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Asia

Sleepless in South Korea – Seoul

When people ask me what I miss most from home, not that I’m homesick at all, I usually say friends & family, making my own food and also sleeping in my own bed. The last one I really could feel in Seoul, where I spent 4 nights sleeping (or trying to) in a kind of “capsule” in approximately 30 degrees Celsius and no air condition. But I really can’t blame Seoul for that, only my own greed trying to find as a cheap accommodation as possible. Actually I can’t blame Seoul for anything, since it’s a really nice city and I liked it a lot.

In many ways Korea reminds me of Japan, another very likable place. Just as Tokyo Seoul is very big, populated, busy, modern and has both a lot of skyscrapers but also cosy narrow streets and back alleys with local restaurants. If you ever have been to either one of them you know what I’m talking about. There are two things I find impressive in these cities: the infrastructure and the safety. 25 million people live in the metropolitan area of Seoul, and that’s A LOT. Yet everything flows and the infrastructure when it comes to public transport is just world class! The metros are so fast, accurate, smooth and easy to take that it will probably feel like going 20 years back in time when I get back to Scandinavia. On the other hand, the need for such efficient public transport isn’t as big in Scandinavia where we are less than 25 million on the whole big area. The other thing I find impressive is how safe Seoul (and Tokyo) is. I always ask local people, preferably somewhat young women, if they can go anywhere in their city at anytime of the day and feel safe – and in Seoul all of them said yes. Must be fantastic to live in a city like that, considering how it is many places in Europe and America.

Asian food is by far the best I would say and here in Korea you really had all of them and they were all amazing. I had probably my best sushi ever, some awesome thai food and of course the local Korean cuisine. Korea is the second best country when it comes to obesity, only beaten by Japan. And trust me, that has nothing with lifestyle to do, since people work there ass off for 10-14 hours. It’s all about the food – you become what you eat. Eat healthy, become healthy – eat shit, yeah.. you got it.

Since streaming music online and via your mobile became easy and popular, I would say music is a normal part of most young people – including me. Especially when traveling. I actually try to listen to podcasts instead of music, as I like to educate myself, learn new things and perhaps get a tiny bit smarter every day. However, sometimes you are not focused enough or not in the mood for podcast so then music is perfect. As a surprise, to people that don’t know me very well, I listen to metal – or what you probably call screaming and drums, which by the way is totally wrong but that’s another story. When you travel you have a lot of time to kill, often when you relax and I’ve come across a few really nice relaxing songs that I thought that I could share here. As mentioned, this is not my usual music, but sometimes these chill songs are perfect. For example when you are a bit tired on a bus or; when you are sleepless in Seoul.

Sunset Lover by Petit Biscuit which you can listen to here

Miles Away by Years Around the Sun which you can listen to here

The Orchid (Kyte Remix) by Brighton which you can listen to here

World Spins Madly On by The Weepies which you can listen to here

Breathe by Jacoo which you can listen to here

 

Bound for Beijing

A few years ago, China introduced the so called 72 hours VISA to increase tourism. There are som limits within these VISA’s, for example that you can’t leave the province , but you don’t need or have time to in 72 hours anyway. China is a massive country and as you probably know the largest by population with 1,4 billion people (until India will pass them in about 10 years). They are also the 3rd largest country when it comes to area, so it’s pretty obvious that 3 days in this country is not enough at all. But, I rather have 3 % of something than 100 % of nothing.

China and Beijing is fun, different and interesting. For example, you can’t use services like Google, Facebook or Instagram – they are all blocked (if you don’t surf via a VPN server in another country). Which makes it even funnier to go here because you can’t just use Google Maps and find everything. You actually have to use your brain a lot more and also ask people – which don’t speak any English at all. When people say that Chinese can’t speak English, I always thought it was exaggerated – but it’s actually true. Most of them don’t know a single word of English, not even the young ones.

Besides that, it was surprisingly developed and civilized in many ways and I must say enjoyed walking around in Beijing. And if you like to walk, you can walk a lot. It’s big! So mostly you will probably go by metro, which is super easy and fast. It’s impressive how good infrastructure these mega-cities have, but I guess they would not function without them.

