Seoul – Day 3 – Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Namsan Tower & Seoullo 7017

RO: Cine ar fi crezut acum 60 de ani, cand abia ce se incheia razboiul coreean, ca una dintre cele mai sarace tari ale lumii avea sa devina in mai putin de jumatate de secol una dintre cele mai dezvoltate tari asiatice, renumita peste tot in lume pentru branduri ca Samsung, LG, Kia ori Hyundai? Cine ar fi zis ca Gangnam, cartierul saracilor, avea sa ajunga fitosenia suprema a Coreei si un adevarat fenomen mondial dupa isteria cu Gangnam Style-ul lui Psy? Cine ar fi zis ca hanok-urile traditionale vor fi inlocuite de cartiere intregi de zgarie nori uriasi, sau ca palatele dinastiei Joseon, vechi din secolul al 14-lea vor fi inconjurate de arhitectura moderna, precum noua primarie din Seoul Plaza (in forma de val de sticla) sau si mai si, grozavia de la Dongdaemun Design Plaza, o mare ondulata de beton, plina de galerii si buticuri de arta. Cine ar fi zis ca toata Coreea de Sud va deveni un asemenea punct de interes si ca in jurul Seulului se vor inghesui sa traiasca la fel de multi oameni ca intreaga populatie a Romaniei?

EN: Who would have thought that 60 years ago, when the Korean war was ending, one of the poorest countries of the world will become one of the most developed Asian countries in less than a century , renowned all over the world for brands like Samsung, LG, Kia or Hyundai? Who would have thought that Gangnam, the neighborhood of the poor ones, will get to be the supreme fanciness of Korea and a real global phenomenon after all that madness with Psy’s Gangnam style? Who would have thought that the traditional hanoks will be replaced by entire neighborhoods of huge sky scrapers, or that the palaces that belonged to the Joseon dynasty, old since the 14th century, will be surrounded by modern architecture, as the new City Hall from Seoul Plaza (in the shape of a glassy wave) or even more than that, as the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a huge block of concrete, full of galleries and art boutiques. Who would have thought that the entire South Korea will become such an attraction and that in and around Seoul there will live as many people as the entire population of Romania?
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RO: 18 linii de metrou imbarligate de te ametesc mai ceva ca statia Shibuya din mijlocul Tokyo-ului, un strat gros de smog (caci poluarea e la ea acasa in zona aceasta) si distante infiorator de lungi! Asa ca spunem “sarut-mana” celui care s-a gandit sa faca birourile de check-in din mijlocul orasului (City Airport Mall) si din statia de tren Seoul Station, nu de alta, dar n-ar fi fost deloc grozav sa umbli prin tot orasul cu bagajele in spinare. Cu exceptia catorva companii (printre care si Lufthansa, la naiba!), mai toate celelalte ofera acest serviciu, prin care faci checkin la bagaje si iti vezi de treaba pana la zbor. Iar pentru zborurile internationale se pot face si procedurile de immigration, urmand ca la aeroport sa treci prin portile de securitate ale echipajelor de zbor si corpurilor diplomatice.

EN: 18 mazy subway lines that confuse you more than Shibuya station in center Tokyo, a thick layer of smog (as pollution feels like home in this area) and extremely long distances! So we totally have to thank to that person that had the marvelous idea to make the check-in offices right in the city center (City Airport Mall) and also in Seoul Station, otherwise we would have had to carry all that luggage with us throughout the city. Except some companies (among them Lufthansa as well, damn it!), all the other ones offer this service, you simply drop your luggage, make your check-in and you can visit the city until the flight. And for the international flights, the immigration procedures can also be done, and at the airport you simply have to pass through the crew and diplomatic corps security gates.
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RO: La fix cat sa putem vedea turnul Namsan, un punct emblematic al orasului de altfel. Si-acum ar merge o mica paranteza in care sa vorbim putin despre transportul in comun in Seul. Fara doar si poate, metroul e nu numai convenabil, insa acopera cam orice destinatie dorita. O calatorie este aproximativ 1 euro, iar cu renumitul card T-Money, chiar un pic mai ieftin. Noi am preferat sa luam bilete ori de cate ori am avut nevoie (si sa ne recuperam apoi depozitul pentru cartele de 500 won/cartela) in loc sa ne luam cardul T-Money, si asta pentru ca pe distantele scurte am folosit foarte mult taxiul (taxiurile gri si portocalii sunt foarte accesibile, au tarif minim de 3000 won, cele negre sunt taxiurile de lux, cu preturi mai mari). Apropo, cardul T-Money poate fi folosit si pentru plata taxiurilor, cata vreme este incarcat cu suficienti woni 🙂 Toate ca toate, dar nici taxiul nu te lasa la baza turnului Namsan, cocotat deasupra Seul-ului, ci la baza telecabinei. Si-abia apoi ajungi deasupra orasului, de unde se vede o priveliste absolut dementiala! Si de unde surpriza, poti trimite o carte postala fix din cutia postala din turn 🙂 Cu stampila cu tot!

