Monday, February 18, 2008


The week before last I took a trip to Seoul. I had five days off that started on the Wednesday (6/2/08). The reason for the time off is that it is Chinese new year, which is a reasonably big holiday over here (more so than Japan at any rate). So the school was closed for three days (although the Korean teachers had to come in and teach on Saturday which is pretty bad for them).

I caught the bus to Seoul on Wednesday. I had planned to wake up at 7, pack and get ready until 9, then catch a taxi out to the bus station, and catch the first bus I could. Well, I woke up at 9, packed and got to the bus station at around 11. I bought a ticket for a bus at 12 o'clock. Well, I saw a bus to Seoul at around 11:55 and tried to get onto that, but the guy checking tickets said it was the wrong bus. After a bit more waiting and watching the departing buses, I realised that the buses were running 30-40 minutes late. Anyway, my bus left at around 12:40, and I got into Seoul a little after 5pm. Then I got my first taste of the Seoul subway.

Seen at the Seoul bus station.

The trains in Japan are better. Especially better are the ticket machines. Here the machines only take coins (100 or 500 won) when tickets are in the 1000-1500 won range and 1000 won is a note. In Japan, you could stick a 10,000 yen note in and it wouldn't complain about it (10000 yen is about 100 dollars). In Seoul, most of the time I just bought a ticket from the guy in the ticket booth. The subway is about as complex as the Tokyo subway.

I made it to my hostel and checked in, and then wandered around to try and find some dinner. Unfortunately since it was lunar new year, nearly everything was closed. I found some fried chicken place and got some chicken that tasted strangely like ham.

On Thursday I took a walking tour out of the lonely planet around one of the old palaces. Along the way I stopped into the Seoul museum of history and of course the palace itself. While in the palace, I got to watch what I presume is a traditional dance performance.

After that I went back to the hostel to warm up for a bit before heading out near Incheon airport to have dinner with Sandra, one of my old housemates. She was on her way to Kazakhstan (She never really answered my question of "Why?") and had a twenty-four hour stopover in Seoul. On Friday we did a tour from the airport to a small temple that had a bunch of snow still lying on the ground despite it having been ten days since it snowed. After the tour we hung around in a coffee shop at the airport until it was time for her flight.

Saturday was spent wandering around the two other big old palaces. One was just an open walk around by yourself place, but the other had more original buildings and I seem to recall it being world heritage listed and so you had to go as part of a group. Fortunately I got to this palace at a time which meant I only had wait for about 15 minutes until the next English tour which was lucky. That night I went to one of the casinos in town hoping to find a low stakes poker game I could try my luck at, but there were none. I ended up playing some blackjack instead, but nothing much came of it.

I checked out of my hostel at around 11 on Sunday, and headed back to the bus station. While navigating between the subway and the bus station I came across a book store which had a reasonable collection of English books at very reasonable prices. I ended up buying 4 books for about 35000 won ($40) before having lunch. I caught a bus at 1, and this time the trip was much better. I got back to Daegu at around 4:30, which was about an hour or so quicker than the trip to Seoul.

Overall, the one word to describe Seoul is cold. My hands were cold all the time, as was the rest of me. I wore my beanie most of the time (the one time I didn't my ears got really cold). There is still more I want to see (the DMZ for a start), so I'll probably be heading back some time.

End Post
Writing time: 5 minutes (I cribbed from an email I sent to my family describing my trip)
Time since last post: two weeks
Current media: jPod 1x06


Anonymous said...

I told you why I was going to RK! That's where the job was! AND to boot I wasn't the only person who applied! :D I was one of about 27 and no. 4 down on the list. The others just bailed:)

Hewhoblogs said...

Now that you've been to Seoul I suppose the next stop is Pyongyang.

Tell me how that goes.

Esonlinji said...

Pyongyang is unlikely. I will definitely get to the DMZ before I leave Korea, but that is probably the closest I'll get to Pyongyang. Anyway, I've just missed the big birthday celebrations for Kim Jong-Il, so there's not much point this year.