Observations of a first visit to Seoul

by Jason -- July 5, 2011

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of my father, Barry Demant. Sharon and I were excited to host both him and my Mom at the end of May in Seoul for nearly 2 weeks. This was their first trip to Korea, as well as Asia.  The primary goal that Sharon and I had set was to get them to try as many different types of food as possible. Overall I think we were successful. Reflecting on the trip, I now present Barry Demant…


My wife Diane and I (Barry) had the distinct pleasure of visiting our son Jason and his wife Sharon for 12 days. Having never visited South Korea, we remained open minded but probably more nervous (at least initially) about the very long 12-hour trip from San Francisco to Seoul.

This summation is our thoughts and observations regarding our visit.

  1. Singapore Airlines is truly an amazing airline. The service, comfortable seats (and yes with a pillow and blanket), delicious food and the many movies you can watch, made the 12 hour flight very easy for us.
  2. Incheon International Airport was incredible. The striking difference is customs, by far. They greet you with a smile and don’t ask questions as they do in Canada…”why are you here”, “how long are you staying”, “who are you visiting”, “what are you selling”,  etc.
  3. Getting to Seoul from the airport is difficult on public transportation. Yes, it’s simple to follow the maps (like BART in San Francisco) and it’s not like the NYC subway maze, but for the weary older traveler it takes quite a bit of endurance and patience after a 12 hour flight. If you have large luggage (and we did), it is hard to get on the escalators. For some reason, they have this 3 foot post in front of every darn escalator, making it difficult to maneuver around with a heavy large suitcase.
  4. The subways are buried deep and have a large underground that I’m sure would save millions of South Koreans if the crazy Kim Jong-il decides to bomb South Korea.
  5. Younger teenage girls wear t-shirts that display English words that are very suggestive, make no sense, or have obvious spelling errors. We were convinced that they had no clue what the shirts said. One very young teen (14?) had the words “feel me” across her t-shirt.  As I said, they have no clue. Hey, it’s English and it’s cool. Whatever.
  6. Kids were staring at us like we were aliens or yelling “hi” as we went up and down escalators at the subway. One child actually went nose to nose with my son, Jason, examining him like he was science project. At first we were startled but it blossomed into some laughter.
  7. Pushing and getting knocked around during rush hour on the trains is a normal occurrence. No one minds and no one apologies. It took me about 3 days to stop saying “whoops” or “I’m sorry”.
  8. Many of the signs all over the country are also translated to English. My favorite one was the Espresso Cappuccino sign translated to: Esopreso Cafuccino.
  9. After observing my daughter in-law Sharon teaching the third graders, as I was leaving I felt like a rock star as all the kids were giggling,  yelling hello and giving me high fives. It was surreal.
  10. Koreans look incredibly healthy! You’d be hard pressed to find an obese person.
  11. There are no garbage cans anywhere to be seen in the subways, yet it is amazing how clean it is and there is virtually no litter to be found.
  12. Diane and I travelled north to the DMZ. South Koreans are not allowed to visit this area, only foreigners. That goes for casinos as well, only foreigners. When we visited the border, we entered a large room where in 1953, the N and S Koreans signed an Armistice agreement. We remain at war but will not fight. Say what?  Our visit ended by stepping literally a few yards into North Korean territory looking at the guards with machine guns posted everywhere. When I was younger, I visited the Berlin wall. Same attitude, same feeling.  It really is worth seeing.
  13. If you ever visit Seoul, you will love their food! My favorite dish was bibimbap. I would suggest Googling bibimbap.


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