On the way back to Seattle, I had a 12-hour stopover in Korea during the day. So, I seized the day by going into Seoul. After meeting with MM yesterday, I also got some advice of where to go for my half day in Korea. I went on a truncated version of the MM tour, so here it is:
Transport from Incheon International Airport to Seoul is incredibly easy. I believe there are other options, but I took the train option. For the train option, they have two. They have the express train (13,300 won/~13 USD) or the commuter train option (4,000 won/~4 USD). The express train takes about 47 mins, leaves every half hour, and you get reserved seats. It also makes a direct run from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station, a subway hub of sorts (so, only two metro lines meet there). There seems to be few takers for this option, as there were lots of empty seats (I obviously took this option). The commuter train leaves every 4 mins, takes about 53 mins, makes several stops, and there are no reserved seats. It is not much of a problem (for seats), given that Incheon International Airport is the first stop.
After arriving at Seoul Station, I tried to walk to Namdaemun, got lost, and walked back to Seoul Station with my tail between my legs. Hungry, I ended up at the food court above Seoul station. They have an interesting system – they have a board where everything on offer is shown. You choose what you want, pay at a central cashier, then they issue you a queue number. The stall you ordered from will call your number when you are ready. I opted for omu rice with German sausage, which set me back by 7,500 won.
Full and happy, I took the subway for one stop from Seoul Station to City Hall, so I can see the Gyeongbok-Gung, a Korean palace first built in 1395, and later rebuilt in 1867. Apparently they film popular Korean costume dramas there. Entrance fee costs 3000 won (3USD), but if you have a group of ten or over, it costs 2,400 won per person. The Gwanghwamun Square was very impressive-looking. I think the thing that impressed me the most was how this large square is set amidst very modern, high-rise buildings, with a mysterious mountain at its back (complete with a pagoda/temple thing). And amidst all this, the American embassy is smack right beside the square. Hmm … I also lucked out as they were having a changing of the imperial guards ceremony when I was there. I thought it was kinda funny how all the ‘guards’ stuck fake beards on their faces!
After Gwanghwamun, I headed towards the Dongdaemun market. Yeah, the Dongdaemun didn’t look that impressive. It looked like many of the old flag towers in older Chinese cities like Nanjing – a reminder of the city’s past, as the city moves on. I didn’t go into Dongdaemun market, as I am not a huge fan of shopping. Seems like lots of shoes! They looked pretty cheap to me – saw lots of stuff going for around 2 USD.
I followed the street towards Gwangjang market, as MM had good things to say about its food (yes, that’s what I’ll spend my money on). It was a nice stroll. They have a canal running through this busy district. Amazingly, the canal is very well landscaped; they had footpaths running along the canal, and big stones which functioned as bridges for people who wanted to cross the canal.
Arriving in Gwangjang Market, there was quite a good array of foods. I just kinda did the sight test, followed by the queue test. I ended up in a dumpling stall, where twice, I was asked to scoot over, as there were too many people wanting to eat there. They were very good vegetarian dumplings, with a spicy soup. All that was for 4USD. It’ll make a great winter snack.
After all that munching, it was about time for me to get back to the airport. (Ok, I’m getting tired) The Incheon International Airport is great. They have a lot of food options (so, I also ate Kraze burger there), and it’s incredibly comfortable. Korean customer service is also excellent, so do think about stopping over there, if you have options of where to stop over.
Gwanghwamun and some filming going on
Some vegetarian dumpling soup thing