Tag Archives: seoul subway

Seoul Santacon: So be good for goodness sake!

christmas

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.

Dongjak

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…

Noryangin

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?).

Dangsan

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:

Line 1

Line 2

Line 3

Line 4

Line 5

Line 6

Line 7

Line 8

Thanks to Waegook Tom for making this happen!

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