Inspired by Seoul
There's always much to be learned from travelling, hence travel is indeed the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
When I see no sign of any dirt, someone will be out there sweeping the pavements and polishing the department store floors. Just like Tokyo last year, this city is immaculate. The sight that will stay with me is of a gent with his hands full of empty iced coffee cups outside a Uniqlo store waiting to get to the next bin. There are thousands of them everywhere, and quite often inside shops by the escalators. But even if there wasn’t, there is never a reason for anyone to disrespect fellow beings by not properly disposing of their trash.
In Seoul, there are toilets everywhere. Every metro station, where they tell you how many meters you'll need to walk for your nearest convenience, has a variety of them. All are free and 99% are clean and even when out all day, I never saw one without toilet tissue either. Many had more than one dispenser; no-one is going to steal it.
Shopping centres and department stores are the same but even more frequent, with many placing toilets conveniently on every floor so you are never far from one. A lot of the time there were no doors to touch after you had washed your hands. Talking of hygiene, there were even a number of Japanese toilets which are always welcome in my house. One day, there will be one in my house.
What took a lot of getting used to but makes perfect sense is having big bins to throw your used toilet tissue in. I saw this a lot and even though they are mostly open, saw no mess. Another reason to believe the people of Seoul are thoroughly decent and respectful of others.
It took me a few days as most signs are (obviously) written in Korean but I saw a few that requested all toilet tissue to be flushed. I saw this in Tokyo too and took it to mean that old lavatory systems couldn't take paper being flushed. It’s only when much later in my trip I saw a sign to do the exact opposite I realised I wasn’t always meant to flush.
Of course we have gotten to the point in the UK where are sewage system can’t take thick modern toilet tissue and wet ones so either we need to build better, or have an alternative system like in Seoul.
A surprising observation in this tech city is the lack of electric dryers. Most people used paper or just shook their hands dry. I can only assume their tech is so good that their recycling is exemplary. There were certainly recycling bins everywhere.
This interactive exhibition is a highlight and worth travelling out for. Samsung have ensured the place is completely engaging, inspiring and full of wonder. Everyone receives a band which is used at different points around the room. Through this I discover I am, in actual fact, unique, balanced, vibrant and a future (not now) co-ordinator.
I'd read it's common for free gifts to be given out, which I received after purchasing at Innisfree and The Saem, two of the many beauty chains. What I hadn't expected was the student who stopped me while sheltering from a rain shower to do a tourism survey, to then offer me a little packet of sweets as a thank you.
People are so considerate, no-one sits in the priority seats on metro, not even those over 65, which put me and my tired-after-walking-around-all-day-feet to shame. They also managed to negotiate the many steps rather than go find the lifts, which spurred my tired legs into action too.
Seoul was quiet too except for a few boisterous teenagers which is where it differed a bit for me from Tokyo. What was similar was the amount of young people dressed in traditional clothes for festivals and special occassions. In fact there were a lot more in Seoul, spotted on a daily basis.
Buses, trains and underground metro are all excellent and incredible good value. Just buy a T-card from a corner store or station and top up from the same place as required. The usual rule of travel applies; to see the place go overground. to get somewhere fast, go underground. Even the taxis are inexpensive.
Not just a shopping centre
Apart from the aforementioned toilets, the food courts, which even the department stores have, offer free water. The centres themselves differentiate themselves, look pretty and have plenty of places to sit, to eat or grab a drink.
Night time family entertainment
In a country that has the world’s longest working hours (something they are trying to address) family time is precious. During our first Saturday night, we happened across a crafts market full of families enjoying the dry evening after a rainy day.
The following weekend we encountered a free music concert in Seoul Plaza and more entertainment along the canal. Again on the Saturday, there was a free concert along the canal and what looked like 40+ local makers and food stalls on both sides of the canal. I couldn't resit a couple of handmade purchases to remember this perfect last evening by.
The organisers had a stall but I saw no security or police presence. Instead, I witnessed everyone having a great time, buying lots from local businesses.
The only staff member I noticed was the guy sitting by the three recycling bins making sure the plentiful cups went in the right bin; paper cup in one, plastic lid in another.
The photo of the piano above is taken on what once was a flyover, now a park.
Although there is a lot of packaging, there is plenty of recycling. The country successfully partnered with Tetrapak in 2013 to create innovate ways of ensuring people recycle. They even go into schools to educate and have created ‘Resource Manager’ jobs in each residential building for people who would previously been known as scavengers. Now their job is to ensure residents recycle efficiently.