Greetings from Hallym University!
Classes began this week with a similar add/drop system to USF making classes and times easy to navigate. Friday, March 1st was also a national holiday here in Korea called Samil, which celebrates the Samil Movement made by Koreans in resistance to the Japanese rule, therefore; everyone got the day off.
With a decision made to go to Seoul on Saturday, I learned that navigating traveling to Seoul was pretty simple, though there were some mistakes and misconceptions along the way.
The first misconception I had was about how big Seoul really was. I thought there was one train station in Seoul. So, saying “let’s go to Seoul” was as easy as it needed to be. While I knew Seoul was large, my friend explained to me how large it really was. We would take a train to a subway transfer station in Yongsan, before choosing where in Seoul our final destination would be and taking a subway train there. And for a couple hours that would really be the only place we would go around in. After a short discussion of some of the different sections, we decided on the large shopping and food center of Seoul Myeongdong.
The second misconception was that we would find tickets early in the morning, on a weekend, easily. And arriving to Chuncheon Train Station to find our desired train did not have any seats left taught us to buy our tickets in advance the next time we plan a trip to Seoul. While finding train tickets could have gone better, both the train and subway have clear travel plans and directions making the routes and the stations easy to manage.
The streets were crowded, making walking a bit difficult, but the food in Seoul Myeongdong was pretty good. However, it did take a bit of an adjustment to carry everything and neatly eat things on a stick. Out of everything that I had the pleasure of trying, I highly recommend the egg bread. It seems very simple, but it was really good. And a little fun fact is that South Korea goes along with what fruits are in season. You can find strawberries everywhere and in everything this time of year.
Because of its proximity, a five-minute taxi drive took us to Namsan Tower, which is a tower and bridge known for its locks. It was a long hike up if you do not take the cable car, but the long climb was a great place to make memories. It was also a place where everyone had at least one thing in common. Unless you were a young child, everybody struggled a little bit to climb up all the stairs.
I think my first trip to Seoul was definitely a learning experience. Some advice I have is:
1. Buy your tickets for a train in advance and do not take the last train. If you do not buy your tickets in advance, you may be stuck on a later train than intended. And that can happen very easily when traveling to Seoul. the last train from Seoul can leave around 11 pm. But if you miss it your stuck trying to spend the night in Seoul. Plus, most stores close a t 9/9:30 pm in Seoul so you would not be doing much until then anyway.
2. Buy a T-Money card for the bus and for the subway. It saves time having to constantly buy single use subway tickets. The tickets are cheap either way but the T-Money card is more convenient, especially if your running late to your train.
3. Have the subway/bus app or KakaoMaps downloaded. I mentioned in my last blog that KakaoTalk is almost a must for communication, and KakaoMaps is a must for traveling. It keeps track of when your subway train is headed to your destination in real time and also can be used as a general map with different walking, driving, and bus routes for when you are not navigating the underground railway system.
4. Try the egg bread and drink lots of water. You will do a lot of walking in Seoul, and in South Korea, so it is important to stay hydrated. Especially, if you are walking up to Namsan Tower.