Part three: Seoul by day and night
Part four: South Korean celebrations and festivals.
Part two: South Korea’s culture and character
Part one: Being a TEFL teacher in South Korea
by Jonathan Last @JonathanLast1
Author of Teaching English with Chopsticks: TEFL from the Frontline
Seoul has a population of 10,500,000 and is one of the largest cities in the world. Anyone visiting or living there can see how it manages this huge number: by building upwards. Single-storey buildings are virtually unheard of; residences, business and public buildings are all stacked up and arranged as skyscrapers, often reaching twenty-plus floors.
Few Green Spaces
The other effect of this huge number of people packed into a relatively small space is that there is little land that has not been built on. Green spaces are harder to find than in some densely-populated megacities, such as London or New York – although they do exist. One notable such example is Seoul Grand Park, just to the south of Seoul and connected to the city’s super-fast subway network (which is also notable for retaining mobile phone reception – useful). The area has a vast lake, hills and hiking trails, a zoo, colourful flower gardens, the Seoul Museum of Modern Art, and Seoul Land. The last is one of three major amusement parks in or around Seoul, alongside Ever Land and the indoor Lotte World.
Shopping in Seoul
Keen shoppers can visit Dongdaemun, in north Seoul, home to the country’s largest shopping centre, with a range of stores both over and underground. For those who want the latest gadgets, Yongsan Electronics Market is the place to go, its 5,000 stores selling hardware and software for the office and home. You can also soak up Seoul’s history at The War Memorial of Korea, in Yongsan.
Evenings in Seoul offer plenty for night owls. As well as the traditional galbi restaurants mentioned in part two, there are a range of other Korean delicacies on offer (included the infamous dog), as well as dishes from all over Asia – sushi is especially popular, as well as its Korean variant, kimbap. Restaurants that offer worldwide dining do exist (including Italian, Mexican and American diners) but are more costly. There is also a selection of outdoor food vendors, selling what is colloquially known as ‘street meat’.
The major bars and clubs tend to be close to Seoul’s universities, where the city’s many students come out to unwind. Chief amongst these regions is Hongdae, near a campus of Hongik university. Rock, hip hop, jazz, pop and dance music tastes are all catered for, and opening times tend to be late. Another region rife with nightlife is Itaewon, which tends to be one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Seoul, due to its range of immigrants and the fact that it is home to a US Army base. Both areas are, of course, full of Korea’s all-night karaoke clubs, known as norae bangs.
The otherwise-excellent Seoul Metropolitan Area Subway Network unfortunately stops running around midnight, but cabs are plentiful and reasonably-priced.
Jonathan Last’s humorous autobiographical novel “Teaching with Chopsticks: TEFL from the Frontline” is available to download to PC, smart phone and various e-book readers, such as Kindle, Kobo and Nook.
You can watch a video interview with him about the book on his blog.
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