I'm very happy to present you the second and final chapter of my 'Million' adventures, i.e. the tale of my Asian holidays that last September brought me to the fascinating Seoul. Fashionably late, I would like to share my highlights and impressions of a trip that made me discover a very modern and super technological city full of history, traditions and beauty (and I mean in the real sense of the term: I have never seen so many good looking people around!).
Let's start with the 'traditional' part. Despite numerous invasions that destroyed big part of the city heritage, it is still possible to admire the splendor of the imperial era in the 'Palace District'. There are five palaces and I would recommend visiting the Gyeongbokgun that is the oldest of the group, and Changdeokgung, which has been designated as UNESCO's World Heritage Site (don't miss its stunning rear garden also known as the 'Secret Garden'). But the two parts I loved most were Samcheongdong, a lively area full of cafes, art galleries and small fashion boutiques (basically my paradise!), and the nearby Bukchon Hanok Village with the traditional wooden hanok buildings.
Seoul is a modern city with vertiginous skyscrapers and contemporay buildings especially in the Gangnam area located south of the river; but it is also possible to spot an interesting fusion between the modern architecture and the Art Deco style of the old colonial structures that can be admired in the business district.
The other highlights of my trip were the visit to the Namdaemun market, an intricate labyrinth of stands and shops where you can buy anything you could think of; a walk in Garosugil to discover the local fashion boutiques (and please note that, with the exception of the miracle concealer, I did not buy anything!); and the amazing view and sunset from the top of the Namsan, a mini mountain at the centre of Seoul reachable via a cable car.
Possibly the most interesting part of the trip was the visit to the Demilitarized Zone (TMZ): the two Koreas are still officially at war and being so close to the conflict between two opposed ideologies was certainly a strange and moving experience.
But this travel diary would be incomplete without a special mention to the amazingly healthy local food. Korean cusine is simply excellent. The vegetarian bibimbap has become one of my favorite dishes and I loved the Korean barbecues with the tasty meat melting in your mouth. We also experienced the tipical Buddhist cuisine at Baru (a Temple Food restaurant in centre Seoul), and luckily Koreans are obsessed with good-quality coffee so I found in Paris Baguette a great place for delicious, continental-style breakfasts.
Now, to continue my 'Million' series, I only have to decide which part of Asia I would like to visit next.