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Published: February 7th 2009
changing of the guard ceremony
As my vacation draws to a close and I prepare to return to work I feel its time to update on my trips around Korea that were taken on my weeks off. We decided to head to Seoul for the first time since orientation. The bus ride direct from Hwacheon was relatively uneventful, the bus still stops in Chuncheon and then continues on to Dong-Seoul. At Chuncheon everyone got off the bus except us, as we had only been driving for 45 mins we didn't expect a break so we waited for the driver to pull in to the Seoul stop and pick up other passengers. Except he kind of didn't - he was speaking to us and then realizing we couldn't understand a word he was saying he got back in his seat and we thought 'great we are on our way'. Of course we were not, the driver then took us through the car wash (or bus wash) and then drove to the parking lot where he again tried to speak to us and gave up and then got off the bus and walked off. we were then very confused that maybe we had to change buses. After 10
changing of the guard ceremony
mins of debating this the driver came back and the trip to Seoul got underway.
It is actually not at all far from Hwacheon, we arrived mid-afternoon and got on to the subway in search of the motel we had selected in Itaewon. We found the station no problems and then walked about 15 mins in the wrong direction before realising it was the other way. So the motel, named 'Seoul Motel' priced 45,000won a night for a double room was perfectly average and acceptable. It is right above McDonald's. The rooms had the electric mattress and a TV in the room. We were pleased with this and that the lady who seems to be the owner or manager spoke great English. (I don't think she is Korean). We headed out to look around Itaewon and found some great foreign food shops. After buying 3kg cheese and loads of spices we walked back to the motel to plan the next few days ahead.
The next day we headed out to the subway and did the 'Seoul Bus Tour' this is a hop on hop off system where you pay 10,000won for a day pass. the bus stops at
all the major tourist attractions in Seoul. You can get on anywhere along the route and buy your ticket, we decided to get on at the first stop. the bus is every 30 mins at all stops. We were on the bus about 20 mins before it departed from the start of the route. We were planning to get off at the first stop DD***** Palace. Once the bus got underway we drove about 80-100m and we were at the Palace. So in fact we could have walked this in the time we had waited! we were mainly going to the palace to see the changing of the guard ceremony at 11am. We bought the 1000won ticket to go in and walked aroud a very small grounds with three closed off buildings that were once some thing to do with Korean royalty. At 11.00 we heard noises and drumming from the front gate/sidewalk so we went back over and the ceremony we had come to see happens outside so you dont even have to go in! it lasted about 15 mins and then it was over and so we went back to the bus stop to wait for the next
bus. On to Namdaemun market. Another 2minute bus ride. the market was big and pretty much what we had expected. Once you've seen 1/4 of it you have seen it all. It did seem to be in sections though. clothing, shoes, stationary, food etc etc. On to myeongdong. Had lunch in Pizza Hut and walked around the shops for a couple of hours. the final stop of the day was the 'N Seoul Tower'. This was something I was really looking forward to. it was evening by the time e arrived there and so we paid the 8000 won for a ticket and there was almost no wait for the elevator. Arriving on the observation deck I was instantly disapointed by the fact that the whole floor had glass windows which meant no photos! To make matters worse it was very dirty glass and not really worth the money! We went back down to the bottom of the tower, which itself is located on a hill in the park so we got better photos from there. We took a regular bus back to Itaewon as the tour bus had stopped running by this time. It was in general a good
day. the Seoul Bus Tour is a great idea, my main issues were that the buses only run from 9am-7pm (despite my Korea guide book saying it goes until 10pm). I also found that there is simply not enough time to do even a fraction on the places on their itinery. we started at 10am and took the last bus to the Tower and we only saw 4 places. It is just as feasable to take the subway to all the places and then at least you dont spend time trying to find the blue bus stop when you are done!
The next day saw us take the subway down to Olympic Park and look around at the monuments and the people on the ice skating rink. We went form there to 'Lotte World', we didn't want to pay the 30,000 odd to go in so again we sat and watched the people on the ice rink. Was actually a very interesting 45 minutes seeing the figure skating lessons going on amidst the chaos of school children skating for fun! I couldnt even hear a conversation goign on next to me! It really gave me a great insight on
the Korean lifestyle and how we become so used to situations that we don't know any better. We spent the afternoon in COEX mall.
The last day in Seoul was bitterly cold, so much so in fact that the planned activities for the day didnt really go as planned. We started out in Insadong, but after about 10 minutes outside you were forced back inside. There are loads of small stores selling souveniers here and somewhere I hope to go back to in warmer weather! We went on to Dongdaemun and looked in the various malls there. I was unsure if the goods being sold are genuine or replicas. By the prices they wanted they were genuine but the layout and presentation screamed replicas. The evening was spent in Itaewon, looking at the market stalls and staying in the motel room to keep warm!
An enjoyable few days, I cant believe Seould has been so close this whole time but I had never been before! Really showed me a different side of Korea compared to my town Hwacheon.
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