EN: Just in time to see the Namsan Tower, an iconic building of the town. And now we’ll say a few words about the public transportation in Seoul. No doubt about it, the metro is not only convenient, but it also covers any destination one could think of. A trip is approximately 1 euro, and with that renowned T-Money card can be even cheaper than that. We preferred to buy tickets whenever we needed (and to get back the 500 won/card deposit after each trip) instead of taking a T-money card, and that’s because on short distance we used quite a lot the cabs (the grey and orange cabs are very convenient, have a minimum fee of 3000 won, the black ones are luxury cabs with higher prices). By the way, T-money card can also be used to pay the cabs as long as it had enough money on it 🙂 All in all, but not even the cab leaves you in front of the Namsam tower, perched high above Seoul, but at the base of the cable car. Just after taking the cable car you get above the city, where the view is absolutely stunning! And where surprise, you can send a postcard right from the postal box from the tower 🙂 With stamps and everything!
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RO: Bun, si cum harta ne marcheaza un al doilea sat plin de hanok-uri traditionale (primul fiind Bukchon Cultural Village), ne incumetam sa vedem si Namsangol Hanok Village din apropiere. Dupa cum era de asteptat, locul acesta este ceva mai turistic ca Bukchon, unde inca mai locuiesc oameni in hanok-uri adevarate, insa este cel putin la fel de frumos. Si adevarul e ca imaginea turnului vazut printre acoperisurile tipic coreene este minunata! Cert e ca daca vom mai avea vreodata ocazia sa venim in Seul, cu siguranta vom alege sa stam cazati macar o noapte intr-un hanok traditional (preferabil in Bukchon), cu paturi pe podea, camere mici si autentice si mic dejun coreean. Daca n-am ajuns intr-un ryokan japonez, trebuie sa incercam un hanok adevarat! Si adevarul e ca hanok-urile chiar sunt impresionante, prin simplitatea si autenticitatea lor. Fara vopseluri si culori tipatoare, fara prea multe piese de mobilier, fara nimic ostentativ, sunt parte din cultura coreeana, si chiar daca nu-si au locul printre mare de zgarie nori de zeci de etaje si sute de apartamente, sunt istoria tarii si sunt respectate ca atare. Asta desi numai o treime din casele hanok din Bukchon sunt originale, restul fiind refacute recent, pentru a se conforma noului trend de revenire la originile traditionale.

EN: Ok, and as the map indicates us that there is a second hanok village (the first one being Bukchon Cultural Village) we’re heading to Namsangol Hanok Village nearby. As expected, this place is more touristic that Bukchon, where there are still people living in real hanoks, but it is equally beautiful. And truth is that the image of the Namsan tower seen among the typical Korean rooftops is simply gorgeous! One thing is certain, if we will ever have the chance to visit Seoul, for sure we will choose to lodge in a traditional hanok (preferably in Bukchon), with beds on the floor, small and authentic rooms and Korean breakfast. If we haven’t been in a Japanese ryokan, we have to try a real hanok! And honestly, the hanoks are quite impressive through their simplicity and authenticity. Without any bright colors or paintings, without too much pieces of furniture, nothing ostentatious, they are part of the Korean culture and even though they might look weird among all those tall sky scrapers and hundreds of modern apartments, they are part of the country’s culture and respected as such. And that’s despite the fact that only a third of the hanok houses in Bukchon are the original ones, the rest of them have been recently renovated and transformed so that they can respect the trend of coming back to the original traditions.
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RO: Cat despre mancarea coreeana (de parca n-am vorbit deja vrute si nevrute despre kimchi-ul traditional), ei bine, da, Seul e plin de restaurante si “mancatorii” locale! La orice colt de strada dai de un bibimbap delicios ori de un vestit gratar coreean (pentru ca da, au o adevarata obsesie pentru carnea fripta). Bibimbap-ul acesta traditional (de il gasim chiar si in meniul celor de la Lufthansa) e un mix delicios de legume (de regula spanac, fasole si morcovi) cu orez, carne de vita si de cele mai multe ori un ou prajit. Amesteci totul la un loc, pui un kilogram si jumatate de pasta de ardei iute (asa numita gochujang) si gata, ai Coreea intr-o singura farfurie. Si isi cam merita renumele de bucatarie picanta iar chilli-ul e omniprezent, orice ai alege sa mananci. Si acelasi lucru am spune si despre kimchi, care nu lipseste niciodata din frigiderul coreenilor. Poate ca descrierea ingredientelor nu suna tocmai apetisant (pe cine ar tenta varza fermentata cu sos de peste, ceapa, ghimbir si chilli din abundenta?), insa gustul e absolut delicios! Si chiar daca zona Garosu-gil din Gangnam e grozava si plina de viata, preturile sunt mari iar mancarea nu foarte buna (si contaminata de influente internationale). Insa tot ce se gaseste in zona statiei de metrou Euljiro este fabulos, mai ales atunci cand mesele sunt joase iar gratarul ti-l pregatesti singur pe plita din mijlocul mesei! Si-abia dupa ce ne-am intors din vacanta am aflat ca in zonele de studenti Hongdae, Sinchon si Daehangno au tot soiul de mancatorii ieftine – stim pentru data viitoare 🙂 Ar fi inutil sa recomandam vreun restaurant anume, pentru ca e pur si simplu imposibil sa nu gasesti ceva potrivit pe strazile din centrul orasului 🙂 O singura mentiune pentru cei vegetarieni… tristete maxima, sau cura de slabire. Coreenii nu inteleg ce-i aia mancare fara carne, iar pestele si fructele de mare sunt un soi de leguma exotica. Traiasca Paris Baguette-ul, o brutarie care se vrea a imprumuta obiceiuri culinare frantuzesti (aaah de-ar stii francezii ce fac coreenii din croissantele lor, ar porni o adevarata revolta!), care mai ofera ceva optiuni pentru amaratii de vegetarieni 🙂

