Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Seoul Soul

This last weekend we went up to Seoul...I know it's been a couple of days since we got back but I've been busy! The only reason I have time to write right now is because I'm on call for this class period and nobody called in sick! :)

We left the village on Friday afternoon and went into Daegu to take the KTX up to Seoul. The KTX is a super fast train! The fastest we went was 305 km an hour which is equivalent to about 190 miles an hour. So on the KTX it only took us 2 hours to get all the way up to Seoul. There is a slow train too, which is cheaper, but also takes about 4 hours. The KTX feels like a plane inside. The seats are exactly like in an airplane but there is no annoying wait time for take off and landing and such! The ride is also incredibly smooth for a train. The funny thing is that when we got back on to go from Seoul to Daegu, we were going backwards! They don't turn the train around so you are sitting facing the same direction but traveling backwards. So I traveled backwards for two hours..what a trip!

We get into Seoul station and go straight down into the subway. Now this is the first time I have ever ridden a subway and it was a little overwhelming at first. You go in and have to look at a map to figure out where you are going. Then you have to buy a ticket and make sure you get on the train going the right direction! The first time we got on we almost went the wrong direction but a nice guy who overheard us told us to go to the other side.

The people in the city were very nice. They would overhear us talking and looking confusedly at a map and ask if we needed help. Sometimes it was very helpful; but sometimes they would tell us to just take a taxi, which was not helpful. I got the hang of the subway system really quick which was totally awesome! My travel companions started relying on me for the subway but I would rely on them for walking around the city so it worked out really well. Here is a picture of the subway map:

We had a fabulous hotel room! We had three beds and a big bathroom and a great little dining room area with a foot-tall table. Its funny because if you sit at that table for long enough, you eventually forget that you're sitting on the floor! Unfortunately, we spent the beginning of our first night in Itaewon. Itaewon is basically the foreigner district of the city. There are all kinds of american/italian/etc restaurants and shops but there is no Korean character in it. We went over there to meet with our supervisors who said they wanted to buy us dinner for their last night in Korea, except they never showed up. We were pretty disappointed because the food was not very good and we also went all the way into Itaewon which was boring. After dinner we decided to go back to our hotel and wander around on the streets back there and it actually felt like we were in Korea! We found a bar called "N Bar" and hung out and talked for a while.

The next morning we went to the French Impressionist exhibit at the Seoul Arts Museum which was totally fantastic! It was amazing getting to see these super famous paintings that have been around for hundreds of years in real life. My two favorites were a VanGogh and a Monet (of course, right?)

Afterwards we went to visit Changdeok palace which has been around for hundreds of years. It was really cool to see but we couldn't get an English tour at the time we got there so we just wandered around and got whatever info we could from the signs.

It was pretty hot and muggy while we were at the palace and it wore us out! We decided to go back to our hotel and take a nap which was wonderful because the beds were really comfortable! Well, tons more comfortable than our beds here at the village.

We then decided to go visit the Dongdaemun Market, which is the most popular market to tourists and is open  until 4 am. I thought it was going to be really cool and there would be a huge variety of stuff since it is so huge but it turned out to be really redundant. The stalls all had the same knock off designer clothes, jewelry, sunglasses and clothes. There were a few food stands and none with anything actually Korean. Here is a picture, it was yellow tents for miles:

A delicious tentacle stand

The market- super busy and tight quarters!

Messing around...thanks for the pic Gwen!
The next morning we were feeling a bit crunched for time. Here we were in the second biggest metropolis in the world and we had about half a day to do anything worthwhile. So...I decided I wanted to get a pedicure. Oops. The pedicure was an awful experience. They didn't soak or scrub our feet saying that it would be extra. It was a touristy shopping area we were in and they kept saying everything was going to cost more and more money. We should have just left. Earney did and he got a fabulous foot massage. We did go and get hand massages afterwards which were nice, but didn't even come close to Earney's foot massage.

Out of everything, we decided to visit the Olympic Park where they housed the 1988 summer Olympics. It took a full hour to get over there and by then we had to eat lunch. After we had eaten we had an hour to see the whole park and were feeling pretty stressed. Gwen found out the information for us and we decided to just walk along this path and try to make it to the music fountain. By the time we got there the fountain wasn't going anymore but it was so hot and we were so tired that we just sat down in the shade and talked for a while. We saw a group of bikers taking pictures and were watching them and they wanted us to join them and we took a bunch of pictures. I was starting to get anxious and wanted to go (we had an hour subway ride to the KTX station and a two hour ride to Daegu and we had to make it in time for our bus at 9:10) but Earney kept saying lets see if the fountain turns on if we wait til 3:30. Let's wait til 4:00 and see if the fountain turns on then. So we stayed til 4:00 and the fountain actually turned on!

The music fountain from afar 
Earney with the water wheel

Gwen and Earney in front of the music fountain

I think this is one of my favorite pictures from the whole weekend

Awesome bikers-this pic is from Gwen too!

World Peace Gate

Up for this weekend- Geoje-do and more Daegu!

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