At the border, entering the "country" of Transnistria. Photo taken December 8, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Tiraspol, Transnistria...the country that doesn't exist.

Where are they going next? Northern Moldova. Arrive December 11th.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fun day exploring Seoul, but not without it's hiccups!

We left the apartment at about 10:30am. A little later than planned, but still lots of time to see the things we wanted to see. But wow...this is such a huge city and we keep on coming across new things that make us realize that you could spend a month here and not see everything you want to.

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.

Ruth.

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! 

Okay. Whatever. 

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!

Um, no.

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.

Seoul Tower.

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.

Hm. 
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!

Very cool!

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!

Happy Water!
Yep!

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!!

34 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. To bad you aren't here too, we would have a great time together.

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  2. I love those umbrellas. That is way cool.

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    1. It was a really cool display, we loved it too!

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  3. So what supports the umbrellas? I couldn't tell by the photo. Looks like an interesting city.

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    1. There are wires that go across from one side to the other in rows and the umbrellas are fixed onto those wires.

      We could easily spend a month in and around the city, unfortunately we still need to see more of the country. When we started planning our activities a few months ago, I told Kevin that the four weeks wasn't going to be long enough. We aren't even finished our first week here and we definitely know that there isn't going to be enough time. I guess we will just have to come back again some day!

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  4. Like the umbrellas, too - different for sure! Happy Water - at that price that would make one happy! You are having so much fun and we are enjoying every bit of it with you!!!!!
    B&C in PA

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    1. At that price it would make you happy in more ways than one! ;-)

      We sure are having fun, and enjoying every minute of it.

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  5. Can't wait to hear about the train tomorrow. Be sure to bring your GPS with you so that you can verify the speed!

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    1. Exactly we forgot about the GPS but the train did have a monitor that displayed the speed. Kevin is going to be talking about that in today's post.

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  6. You're both looking very fetching in your Tilley hats. Well, mostly Ruth. Sorry Kev.

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    1. Thank you Bob! I like Kevin in his hat, I think it looks better on him than a baseball hat personally.

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  7. The Love Locks were featured on a previous season of "The Amazing Race" as a task for the contestants to find 10 locks and match them with keys before they could move on to the next task. The locks and keys were color coded.

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    1. I remember that task now that you mentioned it. I couldn't have told you it was in South Korea though. We will have to download that segment of the race and watch it again. That certainly wouldn't have been an easy task, there were thousands and thousands of locks.

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  8. Great pictures! I have fond memories of being in Seoul!

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    1. We can understand why. It is an amazing city and we have really enjoyed it ourselves, I just wish we had more time here.

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  9. Love that they uncovered the water and made it a focal point. Love the statues too and what a great looking ship. Too bad it's a war ship but it's still great looking. Too funny about the chinese girls. What a great time you are having. Sure hope covering those trees with those locks doesn't kill them. What the heck are love locks anyway?

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    1. They have done a fantastic job on fixing up the stream. I mentioned to Kevin that it reminded me of the San Antonio River Walk without all the restaurants and commercialism along the way. It made for a very pretty walk right in the center of the city.

      Those weren't real trees Sherry, they were just metal frames that were made specifically to make more room for the locks.

      Here is Wikipedia's definition of a love lock. A love lock is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love. Typically the sweethearts' names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolize unbreakable love.

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  10. Another great day! Love locks are popular in Ottawa too but not to that extent!

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    1. Yes, I think we have seen some there. The first time that we really saw them was in Budapest back in 2012.

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  11. Great entry. Looks like it's going to be a great trip!

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    1. Thanks Bonnie! We are pretty sure it will be a fantastic trip but we thought felt that way even before we arrived here.

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  12. Wow so much to see. Love the Home Depot..lol

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    1. Yep, there is just way too much to see. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg, and unfortunately we will run out of time before we have seen and done everything that we want.

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  13. A great post! And good research too. The pix are fantastic. I will share this post on my FB.

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    1. Thank you so much Peter, that means a lot. Kevin has been working hard on these posts especially when there seems to be so much to talk about and so many pictures.

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  14. You went up to one of the best towers in Seoul. Wish you have nice memories in Gwangju as well. Please remember that I am always here to help you guys as a Korean guardian. hehe. Safe trip! <3 -June-

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    1. Thank you June, we had so much fun with you and Park. We look forward to seeing you again in a few weeks time. Your are like our Korean guardian angel, you have helped us so much and we can't thank you enough. We will keep in touch and we'll see you around Oct. 25th.

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  15. Love those umbrellas. Too funny about the Chinese girls wanting a photo with you. I had the same thing happen in Istanbul when I was touring with my mom ... two Korean gentleman approached and asked if I would take their picture with mom. We were taken aback, but said, what the heck. Got a good chuckle out of it.

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    1. They did a great job with that umbrella display, we love it too!

      We have heard that this seems to be a very common practice, we had a good laugh about it too.

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  16. People love to practice the language they're learning. We run into that a lot. It's fun to see what for you is easy can be so difficult for them depending on their culture. Literal translations are the best. Looks like you're really taking advantage of your time.

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    1. You are totally right Chris, and we love to say the few Korean words we know too. Hopefully our list of words will increase a bit more but we at least have the very, very basic ones which are also very important ones.

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  17. Fascinating! Love following your travel here. I had some of the same cultural issues when I traveled to Tokyo -- hard to know what food I was ordering at times! I'm curious: did the breaded chicken cause you any gastric or other issues?

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    1. It is definitely harder when you are traveling in a country where you can't speak the language but it sure can make for some very funny times.

      Kevin seems to have a few issues but for some reason I seemed fine. I tried to scrape as much of the breading off as possible. Part of that might be that I have been so careful about keeping gluten out of my system for the past 3 years that my system seems to have improved enough that this small amount didn't have an effect. It is not something I indeed to make a habit of though. It is definitely a little challenging here in Korea but we won't starve that is for sure, we just may end up eating much of the same food that we know is gluten free, without having much variety.

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