EN: As for the Korean food (as if we haven’t went to the nineteen to the dozen with the traditional kimchi), oh well, yes, Seoul is full of restaurants and local food stalls! You can find a delicious bibimbap or a Korean barbecue (as the Koreans have a real obsession for grilled meat) at every corner of the street. This traditional bibimbap (that we can even find on the Lufthansa menu :D) is a delicious mix of vegetables (usually spinach, beans and carrots) with rice, beef and most probably a fried egg. You simply mix everything together, add a kilo of spicy pasta (the so called gochujang) and there you have Korea in one plate. And it totally deserves its fame for the spicy cuisine and chili is present everywhere, whatever you would choose to eat. The same thing we could say about kimchi, that’s never missing from the Korean’s fridge. Maybe the description of the ingredients does not sound tempting (who would be tempted by fermented cabbage and fish sauce, onion, ginger and tons of chill?), but the taste is absolutely delicious! And even though Garosu-gil area from Gangnam is very cool and lively, the prices are high and the food is not very good (and contaminated with international influences). But everything that can be found around Euljiro is fabulous, especially when the restaurants have low tables and you prepare your own barbecue on a grill in the middle of the table! And just after we returned from our vacation we found out that the Hongdae, Sinchon and Daehangno students area have all kind of cheap restaurants – but we will know it for the next time 🙂 It would be useless to recommend one restaurant in particular, because it is simply impossible not to find something right on the streets from the city center 🙂 Only one mention for the vegetarian people… that will probably go for a diet. Koreans simply don’t understand what’s all the fuss about the meatless food and fish or seafood are a kind of exotic vegetable for them. Long live Paris Baguette, a local bakery that is trying to import the French culinary habits (aaah if only the French people would know what the Koreans are doing to their croissants, they would probably start a real revolution!) which offers a couple of options for the poor vegetarian people 🙂

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Korean BIBIMBAP – Photo Source: www.thespruce.com

RO: Pana atunci ne imbuibam cu un ultim bibimbap in food court-ul de la Seoul Station – picant de sa ne sara inima din loc! Aaa, si sa nu uitam. Preturile in Coreea de Sud nu sunt mici, desi am fi fost poate tentati sa credem ca sunt asemanatoare tarilor din Asia de Sud Est. Ei bine, nu, mai degraba se aseamana cu preturile din Japonia 🙂

EN: But until then we’ll indulge with a last bibimbap in the food court from Seoul Station – spicy as hell! Aaah and let’s not forget. The prices in South Korea are not small, even though we have been tempted to believe that they are similar with the other South East Asian countries. Oh well, nope, they are actually comparable with we have seen in Japan 🙂
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RO: Si daca tot ne-au ramas cateva ore pana la zborul Jeju Air catre insula Jeju, dam o fuga si pana la renumita terasa urbana Seoullo 7017, o fosta autostrada din apropierea statiei Seoul Station, transformata intr-o strada pietonala si gradina, de unde se vede si gara Seoul Station si zgarie norii din imprejurimi. Pentru a nu stim cata oara, Seul si Coreea de Sud in general ne uimesc in sens pozitiv. Tara aceasta e un model de dezvoltare economica (avand in vedere avantul cu care si-a dezvoltat industria in mai putin de 50 de ani), de disciplina si perseverenta. Si chiar daca nu le place coreeniilor sa li se aminteasca de perioada in care au fost sub dominatie japoneza, se vede influenta acestora in organizare si consecventa. Pana la urma, sunt la fel de workaholici ca japonezii, dorm la fel de putin, ies la baute cu colegii de birou si muncesc pana la epuizare – intocmai ca vecinii de la est.

EN: And now that we have a couple of hours until our Jeju Air flight to Jeju island, we’re heading to the renowned urban terrace Seoullo 7017, a former high way nearby Seoul Station, transformed in a pedestrian street and garden, where the train station and the sky scrapers can be seen. For the umpteenth time, Seoul and South Korea in general surprise us in a positive way. This country is a model of economic development (considering the industrial bloom in the last 50 years), of discipline and perseverance. And even though Koreans do not like to be remembered of the period when they have been dominated by the Japanese people, we can see their influences in organisation and consistency. In the end, they seem to be workaholics as the Japanese, they don;t get enough sleep as the Japanese, they go out with their colleagues and work until exhaustion – as well as the Eastern neighbors.
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