All of us have favorite places on the planet. My hometown is a nostalgic place. Philadelphia and Tokyo always hold a special place in my heart because I studied in both of those cities. With travel and historical knowledge, I have come to love places like Macau, Rangoon, and Hong Kong.
One place I had visited and liked, but not loved, was Seoul, South Korea. I had been there several times but never had the one experience for which everyone lusts when they go to a new place while traveling. Whether it is meeting new friends, having an amazing meal, or just having a great night out on the town, we need an experience to solidify our love for a city when we travel. During my most recent trip to Seoul, I had that experience.
During our second night out in the city, my friend and I decided that we would head out in the early darkness to take some photography of the masses in famous spots like Hongdae and Myongdong. Our accommodation was located right in the heart of Hongdae, so we headed out to do some people watching as the sun began to set on this balmy June evening. People of all ages were out and about chatting, playing, and enjoying the evening.
From there, were off into the Hongdae night, not knowing what to expect nor what waited for us.
For those of you who have never been to the Hongdae area, it is quite a happening place at night. Situated next to Hongik University, lots of young Seoulites, Westerners, and tourists pack the area for some of the best nightlife in all of Asia. Nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and a lively street music scene make this quite the happening place.
Further down the main street, shops are filled with patrons as the streets teem with people heading to their destination for the evening. The glistening lights, talking masses, and smell of grilling food make for a unique atmosphere.
As we approached the famous jaywalking intersection– where Koreans and visitors alike disregard crosswalks and cross at will– an interesting tune came to our ears. A younger man was singing in English and in Korean so we approached the growing crowd to have a listen. Sure enough, he knew how to handle a crowd. His band filled the evening with some great scores and kept the Korean crowd engaged and excited in between each one of his songs. Then, suddenly, he stopped singing and called my friend and I into the middle of the circle. He wanted to talk to us and translate for the Korean onlookers. After a while he asked us about from where we had come.
When I responded that I was from Pennsylvania, things got very interesting. As it turns out, he went to high school at a place called Lower Dauphin, about 40 minutes north of my hometown. They were in the same athletic conference as my hometown high school so we had an instant connection. As he explained to the Korean crowd how close our hometowns were, he decided to sing us a tribute song, wishing us well on our journey and travel in Korea. These types of moments when you travel are what make you never forget a place. Please watch some of the video as he took my phone and sang for us and then got the Korean crowd involved, chanting the chorus and wishing us well for the remainder of our stay in Seoul.
As soon as he struck his first chord, the crowd came alive and sang along with him, much to my delight. He sang and they chanted with him in a booming voice. The energy continued to build as they sang for three minutes to wish us well on our journey.
Certain nights or events in our life create opinions and strong feelings for people, places, or things. This song and the openness of the Korean people certainly changed my opinions surrounding Seoul. This was the night I fell in love with Seoul. I need to come back again to truly develop an appreciation and understanding of the city and its complexities.
I have only ever felt this way about one other city in Asia, Tokyo, and I have been living in Japan and making frequent trips to Tokyo for the last two years.