Rainy Myeongdong Nights

Weathermen are the only people on the planet who can be wrong every single day of their life and still have people hanging on their every word. During my last night in Seoul, I learned that Korean weathermen are no different than American weatherman- their forecasts are meaningless. IMG_3788For my trip to the DMZ earlier in the day, the weather forecast called for an 80 percent chance of driving winds and rain. Luckily for my friend and I there was nothing more than drizzle and some low-lying, eerie, clouds. That evening promised to be clear and cool, but we would have no such luck this February night in Seoul. As we walked out of the hotel with our polka-dotted umbrellas, unexpected raindrops fell and peppered our shoulders. Mother Nature wanted to rain on our parade through Seoul, but we would not allow it.

Tonight’s sudden rain rain mixed with Myeongdong’s bustling streets and provided a window into how the city shifts gears from dry to wet in a matter of moments. There were also some great photographic opportunities.

Myeongdong’s side streets turned into glistening gates into the city’s heart. IMG_3798

Umbrellas filled the streets and shielded shoppers from the unexpected evening showers. IMG_3828 copyIMG_3847 copy

Hoards of shoppers, locals, and tourists alike flowed effortlessly through the narrow streets much like the way the ocean shifts around barriers as the tide comes in and out. Shopkeepers and stands became obstacles to the crowd, but they were not barriers. IMG_3947 copy

Passersby listened to shopkeepers peddling their products and continued into the bright Myeongdong night. IMG_3868 copy

Somehow even this woman maintained some sort of order in front of her store. IMG_3973

As the masses crammed into narrow alleys and pranced down the glistening Myeongdong streets through this rain shower, other characters of the night also emerged. A woman accosted foreign tourists into her massage parlor. A man tried to sell us selfie sticks for our cell phones, but a cool cat was also on the prowl. A local cat cafe mascot was wandering the streets, looking for customers. Much like his feline cousins, he wanted nothing to do with the rain. IMG_3903.JPG

And then it was over. As quickly as the rain started, it tapered off and stopped. Bustling life in Myeongdong returned to normal and the memories of glistening Myeongdong were gone as quickly as they started.

Every dog, and cat, as the adage goes, has his day. As the rain stopped, he could return to normal work. IMG_4020 copy

With each passing hour and new experience in Seoul, the city’s mystique and charm grows on me. As readers here know, I fell in love with Seoul many months ago, but its alluring ambiance is quickly making it as appealing as Tokyo for me. You never know what you will see or get on any given night in one of the busiest parts of one of the world’s most bustling metropolises.

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The Night I Fell in Love With Seoul

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.

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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.

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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.

Soon thereafter