I have figured out why I keep coming back to South Korea. There are at least 5 things I like about this country.
#1 Food, especially seafood jambong and Busan’s fish cake. Among the stalls in Dongdaemun, Yeongdeungpo and Sindorim, the last one kept me going back for more seafood jambong. The shellfish is fresh and juicy; the soup piping hot. There is more seafood than noodles in that bowl. Busan’s fish cake at Jagalchi Fish Market beats the ones I have tried in Seoul in price and taste. A fair amount of emphasis is placed on healthy food too, judging from the kinds of merchandise available such as the numerous brands of bottled 100% tea with no sugar content. There is an interesting tea with oriental raisins which is supposed to be good for the liver and hangovers. And I have yet to come across another place with as many 24/7 convenience stores so far.
#2 Environmental responsibility. This is most evident in the way Koreans sort their trash into different categories such as plastics/recyclables, food waste and general non-perishables in bags before discarding them. Apparently, that is required by law. Nami Island is so far my favorite tourist attraction, not only for the scenery or filming sites but in the way nature is preserved while meeting human needs using natural materials such as wood and stone. Synthetics, if used, are recyled items like glass bottles and plastic caps.
#3 Creativity. I like the fact that Nami Island supports UNICEF. There, everyone including foreigners is a Naminarian. They make a conscious effort to promote creativity on a global scale, as in the children’s book writing competition and inviting world-reknown personalities to their events to share insights from their creative experience. Even visitors to Seoul are encouraged to submit their videos in a competition. I have noticed that many buildings have sculptures gracing their entrances, from the elegant to the quirky. There is also a sense of humor in some of these creations, many of them on Nami Island, even in the case of the public toilets there.
#4 Cleanliness. This is where I get an extra kick out of my travels just because there are clean toilets around. The cleaning workers do a great job. I am impressed by the lady patiently cleaning pipes lining the curbs outside Busan station, digging into gaps to clear debris instead of simply flushing the pavement with a water jet. That’s taking pride and showing integrity in one’s work. Cool. You go girl!
#5 The railway system. It connects to many cities of interest. Seoul connects to cities as near as Incheon and as far as Busan. The network is complex enough so there is flexibility to customize your itinerary and reduce costs. Fares are reasonable and transits are smooth once you get the hang of it. The trains announce the name of every station in Korean and English while it is being flashed on screen in every car. Station staff are helpful and proactive. One in Busan came to change my
W5000 note into W1000 ones when I was about to slot a W5000 note into a machine that accepts only W1000 ones. Smile, Big Brother’s watching.
The list may change or get longer but, for now, it’s good.