A day trip to Seoul

May 26th, 2009 by scott and becky

Our main task for the day was to get some decent maps of Korea and some Korean cash. There are so many big expressways (especially in Northern South Korea) that we needed to find a detailed map of some of the smaller roads. Also, many hills also means many tunnels and bridges, so we wanted a map that indicates tunnels, so we can do our best to avoid them.

We took the bus from Incheon to Seoul and were immediately struck by how modern the city is and how western it feels. At one point we walked for several blocks looking for food and only saw western fast food outlets. We had to duck down onto a side street to find Korean food.

Finding an ATM that took foreign cards proved to be more of a challenge than we anticipated. We used the “5-star hotel” trick, and headed to the Ritz Carleton. Upon climbing the entrance ramp to the lobby, Scott immediately had a sense of déjà vu. It turned out that this is where he stayed on his first visit to Seoul for business back in 2002. Fortunately, they did have an ATM that accepted foreign cards, so we were able to get some cash (hopefully enough to last us until Busan).

We found two book stores selling English titles. Bandi and Lunni Books at Jonggak Station on the 1 line had a good selection of bilingual English/Korean maps, and we picked up a (rather heavy) road atlas. Unfortunately we visited Kyobo Books first, so also have a map of South Korea which we don’t need.

You know you’ve been travelling too long when you take pleasure in using a public washroom. After so much filth in Chinese toilets, it is a downright pleasure to use Korean washrooms. They are clean, free, and even include toilet paper most of the time. It feels just like home – in some cases even cleaner than home! Life is good!

Tired out from a late night chatting with Jessica and Terry, and running errands, we did not actually do anything touristy in Seoul, other than walking past the Boskingak bell tower. We bought some groceries to make dinner, and headed back to Incheon. We spent the evening visiting with Jessica and Terry and preparing to get back on the bikes tomorrow. It was very interesting to exchange perspectives on South Korea and China, since Jessica has been here 12 years, and Terry his whole life.

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