Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Day 4 -- A tranquil park and the bustling metro

Thankfully, after many hours of sleep and a continental breakfast consisting of different breads, Danish pastry, orange juice and tea/coffee, G's strength was fully restored. In the morning we set out from the hotel to explore the park that is just across the main road from the JW Marriott. Reached by a footbridge, this park didn't appear to be all that old and was perhaps constructed at the same time as the surrounding apartments were built, but it was very well laid out with paths and steps up the steep hillside and lots of rest places with benches and outdoor gym equipment. It seemed to be very popular with the locals who were not only walking up and down the paths, sometimes with a little dog, but they were also using the various pieces of exercise equipment.

I did take a couple of photos which I will post in due course but here are some much better ones that someone took on a clear day! :)

After a brief return to the hotel to freshen up, the next task was to find Seoul Station to collect our tickets for the journey to Busan tomorrow.

We had, by now, realised where we had gone so horribly wrong yesterday. When G made the booking, he had noted that the hotel was right by a station. Unfortunately it was by a station in Seoul, not near the main Seoul station. If we'd realised this we would never have attempted to walk. Having said that, and looking on the bright side, in our ramblings, we did see whole swathes of the city we wouldn't have seen otherwise. :)

So, our next task was to master the Seoul metro. We are experienced Tube users, so we thought this wouldn't be too hard, and it wasn't, once we had worked out that the lines were numbered and that the numbers were a better guide to which line you wanted than the colour coding. For example, it was just about impossible to distinguish between the the gold line or the yellow line,. We had sort of worked out the automatic ticket machines yesterday coming from the airport, but it still took 4 or 5 goes to get our ticket because the machine allowed no time whatsoever for dithering and we kept getting time out, and then it confused me by rejecting a 5000 won note for a fare of 3300 won. However, on the final go, a joint effort with G pressing the buttons and me standing by with a different note ready to feed straigh in accomplished the first stage of our goal. We had tickets!

Actually, after that it was quite straightforward. There are enough signs in the Roman alphabet to enable you to find your way to the correct track and work out that you are getting on a metro train going in the right direction. The trains have a display inside which shows the name of the next stop in Korean and in the Roman alphabet version. Just to be sure, a voice (preceded by tinkly music) also announces each stop. Oh, and another rather charming feature was the little fanfare that announced the arrival of each train.

The metro is both like and unlike the Tube. It has the modern glass barrier all along the platform, so it's impossible to fall, be pushed or jump off the platform. Only the most recent of the London Tube stations have these, but all the Seoul metro stations we saw have them. And yet on a couple of levels of the underground station complex, there were markets that wouldn't have looked out of place in a British Northern town. There were clothes stalls and shoe stalls and heaven knows what else (apart from food). And then, on our return, emerging from the Express Bus Terminal station (the one nearest to our hotel), we found ourselves in a chaotic shopping mall with a McDonalds and other western looking shops. It was all a wonderful mishmash that would never be seen on a London Tube station.

Anyway, the metro took us successfully to the Seoul Station where we just walked up to the ticket desk, showed the printout from the Internet purchase of the tickets. After glancing at G's passport, the clerk handed over the tickets and it took little more than a minute. After all the effort of mastering the metro, it seemed like an anti-climax!

We then made sure that we knew where the board announcing the train departures and platforms was, watched a few of the KTX trains arriving and departing and then reversed the metro journey to travel back at the hotel. By now we were convinced we could navigate the system as well as any Korean. At least as well as any Korean who was visiting from out of town and had to look at the signs to find the right platform.

We dined in the hotel cafe-restaurant again, this time a more substantial braised beef in Chinese five spice with rice and a green vegetable. Tomorrow we have a fairly early start and because we cannot afford to miss the train and we will be travelling with luggage, we plan to get a taxi to the station. In the restaurant, by coincidence, we were at the next table to an American couple. He was here on business, she was a teach and had finally been able to come with him after missing out because most of his trips were in term time. She was enthusing about how easy it was to get about and how cheap the taxis were, but I do think that the best way to see any city is to walk or use public transport. We might not have seen as many historical sites (in fact we've seen none!), but I do think we have glimpsed at least something of the city the inhabitants see daily rather than what they might like tourists to see.

[Cross-posted from Dreamwidth by way of a backup http://heleninwales.dreamwidth.org/51682.html. If you want to leave a comment, please use whichever site you find most convenient. Comments so far: comment count unavailable.]
Tags: what i did on my holidays

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