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    Friday 9 September 2011

    Day Three – Getting to grips with the Seoul Metro

    We awoke rather early on this our first full day in the city. As our apartment/hotel offers free breakfast we opted to avail. The selection available was both hot and cold, with a chef on standby to prepare fresh omelets if required. From the looks of it, traditional Korean breakfast must consist of pumpkin soup and rice. We went for the more US style pancakes and waffles. Sure our diets can continue when we get home. The residents (as opposed to guests) where a good mix of Asians with what looked like a few Americans, then there was us and would you believe that Irish couple who had travelled on the same route as us over! Chances of that!?
    Patrick at Tescos!
    Vinnie finds McCol Lemonade!
    The first task today was to properly stock up our fridge with food to last the week. I had learned of a massive Tesco a short subway ride away, so off we went in search of food. We both love to ride local transport when travelling. The Seoul Metro system is vast, but not overly modern.  The stations are quite old and the signage is rather confusing. Station names are written in Roman and local script making it easy to read, but the signage directing you to platforms could be improved. There are 9 main subway lines running from 5am until after midnight. A typical ride will cost you around 50cent. Payment is done via the T-Mobile card that we picked up yesterday. It’s a tag-on, tag-off process.
    Rather then a count down to the next train, the metro uses a visual indicator showing where the next train is.
    Unfortunately my cold was really playing up today, I was sniffling and sneezing on top of everyone! Here unlike most Asian countries, people don’t wear facemasks. Perhaps it’s a sign of westernization? And unlike China they don’t drink a lot of tea, mainly coffee. South Korea in many respects isn’t like your typical Asian country. People here go out of their way to bump into you. It’s all about the pushing. The elderly also ride the subway in their masses!

    Anyhow we made it to the massive Tesco, over 4 or 5 floors. Here it’s call HomePlus. We must have spent 2 hours wandering around with our trolley. NOTHING is in English. Being a vegetarian here is going to be difficult. Armed with the Google translation app on our iPhones we did our best to ensure everything we picked up was meat/fish free. It was exhausting.

    Back at the hotel we took an afternoon nap, well needed before heading out to visit the local Buddhist Temple, the largest in the city, which just happens outside our apartment. The main prayer room had three massive Buddas.
    One of the three large Buddas

    Vinnie outside The Temple

    Keeping it on foot, we walked for some two hours taking in many of the downtown sights. Walking past the city hall they have a massive outside performance area for concerts. A young rock band was performing as we passed. Close by we wandered around the massive Namdaemun market consisting of several blocks of typical street sellers and food stalls. We ended up at the Seoul Central Station were we had dinner in Pizza Hut. Yes I know we could have been more exotic, but we knew we could eat vegetarian there. Attempts to locate a veggie restaurant along with route had failed. We opted for a veggie pizza with a sweet potato crush. It was actually delicious.
    Vinnie at the start of the submerged stream which runs throughout the city

    Patrick at the performance area in front of the city hall

    Our sweet potato crust pizza

    Before heading back to the apartment to visited the enormous Lotte Mart, a supermarket over several floors that is adjacent to the station.

    We rounded off the night paying a late night visit to their temple bar area, Itaewon, which was crammed with all kinds of nightlife. It’s very tourist friendly, with everyone speaking English. It’s also popular with the many American Soldiers still stationed here. A taxi ride back to the apartment, 15 minutes only cost €6, payable with our T-Money card. Handy.

    1 comment:

    1. Great blog so far, lads!

      I know what you mean about food shopping in ROK. When we lived there my mum once picked up apple vinegar thinking it was cooking oil. Mmm, out pork chops that night were a wee bit tarte! lol!