9.11.04

A Trip to Seoul

This weekend Kristina and I took a trip to Seoul. Never been to Seoul? Let me tell you about it, and our trip.

It started with a lazy saturday morning. Seoul is a 2-3 hour bus ride away, depending on traffic and such. But we didn't take the bus, we took the KTX. Hi-speed train. Not quite the bullet train, but it goes 3ookm/h. We really should have bought tickets ahead of time, or maybe gone earlier in the day. Most people get up early to make weekend trips, you know maximize your time and all that. Not us. Why move when you could not move? wake up when you could sleep? The KTX does the trip in 45 min, a vast improvement over the bus. And due to our laziness, we were forced to buy first class tickets (Darn!!).

If riding a hispeed train is like anything, its like flying. You go fast, in a straight line, the washrooms look the same, they have TV's and stewardesses with free drinks and headphones. And you have more space. 3 seats to an aisle, just like first class busses out here (they do have such things), so there is no cramping.

We should have known that riding a hispeed train to start off the trip would somehow backfire on us. I think it set the pace. 300km/hr. Why can't the lazy saturday morning set the pace? No, it has to be a polished white spear that moves past hills faster than you can say "anyong haseyo!".

Upon arriving in Seoul, we moved from our polished white spear to our polished white train station, and then to the metro, all without going outside, naturally. Also, all with the hipaced nervous anxiety of business travellers. Somehow, when you are surrounded by suits, who can't seem to move slowly and who are very pushy, you just get moving.

As an aside, the subway system in Seoul is amazing. Anwhere you want, quickly, cheaply (as long as you stay away from the outskirst of seoul, its not more than a buck). It has the same atmosphere as the train station though. We breathed in RUSH for a long time.

So, enough details about that. We checked into our motel, a place in a very convenient location that caters to foreigners, cheap, not the merriot, but everything you need. Jongnowon motel if your curious. We then headed out to do some shopping, the main purpose of this weekends trip to Seoul.

First to Yusong, the largest electronics market in Korea. Cheap, huge, and very very white, on the inside that is. Each floor was all white, the floors the roof and so on, I think its so you eyes are inevitably drawn to the booths and electronics. Its also so that you can't ever quite get a sense of the dimensions of the place, it makes it feel huge. Which seems to be a common thing in Korean architecture, they did the same thing with different tricks at the bookstore we went to later, Kyobo books. Nothing like making sure you feel small when your already among the people of the shorter average height (no offense to asians intended). Why would they want to do that?

After Kyobo and Yusong, we had dinner adn went Insadong. Insadong is very cool. Its right near the place we stayed at, walking distance. It is s street market and traditional korean area right in down town seoul. Somehow they manage to make you feel like you in the middle of this old asian area, even though the skyscrapers can't be blocked out. There are lots of shops selling well priced touristy items. But my favorite part are the many small alleys what wind their way away from the main market street. Dark, with traditional architecture, skinny, and maze like, the first thing a foreigner might think is that you would never go to such a place at home. But its just so neat. We found on place, a tea and meditation room that just called out to me. We didn't have time to go there, but next time. It looked really cool.

On sunday we did more shopping, and continued to rush around. It was only when we finished everything we came to do at 1 on sunday afternoon that we stopped, took stock, and realized how fast we had been moving all weekend, and how tired we were. We must have walked a couple marathons, not to mention several skyscrapers worth of stairs. So we grabbed our luggage out of our subway locker (had to put it somewhere after checkout time), and hopped on a bus home. We both slept half or more of the way home, and relaxed sunday evening. Start with a lazy sunday morning, and end with a lazy sunday night.

Now, no matter what it sounds like, moving that quickly and being so busy, wasn't really bad. It kind of felt Korean. We accomplished a lot, we are both finished our christmas shopping except for each other (or mostly anyway), and we had fun. Actually, what really felt unreal was going to work monday morning. It all felt too slow. Or just on the edge of being to slow, like a little itch that just hovers on the side of your consciousness.

So, the moral of the story: beware of korean trains (wether metro or cross country) they do something to you... something strange, something that wakes you up in the middle of the night as it is seared to the back of your eyelids.

1 comment:

Jon said...

Well I thought I should post a post here, seeing as nothing has been commented on here since 'round about the time of nov. 2.
Linked you from my blog, thought you might like to know. And I am looking forward to lazy days again, like days where I can sleep all day, and then get up and read.
vacations are fun