People Watching

6 Oct

 

I saw this family admiring some art that was on display in the park in Hongdae.

I saw this family admiring some art that was on display in the park in Hongdae.

Seoul is a fascinating city for people watching because if you watch for long enough, you are certain to find someone doing something interesting.  Some of my favourite are the ajjeoshis that have had one too many bottles of soju, the ajummas that can carry half their body weight on their backs or heads, or the young couples at various stages in their relationships.

There are also the unique circumstances or people that you encounter.  I have seen music videos, dramas and television commercials being shot.  There are areas that you are sure to see live music or busking on the street.  There are the elderly who have lived through the Korean War and have seen Seoul grow from almost nothing to one of the most populated cities in the world and young kids who cannot imagine there was a world without smart phones and wifi.

While you can take advantage of people watching at any time, in any part of Seoul, here are some of my favourite ways to go about it.

The Han River Park

One of my favourite places to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in Seoul is the Han River Park.  If you get bored of people watching you can read a book, nap, play catch or rent a bike (or roller skates, or a tandem bike).  You will see Seoulites come for the whole day with their friends or families.  They pitch tents and set up camp for an intense day of relaxation and fun.

Head down on your own, or with a group of friends.  You can pack a lunch, buy streetfood, a pizza or chicken to bring down with you.  Bring or buy a picnic blanket, grab some beer, wine or soju at the CVS conveniently located in the park.  This is a classic go to activity on a nice day.

Directions (subway): From Yeouinaru Station Exit 3 or 5, head down to the Han River Park. You cannot miss it!

Hongdae:

Hongdae is a fun area. It is close to a prestigious art college, Hongik University which makes it a gathering place for an interesting group of artists and musicians.  There are lots of cafes, bars and restaurants to set up camp here.  Day or night in Hongdae, you are sure to see something interesting.

Directions: Hongik University Station (line 2), Hapjeong Station (line 2 or 6) or Sangsu Station (line 6)

This little pub reminded me of a hobbit hole.  It also had some comfy chairs outside for people to sit, drink, eat snacks, watch, whatever.

This little pub reminded me of a hobbit hole. It also had some comfy chairs outside for people to sit, drink, eat snacks, watch, whatever.

There are many streets like this in Hongdae that have lost of restaurants and cafes that you can get a coffee, or a meal and sit outside and watch the world.

There are many streets like this in Hongdae that have lost of restaurants and cafes that you can get a coffee, or a meal and sit outside and watch the world.

The Local CVS:

Seoul has no laws against imbibing in public.  At first I thought this would not affect my life. I didn’t really think about it until I went to a Scottish festival on Prince Edward Island last summer. My family and I were sequestered to a tent area with our beer like savages.  I could not see the sheepdog presentations from there and it was a shame.

7eleven, or CU drinking is wonderful because it is outside, there are a variety of drinks avalible and it is cheap.

I know that I said that Han River Park was my favourite, but I retract that statement.  The local 7eleven or CU is my favourite place to hang out and people watch.  The convenience stores in Korea often set up plastic tables and chairs with umbrellas out on the street to encourage people to stay out front to eat and drink.  More often than not, there is a decent selection of local and import beers, soju, makgeolli and wine. Obviously there are many different kinds of snacks to choose from including crackers, chocolate, cookies, ramen and gimbap, for example.

I also love saving money.  The convenience stores sell beer cheaper than you would get it at a bar or restaurant. They also offer imported beers.  Many times the beers offered at a convenience store are much more varied than the average hof.  But they also offer soju, makgeolli and wine. Buying a bottle of wine is usually fairly expensive in a restaurant or bar.  At a convenience store it is the same price you woiuld get it at the super market.

All you need to do is walk around, keep your eye out for a plastic table and chairs, go inside and purchase your snacks then sit back and watch your surroundings.

Directions: Most likely, less than 500 metres from wherever you are in Seoul.

MiniStop

You can find a set up like this on almost every street. There is a plethora of snacks and drinks to choose from in the convenient store. I think this is an activity that cannot be missed if you are visiting South Korea.

If you find yourself in Seoul with nothing to do, or are looking for a relaxing activity, try people watching.  Why do we travel if not to experience a new culture?  What better way to experience a new culture than to watch what people do during their day to day lives.

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