When I completed my around the world Sabbatical in 2007 a very astude individual asked me to identify one over-riding observation from my travels. I concluded that the rest of the world is much more sophisticated than most North Americans think it is.
I thought of this travelling around Seoul yesterday. The subway system is one of the most technologically sophisticated I have experienced with excellent ticket dispensing, smart cards, attractive clean cars, easy to understand graphics and directions in English as well as Korean.
I was also impressed with the character of the downtown....much greener than I expected, in part due to the Cheonggyecheon Project that resulted in the removal of roads and elevated roadways that were in need of considerable repair (remember this when comparing with Vancouver's Viaducts) and transformation of the area into a green ribbon running through the downtown.
The architecture is often quite remarkable and I'll describe this more later. But there were a few buildings that I couldn't stop taking photos of including the new City Hall complex, although I'm not sure if I will like it when it's finished.
One thing that struck me was how well dressed and fit so many of the people were. The young men and women looked like they have walked off the set of Madmen (with some obvious differences) insofar as the men wore white shirts and often ties and the ladies wore skirts, not pants, and were very well dressed and made up.
I now know why the Koreans are such good golfers. At lunch time they can test out new Titliest drivers in the heart of the city! There are also lots of video facilites around the city.
I found the city to be very clean with virtually no graffiti nor chewing gum or cigarette butts on the ground. Perhaps this is a function of where I travelled, but I'll watch out for it.
I was amused by some of the posters I saw around town and especially in the subway!
The following posts describe in more detail the subway system, the Cheonggyecheon Project and other sites from my first full day in Seoul.
Finally, I want to thank all the helpful people who made my day so special. The first person to offer directions was a very elegant and dapper man. He was Byung Soo Kim MD, PhD, DH(Hon), LLD(Hon), the former President of both Yonsei University and CHA University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
I might not have arranged trains to Yeosu and hotel accommodation there had it not been for Jeong Jin Ok who went above and beyond the call of duty, and Park Ki Hyun of Shinhan Bank who arranged a necessary wire transfer of funds. While credit cards seem to be accepted unversally here, and I have had no difficulty with cash machines, I was told that the hotel booked in Yeosu preferred a wire transfer, rather than an international credit card. Mmmmm. Something to remember if you are planning to come. More about this later