Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 1 – 6: (23-28/3/10) Seoul - 0km

Well, we could tell you about temples and palaces, shopping (for camera tripods) and parks. But the highlights of our time in Seoul were the accommodating folks who welcomed us into their homes and got us started on our trip around this country.

The Couch Surfing site, through which people with a spare ‘couch’ (or floor space, and a willingness to share it) offer to host likeminded travelers, led us to Aimee, who brokered our way into Korean culture. She is a freewheeling American who has been in Seoul for a year teaching English, studying to be a yoga teacher and gardening at the local communal plot. She taught us etiquette, led us to bars and introduced us to the delicious snacks (spring onion pancakes ..mmm) that accompany drinks such as dong dong ju (fermented rice spirit).

Through Warmshowers, a site designed for cycle tourists with such eponymous needs, we met Will and Jully, who worked us in another layer deeper into Korea. They welcomed us into their warm abode, provided home cooked meals that we have been trying to emulate ever since and took us hiking in Bukhansan National Park. They also answered with patience our endless questions about Korean language and culture.

These two are an incredible adventurous couple who humble us in their bike touring achievements. They have not only cycled from Cairns to Sydney on folding bikes with trailers, but also have done 12,000km in Africa, at one very remote stage eating only potatoes as they searched for the next town with supplies. Will is in the final stages of writing a book about their journey, and we eagerly await the translation into English.

Now in the olden days, pre-internet, when I last did a year of travelling, these networks were much more hidden if they existed at all. Perhaps a few days of hanging around in a city, asking lots of questions and you might be lucky enough to find a local or expat to welcome you in. It is very suitable, in this country of net-addicts and ubiquitous unsecured wireless networks, that we should now use online networking to find our feet here. The benefit that we have gained from staying with these two people seems to far outweigh that which we can offer them. But our hosts both alluded to the fact that they have stayed with people in other countries and in a way, this is their way of paying it back… or forward…

Sights of Seoul


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