Tag Archives: public transportation

Let’s shop ‘Folk Style’ in Seoul.

Once upon a time the Seoul Folk Flea Market (서울풍물시장) vendors set up shop around the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul, Korea. Now they return each day to well-manicured squares of space within a recently built warehouse location. Some merchants refer to the market as The Ant Market due to its many moves over the years. Thankfully, a friend who is always in the know dragged me to the market a few weeks ago. I am very glad she did.

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The vendors hope to keep the culture of the traditional market alive and the newest location is well-organized with maps and signs leading shoppers through a maze of small shops selling everything from Buddha figurines and wooden masks to designer handbags and musical instruments. With only enough time to discover the first floor of the massive market, I found great Korean souvenirs, a vintage pair of Ray Bans and a slouchy black leather bag. I will be back soon to tackle the second floor.

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Have you visited the Seoul Folk Flea Market? What great finds did you come across?

Sinseol-dong Station (Line 1 or 2 Exit 9), Closed every 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 10:00am-7:00pm

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Go ride a bike.

 

“When I see an adult on a bicycle I do not despair for the future of the human race.” -H.G. Wells

I’m sorry, I cheated on a previous blog post. I recommended a bike ride along the Han River in Seoul as a fabulous Spring activity if you are living in Korea, yet my feet hadn’t connected with pedals in almost a year. In an attempt to redeem myself, I along with two friends, ventured into Seoul this past Sunday and were successful in renting bikes and having a grand and glorious day. We saw kites, kid cars, bball players, swan boats, speed walkers, unicyclers, tandem bikers, gardeners, and dancing toddlers to name a few. Everyone was out on the river this weekend and you should have been too.

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I know there are many places along the river to rent bikes, but I recommend starting your day at the Ttukseom Resort Seoul Subway Station (Line 7). It is conveniently located right on the water and you can spot the rental shop as soon as you walk out of the station. I paid 3,000 won for the first hour (less than $3.00) and I left my ID with the rental shop. When I returned more than three hours later I paid a bit more for the extra time and collected my ID. The process was easy and foreigner friendly.

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 Biking along the Han River was one of the best things I have done this Spring. Please enjoy my pictures and video included below and if you’ve rented bikes at a different location I would love to hear about your experience.

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Seoul Santacon: So be good for goodness sake!

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There are few times in life when I believe it is appropriate for a group of friends to wear bright and matching outfits, disregard the personal space and solitude of others in public and obnoxiously sing childish songs while moving from one drinking establishment to the next. One of these times would have to be Seoul Santacon.

A few short weeks ago I made my way into Seoul along with a couple hundred other holiday revelers to socialize, sing and sip soju for an evening. I thought I was festively prepared donning a red scarf and Rudolph ears, but I was surprised to find most people decked head to toe in Santa garb. After a few drinks at Beer O’Clock in Sinchon, Seoul’s center of young nightlife,  a sea of red and white slowly made its way to a nearby subway station where soju was shared and merriment had. Koreans armed with smartphones proudly captured the chaotic scene of Santas singing off-key and sometimes incomplete Christmas songs. I never thought Rudolph could be butchered so gruesomely. With a group so large, some songs were commenced and quickly forgotten when other lyrics drifted onto the scene. The caroling petered out when the subway reached Hongdae and we made our way to the appropriately named HO Bar (“Ho Ho Ho!”) where we danced, mingled and listened to Mariah repeatedly inform us of her Christmas list.

Although the night was one of this winter’s coldest (so far) and we spent most of it inside bars and clubs, I most enjoyed the short half hour of travel from Sinchon to Hongdae via the Seoul Metropolitan Subway. Being an expat in Korea can sometimes be a bit lonely, but a tipsy and merry song and dance to and through the subway with a  family of fellow foreigners leaves one feeling joyous and determined to spread the holiday spirit. Because we all know: The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

I would divulge more detail of the social movements through the bars and clubs of Hongdae, but Santa told me to be good for goodness sake…

How To Travel: Santa sans Sleigh

Step One: Make sure you pay your way…the other Santas know if you’ve been bad or good.

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Step Two: Wait around until a responsible looking Santa steps up and leads the way through the station.

