This was our first day out exploring in Korea on our own! We went down to the subway and had no problem transferring and getting off at the correct stop near the Seoul Tower. Although, we did stop and pull out the subway map to have a look. Only took seconds and a local Korean was there to ask if we needed help. They're really good that way. If you look like a lost tourist, somebody will ask if you need help!
The Seoul Tower is a television communications tower that also has an observatory deck and several other attractions. We wanted to do the hike up to the base of the tower, and our guide Adela from yesterday's Seoul bicycle tour had told us that many people don't even bother going up the tower because the view from the base is pretty good anyhow.
So we just figured we would play it by ear, and see what it was like from the base. Besides, even though it was a really nice day, there wasn't much wind and it was pretty hazy (smoggy?). Not the best for going up the tower.
We hiked up to the base, but the only other way of getting up there is by taking the cable car. Oh, and there's a shuttle bus too, and it only costs about 1,000 won ($1.15), but we wanted to get some exercise.
The cable car setting off up the mountain.
While we set off up the mountain too!
It's only 1.2 kms from here to the base of the tower, but we also had already hiked about a kilometer from the Myeong-dong subway station. And it's all up hill. No worries..we were due for a hike. Wasn't really a hike though. Mostly just a lot of stairs!
Pretty landscaping along the way.
Starting to get some views.
See what I mean? It was a little hazy.
Not worth it to spend the extra money on going up the tower. It's pretty reasonably priced though. Only 9,000 won ($10.35). Pretty cheap compared to Toronto's CN Tower at $32.00!
Anybody wanna rent an apartment?!
Up at the base of the tower, there's a few lookoff points and shops and a restaurant. But the big tourists thing here is to buy (or bring your own) "love lock" and attach it somewhere to the fencing surrounding the lookoffs. There are so many love locks there now that many new locks are being attached to other locks!
Thousands of locks. Some of them have been there so long that they're starting to rust.
Love locks line all the fencing.
Some of the trees are starting to change color.
So Ruth is trying to take this picture of me (above) and there's these two girls laughing and standing there watching us. When Ruth finished, one of the girls asked (in very bad English) if she could have her picture taken....with us!
So they did. Then, they switched around and the other girl wanted her photo taken with us as well. Too funny. Turns out they were visiting from China and they must be from an area that doesn't get many visitors. She's trying to communicate with us, and managed to ask where we're from. Then, she asked if we can speak Chinese!
It's a struggle getting the two or three Korean words out that we've learned.
More love locks. These ones on trees, I guess because there's no more room on the fencing.
Ruth and the view.
We had enough, and started walking back down. We took a different route just for fun, even though it brought us down the other side of the mountain.
Walking back down.
Quite a few stairs again.
When we got close to the bottom, we took one off shoot path and we had no idea where it went. Just exploring. Anyhow, it came out at an older residential area. We continued down through that area and noticed that there were police every couple of buildings. We think someone important must live there. Who knows. Anyhow, one of the cops stopped us.
"Where are you from?", he asks.
"Why are you in Korea?"
"Who do you know here?"
Turns out he was just curious. And, I think he wanted to practice his English. And, we were kind of off the beaten path and pretty sure not many tourists wander down that area.
Check out this ferris wheel style parking structure. We've seen similar things in New York City, but this one was kind of different.
The local Home Depot.
It was going to be too far to walk, so we hopped back on the subway and went to see the King's palace. The building itself was actually closed today, but there's lots to see in the area.
Another interesting building.
Not sure. But it does look kinda interesting!
Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, a Korean naval commander and military hero from 1545-1598. Yi remains a hero to Koreans today!
This is what his warship would have looked like when fighting the Japanese invaders in the 1500's!
And this is King Sejong the Great who ruled Korea from 1397 to 1450.
Underneath the statue of the King, there's a stairway that leads down to a free museum that's all about the life and time of the King. Turns out he was a pretty good guy and treated his subjects really well. He left a lot of writings behind...
“Leading a sheltered existence inside a palace, I am not aware of all the going-ons among the people. If there are any matters that cause anguish to the people, you should report them to me without failing.”
Makes sense to me. No wonder the King was Great!
Running alongside the plaza there are a lot of important buildings. For our American friends, here's your U.S. embassy in Seoul. No idea why, but I was expecting something fancier!
U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
The palace, at the end of the plaza. That's actually a really busy street running in front of the plaza and I had to wait a long time to get a photo with only three cars in it!
We actually lost track of time a little bit and it was now 3:00pm and we hadn't had any lunch. We'd had some snacks and peanuts that we had brought, but needed some food. We went a few blocks away from the main drag and found a restaurant that looked good.
What to eat??
Studying the menu.
Actually, we had a plan. This particular restaurant had pictures of it's dishes on the wall outside the entrance. We picked out what looked like a gluten free meal of chicken curry with rice and we memorized the first and last symbols of the Korean writing. Then when the waitress came by, we simply pointed at that line on the menu!
But when it arrived, the chicken was buried beneath the curry sauce and it was coated and fried. Certainly not gluten free, and not the kind of chicken curry we're used to. We were starved and of course we couldn't simply send it back. So we ate it, and it was really good. Hopefully we don't pay for it in the morning.
We started heading back to the subway to try and get back home before rush hour got too bad. But we got side tracked by the Cheonggyecheon Stream.
This is a public walkway that's 11 kms long. It used to be a polluted waterway that was undreneath a highway. In 2003, the highway was torn down and the stream was cleaned up and turned into a pedestrian walkway.
Fountains and umbrellas floating in the air!
Looks even neater from below!
We walked about two kilometers, but we would have loved to have walked the whole thing. Something on the list for next time, I guess!
We took the subway home, and stopped to buy a bottle of Soju.
Soju is the most popular alcoholic drink in Korea. It's cheap and usually around 20% alcohol. I think this brand is 16.85% alcohol, so it's a little milder. This particular bottle cost 1,200 won ($1.38). No wonder it's popular!
Another great day, and tomorrow will be as well. We've booked the 300 km/h (186 mph) train from Seoul to Gwangju. Really excited about that!!