Korea on $185US – Day 2 ...

The hostel included a very simple breakfast of coffee and toast. Despite the Dunkin Donuts directly below, I opted for the free route. I had a few questions for the guy that worked at the hostel anyway before I went on my way to brave the train system.

Although at first intimidating, the trains were actually quite easy to figure out and very convenient. I loved the Korean jingle that plays to let one know the next stop is about to arrive. There were often salesmen on the trains trying to sell things like back braces or toothpaste. They were equipped with headset microphones and had prepared speeches for the passengers. On other occasions I saw blind men walking down the trains with radios hung around their necks that blared music in hopes of attracting just enough attention to get the small baskets they held filled.

First stop was to Seolleung to see the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.  The grounds surrounding the area were full of lush greenery and this made the trip worthwhile. The smells and sounds of nature were amazing! The tombs themselves were blocked off and not easy to see. The stone sculptures that were in sight were facing the opposite direction in which one was allowed to view them. Needless to say it was a little disappointing. One could enter the Tomb of King Seongjong at 10:30 and 2:30 for 30 minutes. It was going on 11:30 when I was there and I wasn’t willing to wait around until the next opening. It took about one hour to wander the area; the ticket was only $1,000KRW.

On the train ride back to the hostel, I was beginning to notice that the younger generation had their eyes glued to iPhones or something similar more often than not. Even when traveling in groups, each would be buried in entertainment offered on their individual devices rather than socializing with each other. I also noted that the older generation was smiling at me a lot. I suppose I looked like a tourist with my camera and map in hand; however, Korea came off as a very friendly environment.

I went to a French Café for lunch and grabbed a latte along with two items from the bakery; both were delicious and ran me $8,900KRW.

Second stop was to the impressive Deoksu Palace which sits in the heart of Seoul. I arrived just in time for the changing of the guards. With the entrance fee only being $1,000KRW, it was no wonder that the grounds were bustling with people. The day was hot and the skies were fabulously blue. I spent a few hours strolling and treated myself to a quiet rest in a shady park to observe the surrounding atmosphere.

Third stop was over to the Cheonggyecheon River. This river flows right through the city center and runs about 8.4 kms. Kids were wading in the shallow water while others were dawdling along without a care in the world. I saw signs advertising a light show in the evenings, so I decided to walk around the city in search of dinner in order to pass the time.

There were an abundance of restaurants in the area and it was hard to choose one. I wandered past a place called Taj Mahal and I ask who can walk by a restaurant with such a name and not go in? Certainly not I! I had tasty tikki masala Paneer along with garlic naan and masala chai all for only $12,500KRW. Yum! Day two was quickly coming to an end and still no Korean food.

Cafés of all sorts were everywhere. You could be standing at one Dunkin Donuts and spot another not too far off in the distance. The city was full of foreigners as well, way more than we have in Taiwan. That being said, I didn’t see many English schools around nor did many Koreans speak much English; the level certainly lacked compared to that of Taiwan. One thing I do know is that I prefer being in an Asia where I can communicate with others. Some Mandarin was around which brought familiarity.

After dinner on day two, I returned to the river to view the light show that wasn’t overly moving. Exhaustion set in on the way back to the hostel and I was looking forward to some rest. Day three was sure to be more busy.

Korea on $185US – Day 1 ...

Being a full time student has unfortunately hindered my travels to some degree. I had $185US leftover from my trip to Las Vegas last year and I decided to use this for my time in Korea. First stop was to trade that money which allowed me $193,330KRW. Second stop was to the airport information booth to find me a map of the city and the trains. I let out a small gasp when the lady showed me the complex train system. I told her where I needed to go and she highlighted one stop on a map of what seemed to be hundreds and pointed me in the right direction.

Signs were clearly marked for the trains and I was feeling quite confident.  Upon reaching two opposing escalators, the signs became misleading and I wasn’t sure if both led to the same tracks.  I took my chances and went down one knowing that I could always go back up if it was the wrong way.

I noticed a lady aware of my confusion before heading down and once I had reached the tracks, her son was waiting to ask me if I needed help.  She didn’t speak any English but her sons and husband spoke a bit.  We chitchatted while waiting for the train; they were quite curious about why I was there.  The husband eventually asked me which son I thought was more handsome and I could only politely answer that I thought both were.  Although they got off the train before I did, the wife made sure to point to my stop on the tiny lit map above the exit doors so that things were very clear.

I reached my stop and followed the instructions given to me by the hostel I was staying at which told me to go out exit number two.  The problem with that was that there was a yellow square with a two inside of it as well as a green circle with a two inside of it; they headed in opposite directions.  I went towards the square and then towards the circle and then back towards the square before stopping to see if I could find someone working for the train.  Apparently that wasn’t necessary as a young guy approached me immediately to offer help.  He told me a few important things about the trains while walking me exactly where I needed to be.  Fantastic!  I was quickly becoming very impressed by the niceness I was receiving from the people of Korea. 
The hostel was called Hongdae Guest House and it was recommended by an acquaintance.  It was only OK in my opinion.  The window of my room sat above a very busy road and the hum of traffic was constant.  There was no common room so it wasn’t easy to meet others, only the ones staying in the same room.  There were a lot of young guys staying in my room who seemed to be partying it up into the wee hours of the morning.  They weren’t very considerate of the few that weren’t partaking.  I lacked in sleep over the three nights and decided that may be my last time doing the hostel thing.  The price was right, however, at only 20,000KSW per night and so was the location; it was situated perfectly.

It was early evening by the time I reached the hostel on day one and I wasn’t up for doing much due to the fact that the night before consisted of a staff party at an all-you-can BBQ and beer place and I was just recovering from my hangover.  I went to a night market up the road and wandered around looking for a place to eat.  I ended up with a big Japanese beer (3,700KSW) and a Turkish Donar Kebab (5,000KSW) to go and both hit the spot.  I spent some time studying the map of the city and searching the Internet making plans for the following day which I knew would be a busy one; and that it was.  There’s a new album on the right although my pictures do not overly impress me this time around.

Wednesday August 24th, 2011

Three nights in Korea with US$185 that was leftover from Vegas. Pictures and stories to follow soon.

Thursday August 4th, 2011

It seems to be growing as it approaches. Late summer cleaning started today although the rain hasn't arrived as of yet.

Wednesday August 3rd, 2011

Looks like we are in for a wet weekend as typhoon 梅花 heads straight towards Taiwan. My apartment is in dire need of a clean which may just force me to finally get it done!