I spent a delightful week in Seoul, South Korea, to attend the MobiSys annual conference. In the process I explored the city, took two hikes, and captured a nice gallery of photos. After the break, a few highlights and observations.
- I strolled through a huge market that sold nothing but dried fish, dried shellfish, and dried seaweed – mostly, teeny tiny fish, or ground fish. Incongruously, in the middle of the market was a British couple making crepes for passing customers.
- I walked half of the Namsan Circuit, which circumnavigates the verdant Namsan Hill park in the center of the city, then walked up and over the hill, following the restored ruins of the ancient city walls.
- On a blue-sky day I hiked with a friend to the top of Baegundae Mountain, on the northern edge of the city; we were lucky to conclude the hike before noon because there were hundreds of people ascending as we came down. The views were spectacular and the summit terrain impressively steep.
- Early one morning I explored the streets of the Bukchon neighborhood, with its traditional hanok-style houses and picturesque alleys and tiny gardens.
- With a former postdoc I toured the two major palaces – Changdeokgung and Geyongbokgung, including the secret gardens at the latter. Beautifully restored, these extensive palaces date back to ~1400 C.E.
- I experienced so many new tastes in a delectable set of meals, from a tiny noodle shop in the Insadong neighborhood, to an intensely innovative meal at Jungstix cafe (below), to a series of traditional Korean dinners with a dozen or more dishes.
- I explored the peaceful grounds of the Bongeunsa Buddhist temple, right across the street from my hotel.
- I rode to the top of the tallest building in Korea – the 6th tallest building in the world – for sunset views from their observation deck. Magical!
- Although it was chilly and rainy for the first few days, the final four days were beautiful – sunny and perfect temperature. I’m told I was lucky to avoid the air pollution that sometimes blows in from China.
- Seoul is incredibly well organized, easy to navigate, clean, and pleasant.
- The metro system is efficient, organized, easy to use, supportive of people with disability, and spotlessly clean.
- On the metro I once watched an elderly man enter the train with cane. Although the car was mostly empty, people stood up to give him a seat. Between stops, he stood up, used both hands to grasp the handrail overhead, swung back and forth a few times, then did six overhand pull-ups!
- Indeed, on both hikes I saw numerous 70-something people out walking or hiking. A very fit population!
- The Namsan Circuit is a paved pathway through a peaceful, green park, encircling Namsan Hill. I was there in early morning and shared the path mostly with older adults out for their morning walk; they would pause at the periodic exercise stations to work out on the various machines, or take off their shoes to walk on the red clay path. The park is immaculately kept – workers were busy picking up every dropped leave or broken branch. I diverted from my circumnavigation to climb the steep steps to the summit of the hill, where I found the top of the cable-car station and a tourist tower that enables visitors to take in the view over the city – at the station there were thousands of locks clipped to the railings, more than I’ve ever seen at similar sites around the world. I needed video to really capture the immense collection.