Exploring Seoul; Fitzroy’s best street; the Chinese Grange.
THE KOREAN CAPITAL – PILED HIGH WITH HISTORY, HIGH-RISES, AS WELL AS INVENTIVE FOOD, FUN AND A LIBERAL HELPING OF DAILY HAND GESTURES.
You could almost feel sorry for Seoul. Almost. It’s a thriving Asian metropolis in its own right – a place of exquisite food, pumping bars, high fashion and low fuss, and yet the Korean capital somehow escapes most travellers’ notice who are sidetracked by flashy neon upstarts like Tokyo and Shanghai. The thing about Seoul, however, is that anonymity is part of its charm. This is a city that’s recognisably similar, and yet so different, from its Asian neighbours. Yes, the food’s amazing – Michelin just released its first Red Guide to the city’s restaurants – but the flavours are unique. The shopping, too, is world class, but there’s plenty you’ll find in Seoul that you won’t see in Japan or China. And the city’s bar scene, from the K-pop madness of Hongdae to the glitz of Gangnam, is something all of its own. Seoul is by no means filled with worldfamous attractions of immediate interest. There’s no Eiffel Tower or Sydney Opera House equivalent. Rather, this is a city whose charms take time to uncover, whose small rituals like bathhouse visits, barbecue feasts and soju-soaked evenings at hole-inthe-wall dens require patience to both find and truly appreciate. That’s not something to feel sorry for, either, it’s something to savour.