Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"I think a taxi is more better."

I decided on Tuesday that I wanted to try my hand at using the subway system, and asked the hotel employees for help with directions to the area I wanted to see:

Them: You should take a taxi.

Me: I'd rather take the subway or bus.

Them: I think the taxi is more better.

Me: I want an adventure.
Them: This taxi driver says is very difficult to walk... He'll take you for $5.
Me: I'll take a taxi on the way home. 

I finally get directions for the subway, and confidently make my way to the nearest station.  Surprisingly, it is very easy and foreigner-friendly to use the train! All the signs are in Korean, Chinese, and English, there are easy-to-follow maps everywhere, and the different lines are all known by a color. Very easy to manage.

I check out a map to double-check I'm at the right place while waiting for the next train:

Old Man: Do you need any help?

Me: No, I think I've got it.  I'm taking this line for one stop, getting off to transfer to orange, then taking orange for 3 stops until Anguk to get to Bukchon. 

Old Man: Yes, you have it. 


The subway takes me to the stop I'd wanted, and the sunshine that meets me outside feels like freedom.  I had wanted to go to Bukchon Village -- an area situated between three palaces famous for maintaining the old Korean style of architecture and way of living-- but soon realize the hotels guys took me to Bukchon neighborhood, not village. Oh  well-- wherever I am, I got myself here.  And I love it.

Bukchon turns out to be a really fun little pocket of Seoul.  I'm happy to see a couple guesthouses along the way.  Hostels are almost always in the fun, quirky part of town.  I saw cute stores, local people, houses and restaurants.  It was where people are just people.

I had an entire conversation with that shop owner. All I needed to use in Korean was, "Hello", "I like." How much money?", "Korean", "No." and "Thank you."  All she used was "Homemade." It was simple, but it was dialog! I started to slip in some "Si"s and "Cha", mixing in old Spanish and Khmer to the conversation-- that's the bad part of traveling: I have bits and pieces of all languages stuck in my head! Can I create my own Yiddish?!

I even stopped by one of the cultural palaces: Cheongbukchon.  It was cool. I was so impressed with the level of detail and art from centuries ago in this palace... We just don't take our palaces that seriously in America.

That night the supplier Ben had spent the day with called me to ask me to meet he and Ben at the 63 building (named because it is the only building around with 63 stories.) It has a viewing deck, an aquarium, movie theater, and wax museum!

I hurriedly changed to something nicer and took the first taxi I could find to the building.  Ben has put a lot of energy into working with this supplier, and I didn't want to ruin this experience for him!

When I got there, it turns out the supplier didn't even plan on staying! It is typical for a supplier to "wine and dine" potential clients (like Ben), but he just took off!

So Ben and I paid the expensive fare to get to the viewing deck/ Art museum alone, in our nice clothes.  But this city is important enough to Ben that it was definitely worth it.

Driving back into town for dinner Ben tells the taxi driver to take us to Anguk train station, our restaurant was close by. 
Me: Anguk? I know that place! I went to that station today to get to Bukchon!
As we drive around, I realize that the extensive, important subway trip I was so proud to have planned and executed was about a 20 min. straight-shot walk from our hotel.  
Darn it all. 


  1. Good for you! You are so brave to navigate around Seoul!

  2. I'm still thoroughly impressed!

    Question: Is it hard to be vegetarian in Korea? It seems like every Travel Channel show I've seen featuring Korea, features their MEAT.


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