Oppa, Gangnam Style! Smiling porcelain faces saunter along the streets that I, too, was lucky enough to grace. They hold on to their traditions in an ever-changing world that still remains laced with its rich history. The people are a juxtaposition as much as the view from Gyeongbokgung Palace is as it runs parallel to a sea of towering buildings.
Gangnam Style Tour: South Korea’s Challenges
I emerged from South Korea a greater player in Life’s game of Fate than I’ve ever been before. I accepted the short-term challenge of assimilating to a culture just as old as it is new. My tongue now craves the simple warmth (that grows into a fire in my throat) of kimchi cuisine. In addition, my senses are lacking without the red pepper spices that flare my nostrils and force a pleasant grin to my face.
Gangnam Style Tour: Soju and Neon Lights
But it was not just the Korean delicacies that yielded a smile. Oh no, for there was so much more that an adventure like this could contribute to when it comes to wonder and happiness in Seoul. Seoul is an Asian city that stands tall with its uniqueness and proudly displays its lifestyle in the sea of neon lights. It is a city that sleeps with soju on its breath and wakes with an ambition in its thoughts…
Gangnam Style Tour: Friendship and Romance
Life bustles from subways to street sides in Seoul. Life is outside of storefronts. It’s in plastic chairs that contain the memories of thousands melted into the plastic. Koreans are people who appreciate great friendship as well as great romance. I was reminded of this atop a romantic island in the city – Namsan Tower. Because surely it is best to start at the pinnacle in order to describe the panorama of lights below.
Gangnam Style Tour: Move into the Future
From a birds-eye-view, you see potential. One that grows brighter by the day. And as much as the city moves into the future, it doesn’t lose sight of love in the present moment. A love for each other, a love for taking advantage of every moment, and a love to reach for those stars with compassion in one hand and ambition in the other.
Gangnam Style Tour: Sound of Success
Aside from brisk metaphors, the city sounds of success. The happy jingle for subway trains is hard to forget and the hint of happiness is always audible in the busy streets. To bring these to life for a stranger, imagine walking down a paved road between high rises. They are adorned with neon signs always shining, whether they are on or not. Hungeul lines these lights with the likes of culinary magic, clothing trends, and unique features such as clever (and entirely too adorable) cat cafes.
Gangnam Style Tour: Korean Spirit
Happy porcelain faces enjoy life down the streets – always awake and always experiencing something. They live in a confident and proud culture, but they are able to strip it down in the likes of jimjilbangs, traditional Asian bathhouses which truly clean the spirit and awaken a feeling of beauty that is inspired by a sense of community.
There is a moment I shall sew fondly into my memory for eternity that did just that. Such a memory was the moment you reach the top of Bukhansan Mountain after hiking 2.6km lined with the beauty of Asia’s natural visage. It was a trail complete with whispering waterfalls and vibrant foliage. You are almost knocked out by the view, aside from being short of breath, as you see the mass of the city beneath you from the top of the world. Gazing down into the lives of millions, it is a view that was breathtaking for a simple traveler.
Gangnam Style Tour: My Favorite Part of Seoul
What was my favorite part of this city, though? Well, simply finding magic in the unlikely spaces. For instance, strolling through Hanok Village is quite a simple, yet captivating experience. The traditional Asian houses passed down for generations are all strewn down winding roads on their original foundations. You feel the life vibrating off of the walls and hear it even in complete silence. There is a beauty in tradition, even in the forms of architecture. Moreover, history is colored into the veins of the walls. Down below, one left turn down a strange street can lead you to your new favorite bubble tea place, a neighborhood bookstore, or a hidden gem serving spectacular bingsu.
Gangnam Style Tour: Collection of Memories
I collected many special moments along this journey. There was a night where I sat along the Cheonggyecheon stream drinking in the view and the beer in my hand. I sat amongst many locals, just enjoying the simple life in the semi-hidden spot whispering between the high rises. Then I watched as strangers threw their souls into the stream with coins marked as wishes. I smiled as the moon shined over me and smiled back. A memory and sweet serenity reminded me of the simplest forms of happiness.
Ah, yes, Seoul is a city that is full of endless contrasts and timeless beauty. It’s a trip I’ll never forget and one that has left me changed. Surely a life is to be lived. Moments of it belong in this city.