Justin is a lawyer for the American military base that occupies a good piece of the city center. He's half Italian and therefore, to our delight, his fridge is full of Italian stuff, including a fresh mozzarella! After a nice shower we prepare a pesto pasta and talk about the crazy Korean obsession about plastic surgery. It is said that 60-70 % of the Korean women and 30% of the men is plasticized.
The most disturbing thing is that they all make the same tweaks in the same way and then all look the same! There are three types of nose that embody perfection, according to now days standard trends. Than there is the magnification of the eye (eyelid and double eyelid surgery) and this V shaped chin, the most destructive, basically they are smashing mandibles. All about the face, they seem not to care about the body. Read the articles in the links, they're very interesting.
We also speak about the four types of Korean hair combing:
1. Long hair with bangs = student
2. Long hair without bangs = young unmarried girl in career
3. Short Hair= woman engaged/married
4. Short hair with perm = lady after 50, or who however feels to be old
Believe us, we have not seen exceptions .
We can find accommodations for the night by Vikas, an Indian dude who is an engineer for LG, in the evening comes also a Filipino friend called Vehm, she just quit her 12 hours a day job for Guess and is going to be back in the Philippines soon. She makes very good advertisement about her country ("we have a fucked up corrupted government but the country is beautiful and cheap and the people very nice...") so that we seriously consider the opportunity of including the Philippines as one of our next destinations. We cook a pasta with eggplant and spend a nice evening drinking soju and talking about serious things...
We all wake up late. We leave for a little hike in the nearby mountains. It's nice to just take the subway and still be in the city but in the woods. There are many hiking trails just a fast subway ride from the city center. We go to Achasan, the route is about 8 km, very nice and clean. When you get to the highest point there is an open air gym, a complete one, weightlifting equipment, benches and all the stuff, if you just want to sweat more... everybody use that, even the old ladies with perm. Sporty people the Koreans. We ask directions for the subway station that should be somewhere at the end of the path, a man tells us to follow him, but when we realize the direction is wrong and we should redo a long climb in the sun, he disappears in the wood. We wonder if he went to suicide out of shame.
Here the Achasan trail GPX track if you wish to do the hike yourself:
We go to great north palace, Gyeongbokgung. In July in Seoul is all free of charge! Here, as in the previous building, there are some guys in traditional costume, Swiss Guards style; just that having beards, in Korea is considered a filthy stuff, unemployed or hippies, you do not understand why, given that it was traditionally wore by most, including emperors. The fact is that even when your job asks you wear a beard, Koreans prefer to put a fake one on, so they look quite ridiculous. Inside the park there is the national museum of Korean pre-war history, the Korean war is dedicated a separate museum. Here it is more a matter of Korean culture and customs, we must visit a bit in a hurry because we're going to meet with Sehran, a cyclist coming from Turkey. At the museum there is a section dedicated to traditional musical instruments, there are headphones to hear their sound. Then there are examples of interior of traditional houses, paintings, silk dresses and beautiful hats and shoes. I like those traditional wide trousers, should be comfortable and cool.
We visit a temple that was once the base of the revolutionaries who wanted independence from Japan. Then we look at the emperor's palace, surrounded by large green areas and ponds. It's called Changdeokgung, palace of prosperous virtue. There is also a secret garden, the only thing with an entry fee (5,000 won). Wandering we enter into a long and narrow alley full of blacksmiths, very beautiful, here you just turn the corner and the city changes completely but everything seems perfectly framed. Seoul is really a beautiful city, usually we do not like big cities but here we can make an exception. It's full of peaceful areas and neighborhoods with narrow streets and vertical slopes, low houses that give the sensation of being in a small town, rather than in the center of a city with millions of inhabitants. The transports really work good, the subway takes you everywhere and we never found it overcrowded. And it is full of bike paths. We go to retrieve the bikes that we left in the garage of Justin and we bike along the Han River. For 18 kilometers we're in the city, along the path at the side of the river, without ever having to go by the wayside, except to cross the river. Along the path there are free children pools, free gyms, tennis courts and more. For the first time we see a group dance in Chinese style but as a soundtrack there is no traditional music but contemporary Korean dance music. When we get home we cook the tortellini stuffed with cheese that we took from Justin's home. We are happy. We're leaving tomorrow.