Without a doubt, one of my very favourite things about Korea is the way the streets come alive at night.
It is actually hard to describe it all in a way that paints an accurate picture for anyone who’s never been here: the hustle and bustle of late-night shoppers; the market stalls selling jewellery and handbags well into the wee small hours; the numerous food carts where you can perch on a bench at the counter to eat your hot and spicy snacks (washed down with soju, obviously!); the party-goers moving in noisy but good-humoured swarms from bar to club, or simply sitting outside the convenience stores enjoying a drink in the warm weather; the flashing neon lights on the buildings that go up, and up, and up; the ear-splitting music blasting from pubs and clubs and shops and passing advertising trailers; the mingling scents of spices and BBQ smoke and fish and alcohol and kimchi; the roaring scooters whose drivers zoom through the crowds throwing handfuls of fliers in the air. It’s an aggressive assault on all your senses, but for some reason it’s easy to forgive. It’s exciting, crazy, strange, at times bewildering, occasionally a little overwhelming. It’s everything I expected from modern Asian cities, and so, so much more.
This is possibly what I will miss most when I return to Europe. Much as I love the cobblestone streets and quaint town squares, it will be extremely difficult to get used to restaurants/bars actually closing at some point during the night, and the city gradually becoming quiet and calm. It will be odd not to stop at a rickety old van to snack on some fish-on-a-stick, and it will be strange to be surrounded by artistic, understated signs rather than crude, multicoloured flashing lights whose purpose seems to be to temporarily blind the passer-by.
And where else in the world am I going to be able to casually pause at a street stall on a hot summer’s evening to purchase a cool, refreshing, freshly-mixed cocktail in a bag?!
When we stumbled across this stall (on Sunday evening, on an ordinary street in town), I turned into a tourist all over again, so delighted was I with the discovery that such a thing exists in the world. It’s like a Slurpee/Slush Puppie for adults! The guys at the stall were very good-humoured, and didn’t mind that I was posing for photos at their place of business, particularly since we each bought a bag of our favourite cocktail and were entertainingly enthusiastic about it. :)
Korea by night: absolutely love it!
[Some pics stolen from friends. I’m sure they won’t mind! Waiting for monsoon season to end so that I can finally get out and about with my new camera and get photographs of everything!]