights and beaches. Then in 2013 I met this young woman at a leadership conference that I was project managing and she was attending. A few weeks later we reconnected and became friends. That woman was Esra and Esra is half Korean. When Esra told me about her trips home and the adventures she had it was a no-brainer that I would change my Thailand plans and join her on her next trip to South Korea instead.
One thing that I generally do when visiting new countries with friends that are “natives” to that country, is doing little to NO research. That is because I like to experience everything as authentic and unbiased as possible. I trust that my friends will make my visit an experience worth remembering. To me it is an opportunity learn more about my friends. After all they say you really know your friends after going a holidays together.
When I went to Dubai to visit my childhood friend Alexandra for example, we actually visited no tourist side and simply spent time with her, her husband and her friends at the spots they loved. Same for my trips to New York where I stayed for several months. I never went to empire state nor statue of liberty - I couldn’t care less. But that's just me.
Anyways, back to Seoul!
Let me start with the hard facts: Geographically Seoul is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. Seoul is surrounded by mountainous and hilly landscapes. Seoul itself is quiet hilly as well. More recently, Seoul has been a major site of modern architectural construction–major modern landmarks. Also Seoul is considered a leading and rising global city, resulting from an economic boom called the Miracle on the Han River, which transformed it to the world's 4th largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of approx. 8 billion EUR in 2014 after Tokyo, New York City, and Los Angeles. With major technology hubs, the Seoul Capital Area is home to the headquarters of 15 Fortune Global 500 companies, including Samsung, LG, and Hyundai-Kia. Ranked sixth in the Global Power City Index and Global Financial Centres Index, the metropolis exerts a major influence in global affairs as one of the five leading hosts of global conferences.
Besides Esra being my host and the “native” Korean I traveled with, one of my UK friends Jacob whom I had shown around in Berlin during his solo trip here, the weekend before I left to Seoul, also connected me to one of his friends Sam, a fellow Ghanian who has been living in Seoul for the past 10 years. Therefore I had a “German Korean” friend and I also had a “Ghanian Korean” friend in Seoul.
We stayed in Itaewon which is “the foreigner friendly international district, popular for international cuisine restaurants, shops, bars, and clubs that cater to foreigners.” Yes, we lived in the immigrant/expat hood. Only difference was it wasn’t really “the hood” but rather a fancy multicultural wonderland.
My days in Seoul mostly consisted of traveling around with Esra to discover and eat all the food Koreans have to offer. I tried everything, from streetfood, to fancy restaurants or simple market snacks. Esra also showed me historical places like the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the DMZ. We dived into nostalgia when visiting her University and I got to spent time with her family too. She took me to cool clubs like the Club Brown that her friend Jeff owns and - ofcourse - showed me Gangnam, too.
Sam showed me exclusive bars and hidden spots with outstanding views over the entire city. We got ambushed by his fans because I was literally refusing to let him wear his “incognito mask”. (Well, you got to ask Sam what that mask & fan ambush thing is all about because that is his own story.) In the spirit of unexpected happenings, we also did Karaoke and famous Korean BBQ with a group of strangers and I loved all of it. I actually also rekindled my passion for Latin American dances in Seoul as well. Super Random! That was because Sam was convinced I would connect well with Summer who also worked at the Radio station Tbs. Summer is the writer of the radio show “Men on air” on Tbs which Sam co-hosts with Greg. While recording the show, Summer and I discovered that we both are the undercover wannabe Latinas. So she invited us out to a salsa night and the rest is history. Let’s just call that segment “Dirty Dancing Seoul Nights” because we definitely made Sam a salsa believer.
Overall Seoul was a city that not only impressed me with its economy, history, technology and culture but also welcomed me in a very warm way. It felt like home very fast, because the people I was blessed to meet, made me feel like home. This trip definitely also confirmed one of my strongest convictions, which is treating people with respect, kindness and an open mind as well as sharing your network openly.
You never know if someone knows someone, who knows someone who could become a meaningful friend in your life… I was actually discussing this on my Podcast and Summer was my guest in that episode. Go figure!
With that being said, keep your network poppin’ and enjoy my Seoul InstaStory Compilation!