Going to Japan for 6 weeks, we decided to stopover in Seoul, South Korea for a night to get a glimpse of the city. Knowing it was way too short to visit the capital, we decided to literally run it.
After a 10-hour flight, we go through high-tech customs smoothly, and hop on a comfortable air-conditioned bus linking the city centre in one hour: 6-lane highways, busy and clean streets, shops organized by areas and goods: electronics, furniture, fashion…, food stalls, markets, massive and very long bridges, modern buildings, traditional gates, fountains, skyscrapers…
Our first run in the late afternoon (37°C!) takes us from our hotel in the busy shopping district of Myeongdong to the foot of the N Seoul tower via the forest of Namsan Park. A beautiful running track runs along the pedestrian streets, surrounded by all sorts of flowers, birds and waterfalls. Older Koreans work out hiking the trails, others enjoy the nature sitting on benches, teenagers play soccer, families take a stroll, and after many stairs we arrive at the foot of the famous tower where couples take selfies. Indeed, taking in the 360° panoramic view on this 10-million-inhabitant city (not counting the 15-million in the suburbs) is baffling: the Han river running through skyscrapers bathed in the sunset light surrounded by densely forested mountains. Running back down along parts of the fortress wall of Seoul we feel it is a pity we don’t have time to do the 17-km loop along the wall, going up and down all around the city.
The next morning, needing to burn a 4-person meal after an interesting food experience in downtown Seoul, we wake up with the sun on our faces and a spectacular view on the city.
We head North West through the Myeongdong shopping area that is really quiet at 8 in the morning contrasting greatly with the animation at night; along the crystal-clear waters of the Cheonggyecheon stream towards the main gate of the impressive Gyeongbokgung Palace, or the palace of happiness, and largest of the 5 grand palace complexes of Seoul built by the Joseon dynasty in the 14th century.
Following its very long side wall, we end up in the peaceful residential area of Bukchon Hanok village with its traditional Korean houses or Hanok dating back to the same dynasty. Running through the narrow streets among 600-year old houses, we overlook downtown Seoul and its skyscrapers. Before looping back, we take in the beautiful UNESCO Heritage Site of Changgyeonggung palace, the palace of illustrious virtue. As the other palaces, it looks beautiful today but was rebuilt after being severely damaged over the years by the Japanese invasions of Korea.
These runs gave us a very brief overview of what the city has to offer and allowed us to discover different parts of town in the short amount of time we had. The mix of 14th century buildings and modern architecture, the peacefulness of parks and the bustling city, wide avenues and narrow alleys… There is so much to discover…
Marcella and Claire