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Step Three: Try to enjoy the ride, Rudolph is loving his night off. 

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Seoul Subway Line 9!

Seoul Subway Challenge: Line 9

Line 9 still needs some work on its smile, but speaking as someone who didn’t get braces until the end of high school, I am going to give the 2009 addition to the Seoul Subway a break and appreciate the quirky half smirk that is a work in progress. Line 9 went live in July of 2009 and is the first privately run subway line in Korea run by Veolia Transport, a French company. Also called ‘The Golden Line’, Line 9 snakes from Gaehwa Station and Gimpo Airport along the south side of the Han River toward Sinnonhyeon Station in Gangnam to form a half smile. A full smile should be completed in the near future with plans for further station stops at the Sports Complex Station and later at Oryun Station.

I began my exploration of Line 9 close to its most eastern point. I was hungry after a long ride down from my home in Uijeongbu and I figured the Express Bus Terminal would stimulate my taste buds and sense of adventure on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Seoul…

Express Bus Terminal

At the Express Bus Terminal I did not venture outside as I did with the remainder of my Line 9 stops. There was no need to leave. There was plenty to see within steps of the subway exit. The Express Bus Terminal Station is under the Seoul Express Bus Terminal (aka Gangnam Bus Terminal) and it is not where you go to escape the hustle and bustle of Seoul. The terminal is full of people on the move. People are busy and moving fast in the Express Bus Terminal. They are in a rush to snatch up the latest designer pieces at Shinsegae, eat at the ‘Prestige Food Empire’ (Who knew we had ‘Premium Food Courts’ in this world?), check into the exclusive Marriott Hotel or depart for/arrive from another swanky city in Korea. After mindlessly wandering the maze of floors in the terminal my friends and I decided to eat at KFC before venturing to our next stop on Line 9. Believe it or not, this was my first time eating at a KFC. *shock* I don’t know, the ‘Prestige Food Empire’ just freaked me out. And I had promised my friends a travel-worthy lunch for accompanying me on my Seoul Subway Challenge adventure. And they like KFC.

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Line 9 leaves no room for travel confusion. The elaborate digital screens in each car display the upcoming station information along with a birds-eye view map showing the immediate neighborhood at each location. At Dongjak Station we simply scoured the map and chose a spot to explore and its corresponding numbered exit. Seoul National Cemetery was desolate except for a lone woman wandering the aisles of graves chanting some sort of prayer or song. We walked among the uniform grave stones of hundreds of Korean Veterans. The late President Kim Dae-Jung was interred here in 2009. We soon found ourselves in a lush pathway leading to a bridge over a small river teeming with brightly colored fish. With no KFC leftovers to spare, my friend searched her bag and found a package of crackers to feed the fish. Watching fish jump and splash for bits of old peanut butter crackers: It really is the little things in life…

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A few stops after our friendly fish feeding experience we found ourselves in the midst of a bloody and lively seafood massacre. We followed small signs illustrated with fish designs along a subway track  overpass toward the obvious smell of fresh fish. The Noryangin Fisheries Market is Seoul’s largest marine products market with over 66,000 square meters of small shops, auction spaces and restaurants. If it swims you will find it here and usually at a much cheaper price than you would at a supermarket. The 24-hour market is full of an intense sense of urgency. With many of the 700+ small shops selling the same products, they are competitive and will stop at nothing to gain the attention of shoppers meandering up and down the market aisles. As I stopped to snap a few pictures of live octopus, shrimp, giant crab, oysters and flounder, some shopkeepers were full of pride and posed for my camera while others frowned and quickly ushered me away because they saw my photography as a distraction and a missed selling opportunity.

Yeouido

After the crowded fish market it was nice to breathe some fresh air upon exiting the station at Yeouido. We walked a few blocks to the Cultural Event Plaza where a sign at the park entrance encourages people to “rest or talk with friends”. We did just that and also snacked on some cotton candy a friendly man was selling from the back of his motorcycle. Children giggled as they ran about in the open space, older couples walked briskly along the shaded bike path and young professionals played basketball in  collared shirts, ties and dress pants (Sunday?).

