I’m sitting in a PC Bang (net cafe) just down the street from Dongdaemun in Seoul. This place is a lot different from the internet cafes I’m used to in Japan; it’s all open seating, everyone’s speakers are blaring, it’s dirtier, and I’m pretty sure at least 80% of the people in here are playing Warcraft, Counterstrike, or some other online game. This must be Korea! The other 20% are girls looking up clothing. Everyone’s speakers are blaring, so it sounds like I’m in the middle of a war zone. Korea in general is a lot different than Japan. Riding the airport bus to my hotel yesterday I couldn’t help but notice how huge and wide open things were, as opposed to Japan where land is a lot more scarce so stuff is crammed together closer. The downtown and city areas that I’m explored so far are closer to Hong Kong than Tokyo; a little dirtier and “Asian” feeling.
My hotel is really nice ; it’s bigger than my apartment in Japan and has a huge bed and a huge flat panel TV (Samsung, of course). It’s nice watching American TV; they have a few shows here and the Discovery Channel. I actually wasted a lot of today sleeping and/or watching US TV, which I feel kind of stupid for doing, but hey it’s vacation and I should be relaxing, right? It is kind of bunk though, that while they provide the usual hotel bathroom stuff like soap, body wash, toilet paper, etc, they do charge you for shampoo, toothbrush, and toothpaste. How cheap can you get?
So far my vacation has been pretty cool. I checked out a bunch of markets, and so far have seen 2 of the big city gates: Namdaemon and Dongdaemon. Tomorrow I’m planning on checking out the giant COEX mall and also Gyeongbok Palace. I don’t know what else I really want to see, and honestly I don’t think I’ll have enough time to comfortably add more to my plans. I do like just walking around and shopping, especially since stuff here seems so much cheaper than Japan. I’ve bought a ton of Korean seaweed, which everyone in Japan seemed to request. I might get some new eyeglasses made, since they really are super cheap here. I also found some socks with a certain Korean drama star that I hate, which I think people will enjoy too, hahaha.
The most striking thing since being here has been the language barrier; it’s very humbling to be in a place where you are totally illiterate. Maybe not 100%, but mostly. They have some stuff in Chinese, Japanese, or English, and between those 3 I can usually at least find my way. In Japan, I can read most stuff and communicate no problem. In Hong Kong they used more English, and while I can’t speak Chinese worth a grain of rice anymore , I’m at least used to hearing it from family gatherings. Here, totally opposite. I look at Korean text and can’t understand a damn thing. I point at things like a monkey to communicate, or pray that they speak at least some English or Japanese. My motto so far has been “English? Nihongo?” More people here can actually speak a little Japanese than English, which is at least helpful. Good life lessons I suppose.