Last year around this time I spent a month in Seoul. For no logical reason I did not find much time to blog, but, needless to say, there were many colourful experiences worth describing. I found a draft post today, so I think it will be the best to start with completing it and write about the nightlife in Seoul.
Seoul is a huge and lively city, which feels as if it is very much still in the making. Most of the time it looked to me as if people there suddenly woke up and realised: hey look, we are rich and urbanised, so it’s time to start developing the kind of lifestyle that other megapolises have! Big city habits of not disturbing one another as much as possible are still not there (people would stand in the doorways of subway trains, playing with their cellphones, and they never apologised for bumping into others or anything else), but the quantity of people allows increasing diversity of cultural and leisure activities, and thus Seoul feels very urban and youthful. I would guess that the number of universities per capita is higher than in any other city I have visited. Most of South Korea’s universities are concentrated in Seoul. This makes the Hongdae area, where the main universities are, the most lively nightlife spot. One of the universities is the Ewha Womans (sic) University – the world’s largest female-only higher education institution (see explanation on unconventional English). I heard young Koreans joke that Ewha students are very fashion-conscious and popular with men, but the undeniable reality is that this is the university that produces women leaders in every field. Apparently, they are good at juggling multiple identities.
Unlike most East Asians, Koreans appear to have good tolerance for alcohol. Global and local types of alcohol are consumed in large quantities, but I never saw people throwing up or becoming aggressive. Clubs tend to be big, crowded and somewhat monotonous, but the atmosphere is very pleasant and safe, and I never felt out of place being a white foreigner. It was always fun simply observing the big crowd moving to the same rhythm, although I did not find clubs that play the kind of music I like.
One very special event I had a chance to experience was a silent disco. People gathered in a park in Hongdae, received headphones and listened/danced to the music they heard in them, with no noise coming outside. This is good on many levels – no problems with neighbours, the idea is original and people of different musical preferences can still go out and dance together. It is not unique to Korea – silent discos take place in many cities, but Seoul was were I experienced this special event. It has a facebook page in case you consider attending one of those in Korea.