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Dangsan was a perfect last stop for our expedition. A narrow bridge outside the station exit led us over the busy street to the Han River where we spotted a strategically placed 7-11. I can’t think of a better way to spend a late Sunday afternoon: enjoying a cold beer sitting beside the river and watching boats pass by. As I finished my beer I felt my phone buzz from my pocket. A message from my father back in the US surprised me. “Are you prepared for the TYPHOON!?” it read. I laughed and put my phone away. Korea continues to surprise me each day as I attempt to teach and survive typhoons, but at least I can rely on the Seoul Subway for convenient and dependable transportation.

Which line gets you around Seoul? Take a look:

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Thanks to Waegook Tom for making this happen!

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I was going to write a ‘Top 10 List’ & then this happened.

I found myself wallowing in a bout of homesickness last week. Rather than sulk in my apartment and dream of lounging dock-side on Martha’s Vineyard sipping a Blue Moon and hogging the guacamole bowl, I sat down and scribbled all the things I am loving at the moment about my present situation. If you’re interested, here it is, feel free to add to my list. Cheers! *shot of soju in hand*

I love…

1) soju.

2) the huge H&M and Forever 21 stores in Seoul.

3) surprising the older Koreans on the subway when I give up my seat for them.

4) bars that never close,  interesting bar snacks and learning how to play darts.

5) being inspired by Korean fashion.

6) when my takeout pizza is presented as a gift.

7) how my students love me.

8) not having to remember a key for my apartment because I have a keypad instead.

9) outdoor restaurant seating that magically appears in good weather.

10) paying bills within seconds at the ATM.

11) cooking my own meat at Korean BBQ. It’s the real deal: hot coals, marinated meat and scrumptious sides.

12) learning about Buddha and Buddhism.

13) public transportation. The subway is English friendly, fast, cheap and clean.

14) the 7 Eleven steps from my apartment.

15) not having to be at work until 1pm.

16) being the token foreigner at my yoga studio.

17) my small apartment, sometimes I complain, but it is cozy and easy to clean.

18) the free exercise stations everywhere.

19) Ssamjang (쌈장 ) sauce at Korean BBQ. Yes, it deserves it’s own spot on this list and it deserves a place in American cuisine. (Ssamjang is a thick, spicy paste used with food wrapped in a leaf in Korean cuisine. The sauce is made of doenjang, gochujang, sesame oil, onion, garlic, green onions, and optionally brown sugar. -Wikipedia)

20) that just about everything is cuter in Korea: coffee cups, bus cards, stationary, trucks, etc. #cuterinkorea

21) the moving ramps for grocery carts at Homeplus.

22) the walking/running/biking path along the river near my apartment.

23) not having to obey an open container law.

24) the service button at restaurants.

25) kimchi, yeah it’s growing on me.

26) cheap underground shopping.

27) receiving mail from friends and family.

28) meeting foreigners and bonding instantly.

29) the adorable coffee shops. I also appreciate being able to visit my first love, Starbucks, when I need a fix.

30) Korean kindness and hospitality.

31) not having to remember to pay rent each month – it’s on my school.

32) bowing instead of shaking hands to say hello – my palms get sweaty.

33) cheap travel to exotic locations. I can’t wait for Taiwan in July!

34) staying in touch with friends & family back home via snail mail, email, Facebook, Skype, Kakao Talk, FourSquare, Pinterest, Spotify and Instagram. Sometimes it feels like I never left.

35) creating a place for myself on Twitter and in the expat and travel blogging community.

36) fantastic conversations with new friends about the future – inspiring!

37) drinks on a necklace. Yup.

38) freebies with every purchase. I have enough travel samples for at least 5 vacations. A free sun hat with a new bottle of perfume – why not?

39) Casablanca in Haebangcheon: Best. Sandwich. Ever.

40) the new Shinsegae department store in Uijeongbu.

41) Temple Stay experiences.

42) kimbap’s deliciousness.

43) my rooftop.

44) the small plastic bag holders for wet umbrellas outside every store when it’s raining. Genius.

45) jjimjibangs.

46) free phone charging stations.

47) street food after a crazy night out.

48) norebang. Can you say ‘Call Me Maybe’?

49) my acupuncture doctor.

50) free festivals. My love began at the Lantern Festival celebrating Buddha’s birthday.

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