|The Cheonggyecheon Stream in the middle of Seaul cools the temperature of the city and surrounding areas by over three degrees celcius.[Photo:Standard]|
Jocular jokes are often told comparing the two Koreas, the north and the south. But on a recent trip to Seoul, JANE KENDA realised South Korea, is as developed as the West.
Nairobi was particularly chilly that Friday morning and I couldn’t wait to enjoy the summer weather in South Korea. Although I didn’t manage to research much about my destination, I sure knew it would be summer.
I was in a group of seven journalists and a Kenya Tourist Board official who had been invited by the Korean Tourism Organisation (KTO) to tour Seoul courtesy of Korean Air.
The 13-hour flight, although quite exhausting, did not dampen my spirits. Between movies and sleep, I tried to picture Seoul. I wasn’t sure whether South Korea was ranked as a developed country, but I decided that even if it were, it wouldn’t be as developed as some of the developed countries I had visited in the West. I placed its level of development between Kenya’s and the developed world.
It was, therefore, a rude shock when we landed at Incheon International Airport and I realised it was just like any other developed country. In fact, the infrastructure is modern.
As the tourist van glided through the smooth road from the airport to Seoul, our superhighway — Thika Road — paled in comparison. I truly realised Kenya had a long way to go. Apart from the roads, one can also use the subway from the airport to Seoul and around the city.
We left Nairobi at round 11am, and travelling eastwards we gained six hours and arrived at 5:30am the following day.
Soul of Seoul
As we entered Seoul, all of us were amazed at the expanse of the city. What was even more surprising was that the hundreds of buildings were skyscrapers built close to one another. I immediately concluded that the city must accommodate a lot of people. My guess was confirmed by the tour guide, who aptly pointed out that Seoul had a population of over 13 million.
After a few hours of rest and refreshments at Mercure Hotel, it was time to sample Seoul. Most of us had carried our ‘summer’ wear and were ready to flaunt a little skin. When we stepped into the sunny city, we couldn’t help but feel overdressed, as the dress code among many women and girls was either hot pants or mini-dresses and stylish heels.
Our first stop was the Blue House (the presidential palace) located on a scenic hill overlooking the city. All the roads surrounding the palace were lined with young and casually dressed security officers. Except for their alertness and backed phone pieces strapped around their ears and necks, one could hardly tell they were police officers.
From the gate to the few visible buildings, one could easily spot the unique traditional architectural designs with colourful roofs and gutters.