Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Travels in Korea: Seoul

Seoul is just up the road from us. We've traveled there by car and by bus. The easiest travel is by bus, leaving Songtan Station and arriving at Nambu Station where you can hop on the subway and go just about anywhere. Seoul's subway system is fairly easy to navigate once you get the hang of it. Even better, there's an app, "Jihachul," that makes traveling by subway in Seoul even simpler.

Seoul is very fashionable, so Cora dresses up.

The only thing I need is an app that lets me know which stations are stroller friendly. Even when the subway app indicates that there is handicap access, it does not always mean that there's an elevator, or a working elevator, at that. Sometimes it is just a gnarly wheelchair lift that runs alongside the stairs. The escalator can be too narrow even for our fairly small stroller. If I had the time and the money for staff, I would develop an app, Seoul by Stroller. It is not easy traveling. The Pilot has carried our stroller up three or more flights of stairs more times than he cares to count.

Gus outside of the National Museum, ice cream and gift bag in hand and pinned proudly to his shirt a Korea button, a reward for peeing in a public restroom. Keep in mind this was back in September.

I have traveled to Seoul only once by myself with the kids and that was by bus to Yongsan Army Garrison where we took a cab to the National Museum of Korea just around the corner. We walked back to the bus station on post after our trip there. I hope to go there more with the kids throughout the week once the weather clears up and I get Cora's nap schedule worked out.

We enjoyed the National Museum, a very large complex of national treasures with a pretty darn cool children's museum, too. I hope to visit the museum again soon and see the collection beyond the Children's wing.

One thing that never fails to impress me about Korea is the abundance of food offerings wherever you go whether it be a rest stop or a department store or a bus station. The museum had many places to eat, and we stopped at one where an entire room of school children dined. I thought this a good place to eat before exploring the children's wing, and it was until my children were mobbed by about fifty seven- year-old students. It was disconcerting.

I've since had a couple of English-speaking Korean women, usually ones raised in Canada or in the states, come up to me and apologize whenever our children get undue attention. They make sure that we know it is an honor and not meant to be intrusive.

Mostly it doesn't bother me, but this time it did. They swarmed our table and started pushing to get at Cora and she started to panic and cry, so I stood up and waved a teacher over. He dispersed them, but it wasn't long before they started coming back over. Sometimes people will ask to take pictures of our children, which isn't normally a big deal save once when we were eating at a McDonald's in Songtan and a very rude high school boy starting harassing Gus. It was very uncomfortable--one of those times when your parent radar starts going off no matter what the country, and an employee had to intervene. But for the most part, people are nice and usually love to talk to our children. One time the Pilot took Cora to E-mart where Cora was given half a dozen pieces of candy and a pair of socks by other customers.

Once while visiting the food stalls in Seoul at one of the markets (Dongdaemun, I believe), a man gave Cora a 5,000 won note (a little less than $5). This is not unusual. Both she and Gus get free food all of the time, but usually Cora gets more attention than Gus because she is younger and because of her bright blue eyes and blonde hair (that's what we've been told).

Over a weekend in November, the weekend of the infamous crime scene photo (see below), we attended the Seoul Lantern Festival on Cheonggyecheon Stream.

The afternoon preceding the Lantern Festival we spent wandering around Toy Alley buying presents for the nephews and for our own little ones.

Before 2005 Cheonggyecheon Stream was just a neglected stream hidden by an overpass, but it is now a refreshing place to walk in the midst of a very busy city. We entered the stream from the exact opposite end as everyone else, and this had its advantages. Cora slept the entire time, and by the end of the stream, Gus was ready to go to sleep.

And there would be pictures, but I do not have the equipment or the know-how to shoot on a stream, underneath a series of overpasses, with tons of bright and shiny lights at night. I stopped trying to take pictures and just enjoyed the incredibly detailed lanterns and their stories along the stream.

We did get this one though:

(I have a couple on Instagram, but I cannot figure out how to use them. This is why I stopped using Instagram.)

I look forward to attending the Lotus Lantern Festival celebrating Buddha's birthday in the spring.

Next up: Itaewon, Christmas, and The Pilot's birthday! Maybe I will get around to Mount Seroksan and all the food we've eaten.

1 comment:

Double D said...

I love the pictures! My friend Sarah has many, many stories about Quinn and Will getting "mobbed" -- usually by women, not children -- during their time in Beijing. It helps that not only was Will born there, but born with white-blond hair and clear-blue eyes. Very Nordic looking, and chubby cheeks.