For many years now South East Asia has been an area where I've felt most at home, ..... relaxed and welcome. When I finally hang up my CitySprint Vest, I guess that I'll settle somewhere in this region where the hearts are warm and the £Pound stretches just a little bit further. I speak a little Thai and Tagalog and in the very distant past, .. even a touch of Khmer, but this is my first 'non-transit' visit to South Korea. At first it failed to inspire me, ..... the people are warm but not outwardly vivacious, the culture is friendly but a little subdued, .. the architecture efficient but not inspiring, ... everything seemed slightly more 'Singapore' than 'Thailand'.
At some point in time it had to happen, ..... eventually is always does. In every City and in every Country, .... there is something that will from nowhere, ... jump right out and bite you on the arse, ..... sometimes good, .. sometimes not so good. For me the 'Bite' came this morning as I wandered aimlessly towards a building known as 'TM' (Tech Market), ...... eight floors of electronic consumerism neatly packaged in air conditioned comfort, ..... a zillion square feet of techo-nerd-nirvana. TM is a magnet for a thousand 'Comic Book Guy' doppelgangers, a place where 'girlfriends' are an unknown species. As a man who struggles with SMS and Windows, the electro-bling meant little to me. Although ignoring the gadgets and observing the people was fascinating, ..... it was on the outside of this emporium of dreams that I was finally bitten by Seoul.
At the entrance to TM's underground car park stand two stainless steel platforms with small red canopies above. On these platforms stand two young ladies dressed in Disney uniforms and wearing little white gloves. The music plays from speakers above their heads, .. they dance constantly and rhythmically in time to that music, ........ directing the traffic with exaggerated hand signals and facial gestures. I stand and watch this amazing opera for what seems like hours, .... it's a genuine traffic safety service, ..... the people of Seoul walk past as if it's the most natural thing in the world, ....... and of course to them it is. It is indeed a beautiful thing, ... not that they are attractive young ladies (though that does of course help), .... it's just the whole craziness of it that simply screams, ...... welcome to Asia.