Seoul’s defeated me. Ten San Franciscos, a dozen Bostons, the third largest urban sprawl in the world. I’m in the megacity, and it has no reason to bother speaking my language.
Coming in from the airport, driving at sixty miles per hour, it wasn’t more than half an hour before the apartment buildings began. Buildings? High-rises: concrete masses rising fifteen or twenty stories into the sky, with three story high logos painted on one side. Samsung, Hyundai, others I don’t recognize. We pass high-rise after high-rise in rows along the highway, stacked close together and stretching far back from the road. It’s another twenty minutes before we get off the highway and enter the district where my hotel is. The apartment buildings continue the entire way.
New cities delight me. I want to smell the streets and eat the food and touch the landscape. Seoul hasn’t blunted that, but I fear that my senses would slip off the skin of the city without so much as a glimpse of its heart. I’m jetlagged and overwhelmed.
The hotel sits at a junction of roads. There’s a bridge crossing the Han River, and a ten lane surface street spearing into the middle of one fashionable shopping district, and another ten lane surface street paralleling the river. There may or may not be wider streets in Seoul, but there are many as wide. Surface streets, not highways.
Behind the facades of the main streets, there are tangles of tiny byways, barely big enough for two cars to pass. There aren’t blocks; there are turns and curves and angles intersecting unexpectedly, with business signs hanging overhead. Cars park where possible.
Is this Seoul? I have no way of knowing. It’s the tiny piece I’ve seen in a few days of transit from hotel to office to other office to restaurant and back again.
And I’m jetlagged, and I have no time for anything but business and sleep. I want a month with no responsibilities to wander around Seoul. I want more time to research.
I’m leaving tomorrow, and I haven’t got the faintest idea where I’d begin again.