As they say, the best way to casually explore a foreign city especially if it’s your first time to visit is to make a walking tour. In Seoul, Jen, my travel-mate, and I didn’t have second thoughts walking its major roads and streets and commuting using the subway. We were amazed at Seoul’s very efficient transportation system. In particular, their subways, are amazing that you immediately get a “feel” of the place and experience the typical Seoul life. Plus, its a more cheaper and more convenient way of getting around major districts and popular tourist spots.
It was confusing at first but as we progressed we got familiar with using Seoul’s MRT. Signs and station names are written in English and color-coded. A lot of times, there are Seoulites who are so helpful even though we don’t understand each other (and even though we can’t speak Korean), they were very accommodating and even ushered us to the right direction. Buy your own T-card (reloadable transit card) at the Incheon International Airport right after arriving and load at least KRW 5,000 so could have enough load when transiting. [Practical tip: be prepared to bow and say Kamsahamnida which means “thank you” and the locals would greatly appreciate you J]
From the IIA, we took the subway, got off at Gyeyang station and transferred to another line bound for Bupyeong. Then we transferred to Line 1 and stopped and got off at Jongno 3 (sam)-ga Station where we transferred again to Line 3. We got off at the first station from here, Anguk Station which is near the Beewon Guesthouse, our temporary quarters for the entire five-day trip. This guesthouse is actually just a five-minute walk to Changdeok Palace.
Afterwards, I realized we got off the beaten track since we could have taken the subway and got off straight at the Seoul Station from the airport. Still, it’s ok since at least we were able to get a peek of Seoul’s “local life” along the way.
I think one of the memorable long walks we had in Seoul was when we roamed the stretch of Jongno-gu to Gwanghwamun! And prior to this we visited the Bukchon Hanok House in the neighborhood and the hilly landscape of Changdeok Palace. It was a very long walk that took us almost half of the day. Yet we were astonished it didn’t sap our energy. We found our vigor still at its peak even after hours and hours of walking.
When we caught sight of King Sejong’s and Admiral Yi Sun-sin’s monument, at Gwanghwamun, I was ecstatic–“finally,we’re here!” These iconic structures are Seoul’s pride as both are considered South Korea’s national heroes.
We both got so, so excited that we forgot we were originally thinking of looking for a nearby restaurant to eat. (We were really famished even after having a heavy lunch of bibimbap at a local Korean restaurant downtown.) We snapped pictures here and there, even asking the help of some Korean high school students along the way. At this park, one can get a magnificent view of the entrance of Gyeongbok Palace and nearby mountains from here.
Further down the road you can find Cheonggye Stream, a 5.8 km which flows west to east of Seoul.
School kids tend to go here for picnics during the day. We had a fun time mingling with them.
We went here twice. If you want, visit Cheonggye stream late in the evening. The plaza becomes more alive with the lights on. It’s vibrant, relaxing and breathtaking at night. There are stores nearby for a great high-end shopping experience.
Still, I think the most unforgettable long walk we had was when we tried to find the Han River Park in Jamsil. I wanted to give up because my legs felt so tired and aching, if not for Jen, who cajoled me not to quit and just continue walking. Good thing I listened to her, ‘coz true enough, seeing Han river was a truly rewarding experience.
It’s idyllic and an ideal venue for reflection. We really felt recharged after an exhausting walk and I entirely forgot my feet was aching.
Now shall I walk
or shall I ride?
“Ride,” Pleasure said:
“Walk,” Joy replied.
–A famous quotation of W.H. Davies about walking. Indeed, I did both and I was gratified! 😀