ugly landscape, obviously
Korea was the second Asian country I visited, and by my third day there, I thought for every minute of every day that I was never going back.

I had just spent two months in Japan and had expected Korea to be the same, just you know, a little dirtier, a little less modern. This is how people who had been there explained it to me – confusing culturally, but high-tech, clean and generally awesome. It turned out, they had all only really been to Seoul. Which is a LOT like a Japanese city, but even nicer (more artsy, more green, cheaper, more cosmopolitan).

But for the rest of the country, I couldn't have been more wrong. I arrived to Busan by ferry from Japan and in the ferry terminal, where everything seemed ok. Then I arrived at my hostel in the middle of the cities fish market. There were people selling live crabs which they killed with a blow to the head, just 2 metres in front of a fancy department store. Girls were dressed incredibly frumpy, even compared to rural southern Japan. Guys kept staring at me at best, spitting at me usually and swearing at me at worst (especially when they were drunk, which was always). Restaurants and shops shouted at me when I tried to eat or buy something there – to this day, I haven't figured out what.

And the sights? I was comparing everything with Japan, all the time. The temples weren't pretty enough, the mountains not high enough, the food not fancy enough. Not even the vending machines were the same! Now, when I look at my pictures from Korea, I want to smack myself. Hard. It's a beautiful country with a unique culture and breathtaking countryside.
why on earth did I think this was not pretty enough?
On the other hand, there was much kindness. So much that as the egomanic, self-reliant German that I am, I was deeply confused. If a total stranger offers this much hospitality, surely he must have something else in mind! Hostel owners, other random people at hostels and also a girl I only met once before as she was dragged along by a friend to my dinner party in London: all of them invited me to stay with their families, eat with them, spend every minute of the day with them. If someone on a market in a developing country clings to my arm and tries to sell me something, I have no problem with it. But this pure kindness is something I'd never experienced. I didn't even see it was kindness until about a month after I left. I had no idea what it was, so I got scared and ran away to my room.
market in Busan, sans fish
After I've seen most other East and South East Asian countries, my time in Korea stands out as one of the best I've ever had, even in spite of the killer mosquitoes that ate me when I was in Seoul and being a grumpy loner wherever I stayed (people always gave me plenty of soju to change that).

I would like to say, I'm sorry Korea! I hope you can forgive me – and I hope to see you again soon!

I really, really, really want to go back and take it all in, with the attitude I should have had the first time I went – no two places are ever the same.  
what a horrible city!


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