Pulling into the driveway of the hotel, feeling like a celebrity at the red carpet, I was jolted into remembering that I was here for work when I was handed the receipt! The expense report gestapo would have my head if I did not turn one in. It would be almost as bad as cheating on an exam. Their eagerness sometimes surprise me but that’s why they call them accountants. Everything accounted for.
Still, it is Sunday and that means it is the weekend and I have some daylight left. Despite the very well fit out room with a super comfy looking bed, I was determined to spend it getting acquainted with Seoul.
Getting into Seoul, one word that kept popping up when trying to describe this city is the same one word that most inhabitants of big cities are familiar with – Traffic. Unless you live in Canberra, the capital city of Australia, where a snail could make it across the road without getting turned into a mashed escargot, there are lots and lots of cars here. On a five lane highway, every lane can be busy. We slowed to a crawl a few times getting into Seoul and it is the weekend. I hate to think what peak hour is like.
Stepping out of the hotel though, none of that worried me. I was just going to check out the surrounding areas and it seems I was in a decent location, almost at the foot of the Seoul Tower with lots to see. So, I was going to walk it. I did ask for the city map when I was checking in. For me, they come in handy when I am bewilderingly lost. It also helps when you are asking a local as lots of pointing will undoubtedly occur when language is a barrier.
After surveying the map, I had decided to walk to Nandaemun Market, one of the oldest markets in Seoul, which sells not only fresh produce and local street food but also a chicanery of this and that. I thought I knew where it was (from the map) but then I was not so sure anymore after seeing no obvious signs. Luckily a young Korean guy (who could speak a little English) was headed the same way and suggested I just walk with him! We chatted a bit and his strong advice to me was to pass on the street food in Nandaemun Market. “Not clean” was his simple but persuasive explanation.
Less than 5 minutes later, he stopped and pointed to an area across the road which had different streets with colourful little flags strung overhead. That is Nandaemun market, he said, an area made up of open air street stalls lining the centre of the street. We had barely walked a hundred metres down the road. Now you know why my sense of direction can be pretty hopeless! I guess I was expecting an indoor market so I was looking for a building of some sort. (I really should do a bit more reading.)
As it was already past five in the afternoon, some of the shops were already closed. But there were plenty still going and more than happy to sell you something which I likely do not need like a Tweety Bird iPhone phone case or Iron Man socks. I just meandered past trying not to look too interested. Eventually I realised that what I really wanted to see, the fresh produce section, was already closed, and none of the rest was really interesting. And since my new Korean friend suggested against going for any of the foods, I now needed a plan B.