Tempeh In A Pot Of Kimchi

So.

After 3 years with my phone, it died of the cold here in Seoul. All of my work, projects and photos went with it. However, I looked at this more of an eye-opener rather than a… erm… loss. I mean from what I learnt in Busan, not having a phone actually made me realise the importance of disconnecting with the virtual world and re-connecting with the real world. I was able to appreciate every moment and every second of my time here in this vibrant city.

Anyways, like I said, I lost most of the pictures I took here (coincidentally, ALL of them were pictures of food) in Seoul, and as a substitute for my phone, I brought along my MacBook Pro and used the front facing camera to take photos. So, I’m sorry if the quality of the photos degrade as you scroll down this post.

THROWN INTO THE POT

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It was about a 2-hour bus ride from Pyeongchang to Dong-Seoul Bus Station where we rode a taxi to our little motel in Hyehwa. The long journey was painful but the sights and views as we went along actually helped alleviate the strenuosity of sitting in a tight, confined seat for a long time.

My first impression of Seoul was that it was a City of Bridges. I mean… it’s kinda hard to miss a bridge here. Well, they have to build the bridges to link up both sides of the Han river that cuts through the city core. There are bridges of all kinds ranging from suspension bridges, to regular beam ones. Most of them have eye-popping architectural features that make them stand out in the city skyline.

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PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

As always, the subway is a popular choice of public transportation for tourists. Like we did in Busan, we did face some complications using the subway system for the first time. I’ll just list some tips here in case you want to know how to get around some of those problems.

  • When entering the gates, tap once and enter immediately. I was confused the first time because when I first saw the gates fully opened the first time, I thought the gate was faulty.
  • If you were rejected entry after tapping (like me the first time), go over to the wheelchair gate, and press the “HELP” button (or a huge button there).
  • Make sure you take note of our destination station, and take note of the next station after your station of departure that is in the direction towards your destination station. This is so that you enter the right platform when you tap in the gates since the most of the platforms are separated.
  • If you happen to enter the wrong platform, tap out, and proceed to point number 2.
  • Remember to get your refunds for your single use cards.

…and here’s a remix of Seoul’s Subway announcements I did when I was bored.

Alright. Now that’s out of the way…

I feel that there is a huge different in environment and culture here in Seoul’s Subway as compared to Busan’s. Like I said in my blog post about my experience in Busan, smartphones seem to disconnect people from the real world which takes away opportunities to socialise with people and getting to know one another. In a developed and hectic city like Seoul, of course people have to be stuck to their phones to keep up with… “important” matters.

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Once again, it’s a developed and hectic city. So, I expected a lot of traffic going through the system which means that peak hours were a “blast.” Like really. I pulled my hair out looking at the crowds that swarmed through the stations.

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Did I have to stand for long periods of time? Surprisingly not! There were actually many kind citizens that gave up their seats to us tourists!

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Oh yeah. We had to walk quite a bit in the underground link-ways that connected the different lines in interchanges.

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Surprisingly, there little shops that actually sell food are common along those link-ways. It came as a shock to me because in Singapore, food and drinks are not allowed to be consumed in the subway. Other than food, goods that are sold include apparel, toys, and even fruits!

COMMIES IN SIGHT

On our third day here, we got DMZ (The Korean Demilitarized Zone) train tickets to take us towards Dorusan, which is the northern-most station in Seoul. We simply got the tickets at the main ticket counter at Seoul Station. It takes about 2 hours to get there.

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Dorusan is located in the DMZ Zone, which is a buffer zone that separates North and South Korea. It was created in an agreement in 1953 during the Cold War. It is considered to be one of the most dangerous places on Earth since both the North and the South have never signed a peace treaty. So basically, while you’re on tour there, bombs and rockets can start to fly and bombard out of the blue.

Sadly, we only stayed around Imjingak, which was the station before Dorusan. At Imjingak, there was a carnival (I thought it’s kind of weird) and a couple of tourist attractions which include a bunker that showcased art from the Korean War, and an observatory that allows you to peek into the opposite side of the border.

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There were also a couple of monuments to honour those that died protecting South Korea against the communists from the North.

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I think what I learnt from my trip to the DMZ was that actually, behind all of the “aggression”, the Koreans one day long to re-unite the two Koreas under one flag.

And actually… I made this post on Facebook…

Interestingly… if you walk around the souvenir shops, if you look closely at the maps and the globes that they sell, especially the ones that are made in Korea, the entire Korean Peninsula is combined into a single nation, with Pyongyang and Seoul as twin capitals. One day, the people hope that someday… Korea will be united under a single flag

THE OUTSKIRTS

So… to Everland we go… It was quite a distance actually. We had to book a taxi to get here. Everland is basically a theme park with loads of attractions which were unfortunately closed due to the bad weather. …and the weather literally turned Everland into EVERLAND. I mean it takes you to a different place when the heavy fog kicked in.

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Of course we wouldn’t end the day without fireworks!

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STREETS

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Like I always say, my favourite part of the trip is to sit by the side and watch how people carry out their normal lives, and you can pretty much find all of these in the streets. It can be a really fascinating place to understand better one’s culture.

For me, I understand culture not only from the “people”, but also from studying architectural structures. You can find this wall entrance at Dongdaemun.

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…and this is the Lotte Tower which is under construction.

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…and some other buildings…

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Here… we explore deeper into the minor lanes and streets…

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Like in Busan, cardboard collectors were a common sight.

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Well, after 10 days in Korea, I can say it was an exhilarating experience. For more pictures from Seoul, you can head over to my VSCO Grid!

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