The Heart of Seoul South Korea

It is potentially one of the most dangerous cities in the world, but it is a bustling place and you don’t really get a sense if danger when you visit Seoul, the capital and largest city of South Korea.

The threat of danger lies with its neighbour, North Korea, and with the demilitarized zone just 60 kilometres from Seoul’s doorstep and a neighbour that is entirely unpredictable, you would think that the inhabitants of Seoul would be somewhat dour, instead they seem to relish and celebrate life.

Seoul is a city with a population exceeding 10 million that is neatly dissected by the Han River. It is a very modern place, but one which respects its traditions. As the seat of Korea’s former Royal families, there are no less than five palaces from the Joseon Dynasty that have been retained within the city’s boundaries.

The grandest of these is Gyeongbokgung which has been razed twice by Japanese invaders. Parts of the palace have been restored and the vast grounds also house the Joseon Palace Museum and the Korean Folk Museum.

South Korea is an important industrialised nation and although it does not have the same reputation as Hong Kong as a great shopping city, goods here are generally very well priced and many bargains can be had.

There are some interesting markets within the city with Namdaemun being the largest. The market is located in the centre of Seoul and is a famous shopping place for tourists. Clothing for children and accessories are the most-commonly sold goods in this market, but there’s lots of food as well and many outdoor eating options, especially in the evening.

The country also had a good reputation for producing high tech gadgets and there is a great electronics market at Yongsan which is comprised of over 20 buildings housing 5000 stores where you can find appliances, stereos, computers and peripherals, office equipment, telephones, lighting equipment, electronic games and software, and videos and CDs. Bear in mind that English may not be well understood, so you may not be able to negotiate the best price unless you are accompanied by a Korean speaker.

One thing to love about Seoul is the quality of the food. Koreans take their food very seriously and their food is entirely different from that of near neighbours China and Japan.
One of their staples, kimchi, is a type of fermented spiced cabbage that can be an acquired taste, which fortunately I have acquired. Meat and seafood are very popular as are rice and noodles, and meals are usually served with side dishes. One of my favourites is the Korean BBQ where you sit at table that has a small burner attached to it so that you can cook your meat and vegetables and add spices to suit your palate.

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