I owe you an update. “How is Korea?” you keep asking me. I couldn’t answer it because that wouldn’t be fair. Korea cannot do well, and that is not because of Korea, but only because it is not Japan.
I went here because I was tired of waiting. Because I wanted to take matters into my own hands. But who was I really kidding? I’m still not allowed to enter Japan. They may be announcing something next week, but when it got out on Friday it just made me feel worse – like an ex who once ghosted you is suddenly popping up in your DMs again. Do I have to stress again? I’ve emailed everyone again, I’m all set to start. But I was gonna go to Busan… Should I still do that?
Well, I do know one thing: even if I have to go back to Seoul tomorrow, the trip to Busan was already worth it. Because as I write this, I am looking out from behind my desk in my hotel room on the fifteenth floor over a beautiful beach, the sea, and in the distance, if you zoom in to the maximum, the contours of the Japanese island of Tsushima.
I like it here in Busan a lot more than in Seoul. That probably has to do with the fact that it’s about ten degrees warmer here, and that I’m in a fancy tourist area, with new high-rise buildings and much less dilapidated buildings and rubbish on the street. Where I stay in Seoul is very central, so that’s nice, and there will probably be more modern areas too – I still have to check out Gangnam.
Of course I also tried to make it fun in Seoul, you’ve probably seen proof of that on my Instagram. Sometimes “that’s fun for Instagram” was the only reason to go somewhere. You may think that’s stupid, but with a burnout cloud hanging threateningly over me, and a negative voice that says “why would you, you can also just stay in bed”, every motivation is one. The disadvantage of the impending burnout is that I can barely get any work done for the rest of that day. About two days a week I have the energy to dive into code for a few hours. After that I’m empty, and that feeling is bad and dangerous, because it can throw me into a pit of depression. Tiredness and sadness feel almost the same, and my body no longer knows the difference. If I also eat badly, because I no longer have the energy to go to the convenience store and communicate with the cashier… Then I get into a vicious circle, and I don’t want that.
In short: I have to balance well. And I even have to keep some leftover energy for when Japan does open, because yes, then I have to do all that again. Once I get there I’m sure to feel happy, but until then it’s a lot of stress.
Anyway. So I started doing things. Most things happened to be very close to my hotel, yay for past me, who had no idea how Korea worked, but still picked the right locations. From my crappy hotel (8 Hours Seoul, I don’t know if I would recommend it, you shouldn’t have a problem with wallpaper coming off the walls, and being able to hear your neighbors conversation word for word – on the other hand, the staff is very nice and do they have a microwave for all your convenience store bentos), where was I, oh yeah, from my crappy hotel you can walk to the Seoul Tower, to Seoul Station via the Seoullo walkway (a former road that, in the context of green urban renewal, has been converted into a pedestrian promenade), to a number of underground malls and above-ground markets, and to a river that used to be a big fat highway, but which has now (oh, long live green urban renewal) been removed so that people can walk to their heart’s content. But the hotel is also close to a number of metro stations, so I took the metro to a Starbucks on the water, and to the electronics market where I was in my first week. I came back to take pictures. For the blog, and for the gram.
Hack for the autist-tourist
By the way, if you, like me, have trouble coming up with things to do, then I have a hack. It works almost all over the world. Step 1: In your map app, search for Starbucks. View the location photos for each Starbucks, until you find a special one. Go there. You will probably come across all kinds of interesting things along the way. Here in Busan I found a Starbucks in a gigantic high tower (and therefore also the viewing platform of this tower). In Seoul, I discovered that there was a Starbucks with a phenomenal view in Seoul Tower. To get there I took a crazy elevator and a cable car up. And although there was no exhibition in Seoul Wave, the Starbucks there was still a good excuse for a subway ride and walk along the Han river.
Sometimes the terms “vintage shop” and “second hand shop” also work, although I find that a bit disappointing in Korea so far. The big piles to dig in do exist (Instagram spams me every three posts with ads from Scrooge McDuck-size warehouses full of vintage clothing), but they can all be found outside the city, in places that are difficult to reach by public transport.
Oh yes, and then there is also “cool train”, “old tram” and more. Here in Busan there seems to be such a tram around the mountain. I will check that one out tomorrow. I came here with a Korean TGV look-a-like, which I saw driving earlier when I visited a not so successful electronics market. (Not the one in the photos.)
Okay, so that’s Korea. Interesting and, especially in the case of Busan, beautiful. Sometimes it’s okay to do something for the gram. Then at least you do something.