Have you ever noticed how places have a smell? Like on a large scale – Iceland has a smell, West Africa smell, and Indonesia smells like south east Asia. Its a kind of smell that you could bottle and market, but impossible to describe. It would be called “Rainy Season”… or maybe “Fruits and Chilis,” but maybe its just me. Korea smelled like Japan. If you’ve been to Japan, then it smells just like that – the perfectly clean trains, the unpolluted streets, and the fresh smell of four changing seasons. A sensitive nose runs in my family – my older sister always smells food before she eats it.
I’m traveling with my mother, who has an OCD tendency to relate every new place to a place she’s been before. She also thinks if she talks louder and slower, everyone should understand some english, but they just really dont. But, another gene that runs in my family is good eating, and me and my mom basically spent our time in Korea eating and sleeping. We went on a 3 am hunt for food, after her flight was delayed 7 hours, and found the most delicious 24 hour place to order Udon and kimchi and all sorts of other unrecognizable goodness. The influence of Japanese and south-east asian cuisine comes out perfectly in their rice and noodle dishes, and even the 7-eleven has been “koreanized” with the taquitos and hot dogs replaced by stuffed rice-cake balls and instant kimchi noodle dishes.
I’ve been to Japan a few times, but never Korea. I only had Tokyo as a basis to compare Seoul with, and build my expectations from there. It was similar in many ways – the incredible organization and functioning of everything public, and the unfamiliar flashing lights, alphabet and cartoony drawings covering everything external. The Koreans were taller, but just as petite, with a fetish for the little charms and jewels that cover their cellphones and man-purses. I felt big and clumsy there, with oversized feet and an unpolished sense of fashion. I amuse myself imagining what it would be like to be a tall, blonde Viking woman on the public train, or a big black mama in colourful dress trying to walk down the street. Hahaa…
The PDA is out of control. Cute and cuddly couples stay in constant physical contact, covering their mouths while they laugh and keeping their eyes looking shyly away. I’ve never seen so many pink suitcases as I saw in Seoul international airport, and all of the Seoul shopping area is sugarcoated in this pink-ish, animated cuteness thats hard to explain. All of Seoul is clean, like even the highway seems sterile enough to eat your lunch off the ground. And, wearing face-masks is a huge fashion trend, complete with brand competition and billboard advertising, since keeping your germs to yourself and blocking out everyone elses (im not sure which is more motivating) is the “cool” thing to do.