I went to the two major attractions in Beijing; the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. I mean, when in Beijing you MUST visit the Wall! Let’s start with the Forbidden city. An impressive architecture and small little “city” in the centre of Beijing. This was home to different Emperors way back, and the reason it’s called forbidden is because no one could enter without permission without the Emperor himself. A cool attraction in many ways, but Chinese tourists are noisy, take a lot of space and also point with their selfie-sticks EVERYWHERE!

So, to what’s probably more interesting for the most of you; the Great Wall – and trust me – it’s GREAT! 21 000 kilometers and in average 8 meters high. It’s massive and also very beautiful and impressive where it’s lying in the mountains. However, it took hundres of years to build, more than a million men died in the process and the wall didn’t really fill it’s planned function. The Chinese built it for defense against tribes from the north, Mongolia. But it didn’t work, so let’s all hope Trump will not build a wall against Mexico, because that’s ain’t gonna work.

If you look at the pictures you see no other people and I’ve unfortunately not skills enough to photoshop them away, so believe it or not, but there were almost NO people there! Sounds unbelievable, right? I agree and totally understand you. The thing is, there are different parts of the wall you can go for a visit. Most people go to a place called Badaling, said to be very scenic but extremely crowded as well. I went to a place which took 3 hour by car to get there, and then a 3 hour hike on the wall to get to the top and these views and it was worth it – breathtaking but pretty hard in the warm weather. I guess there were around 5-7 people there spread out on 6 kilometers, so even xenophobes can go there.

So, this was just a scratch on the surface of China. It’s the fastest growing economy in the world and it opens a new Starbucks every 23rd hour and Beijing is, I guess with Shanghai, probably the most modern cities. I would also like to go to the countryside and Tibet, but time will tell if I’ll ever get there. Anyways, the three days I spent in Beijing were awesome!

 

Hanging around in Hong Kong

Weather is a big part of traveling. It definitely can make the difference between good and bad experiences of a country or city. Everything is funnier, more relaxed, easier and more beautiful in good weather or at least not rain. I’ve planned the entire trip after the weather to be honest, trying to be in the different parts of the world when the weather is good and dry and so far I’ve been extremely lucky with only a few rainy afternoons in Colombia, besides that pretty much only excellent weather. However, there was one stop that was impossible to time with the weather; Hong Kong.

The big cities in Asia are usually good stops for a few days, and now I will raid three of them in two weeks starting with Hong Kong. I had pretty high expectations on Hong Kong before going here. A big modern international city, surrounded by ocean and small mountains or hills – sounds like I can like it! And liked it I did, but I was very unlucky with the weather. June is the start of the monsoon and typhoon season, so it can be perfect weather – or the straight opposite which I had pretty much for 3,5 days except from one afternoon that was dry. So I couldn’t really do all the things I wanted to do like going to the beach and hiking in the hills. I could not do much at all besides work out and sit in cafés and restaurants, really depressing to be honest, but  since I’ve been lucky so far on the trip I try not to think of it too much. And also, it could have been worse: a few days before I arrived there was a big typhoon hitting Hong Kong, so this was just the “afterparty” of the weather Gods.

So I can’t really give a good justified sentence of this city, but I for sure can see it’s potential. The fact that it’s a very international city is also something I like, you meet people from all over the world but mainly from China. But this is not the real China, it’s more western in many ways for example when it comes to the English skills. It’s clean, modern, safe, big and I would say beautiful even though it’s mostly a concrete jungle but the water and hills add contrast to it all. One more thing, almost 8 million people are living here so the density is really high, but it’s impressive how smooth the city flows and the infrastructure is amazing with the metro. Despite all this, the weather could not really justify a very good stay here.

What also ruined the stay here a little bit was the accommodation. It was by far the worst on the entire trip so far. Hong Kong has the highest real estate prices in the world, which means expensive hotels and in my case a SHITTY hostel. But what doesn’t kills you makes you stronger. After this I decided to spend a little more on accommodation at my next destination, which is also a big city – very big.