Yesterday my coworker Richard and his girlfriend Liana (who is American and teaches in a nearby city) and I went to Seoul. Without having much of a plan other than taking the KTX speed train to get there, we ended up seeing some interesting things.
At Cheonan/Asan station waiting for the KTX
It took a little over 30 minutes to get to Seoul. The KTX goes super fast so it cuts normal train travel time in half. Once we got to Seoul, the first place we went was the Namsan Tower. We took a taxi up the hill and then took a cable car to the top. When we got to the top we walked up some more stairs and there was a nice flat area where you could walk around, eat and do a little souvenir shopping. There was a band playing so we had a little background music to walk around to.
Giving Haechi, the mascot of Seoul, a high five!
There were also these cool lock trees up there. Locking a pad lock onto a fence with your and your lover’s name on it then throwing away the key has become a trend in cities all over the world. Seoul is apparently no different, however here on Namsan they are locked on a frame shaped like a Christmas tree. Richard and Liana added theirs.
Look at all those locks!
Then we headed back down the mountain. The sky was super overcast and foggy/smoggy so the city views were not that great.
Headed down the mountain. That’s the tower at the top.
Some of the city
We walked down the hill to a shopping area called Myeongdong and cruised around a little. Then after some food and regrouping we decided to check out the Bukchon Hanok Village. We took a taxi to the Imperial Palace and walked a few blocks to the village. This was one of the coolest things I have seen in awhile. The village is full of traditional houses that were saved when the rest of the city was modernized. It is a really fun, kitschy mix of traditional houses, cool shops and kind of bohemian style cafes. All the houses are still occupied and the streets wind around each other up a hill. There were lots of Koreans walking around taking pictures too. Obviously a tourist hot spot for everyone, not just Americans!
This one was a Soju distillery that we could go into. Soju is a fermented rice alcohol that tastes like really cheap vodka but has no aftertaste or burning. Still pretty gross. It’s better in beer.
A cool shot of the city down below.
A really cool door.
It started getting dark so we headed back down the hill and came through a really neat little shopping area that we missed on the way up. We got some coffee and walked around to the front of the Palace (which I will have to see the next time I am up in Seoul)
Managed to get a pretty nice picture of it in the dark.
We took our time walking back to the train station. I was lagging a bit, my feet were killing me! On our way back we ran into another group of police officers formed up on the corner.
Throughout the day the police had been out in force. I’m talking a couple hundred in groups of 30 on street corners all over the city. When we arrived at the train station there was a demonstration going on in front of it. We drove by a huge group of people on the street when we were in the taxi. We randomly met an English speaking Korean guy from California when we arrived and he said they were protesting the government selling the subway system to a private company. I don’t know if the other ones were protesting the same thing, but as we passed city hall into the next block we walked by another large group on police with their riot shields at the ready into the street where there were more protesters walking. As soon as we crossed the street the group started running at the police! Luckily we were not caught up in that! Still not sure what they were protesting but I would not like to get trampled in my first month, thank you very much.
When we got back to the station we went to a nearby bar to have a drink and rest a little before we caught our 11:30 train.
My first trip to Seoul started out a little unorganized, but ended up being a fun experience. Next time, we will plan more prior to arriving. Happy to be back in Cheonan!