Images of Seoul

I hope this slide show (click on an image to see a large view) will convey the feeling of vastness that Seoul inspires with its population of over 10 million people. The city is literally growing upward.

However, thanks to the mountainous landscape a visitor never gets the feeling of sinking in the sea of concrete buildings. Hills and mountains create autonomous neighborhoods, and architects and city planners did a good job of making those areas appealing to visitors’ eyes. Modern parts of Seoul are built with the vision that looks into the near future: streets are wide and spacious to accommodate present and future traffic flow. City planners remembered to preserve parks and green areas. In fact, around and in parts of Seoul there are at least 7 vast parks with over 17 mountains, cut rocks and tall trees. Seoul metropolitan area is used for hiking, which is a national pastime in Korea. In short, there are many areas within the city and just outside of it that can be successfully utilized by people who are looking to escape from urban life on weekends and during vacations.

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Coffee place for moms

Most of us have been to Chucky-cheese or other places of this kind that offer indoor activities for kids. They would have been a perfect get-away for moms, except what is there for a parent to do other than run along with the kids and dive into a bin of colorful balls? Most parents end-up just standing next to a playground to ensure their precious one is not pushed, shoved or kidnapped. In Korea I have just found out an agreeable alternative to Chucky-Cheese where moms and dads also can do things that adults typically enjoy doing.

I was invited to a French-like coffee place “Olibollen,” located near Korean Folk Village (a famous tourist attraction of Korea in Gyeonggi Province). What surprised me most were the thoughtful amenities that this café offers to customers with kids, so that parents can enjoy some trendy cup of coffee in the company of adults while their kids are having fun with other kids. I guess what sets this place apart and gives it a more adult feel is the menu, which is awfully similar to an Altera coffee place in Milwaukee. The menu would satisfy even the pickiest of the hipsters with various types of coffee (hot, cold, blended, with/without add-ons), various types of teas, blended milk or juice drinks, and pastries. There are many tables in the quiet back yard of the café under a secure shade among the flowerpots. The menu and interior design gears more towards a studying student with the abundance of the coffee selection, yet it also has plenty to offer to entertain kids for a while. In the back of the café there is a glass-walled room of two levels with various toys, equipped according to the safety codes with soft cushions and childproof toys. There is a large selection of books on the bookshelves and a large magnet blackboard with magnet numbers, letters and shapes. Everyone who enters the sitting down or playing side of the cafe has to take off shoes. In other words, the café is really clean. As an add-on, every hour on the hour there is a cooking class for kids arranged in the area next to the kitchen. This cooking area is spacious and bright, and has plenty of baking equipment. Kids stand around a semi-circled table and the chef directs the process from the center. The cookies will be baked here and kept in the fridge until the parents are ready to leave. In short, I think this is a very fresh idea for a kid’s place where parents receive a major upgrade in menu and style.

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Plastic wrappers

When visiting Korea, one can’t help but notice the difference in product wrapping. In the US I felt there was a variety of wrapping styles: bottles, boxes, paper, baggies, plastic jackets, cans, tins, etc. Here, although all these packaging styles mentioned above do exist, still overwhelmingly I see plastic jackets are used far more often everywhere and on everything. Especially when it comes to food packaging. If you buy a box of cookies, they will be individually wrapped in plastic jackets inside the box. Wrapping cookies in this fashion makes absolute sense, since it preserves the crispiness of cookies in this humid climate. However, it does not explain why they chose this thin plastic to wrap up everything else including clothes, stationary, cosmetic products, toys, etc. I am not a die-hard environmentalist, so I cannot say whether 10 of these thin plastic jackets are any better than 10 plastic boxes for recycling purposes, but it is just so bizarre to have almost everything wrapped up in a plastic jacket with an adhesive strip to close it as if it were an envelope. If any of you could answer what’s up with individual plastic wrapping, let me know. For now, just enjoy my gallery to see what I mean.

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