Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chuseok Week in Review - Part Two

Another not for the TL;DR-hearted.  Although I actually think I can communicate quite a bit of what I saw in pictures, so this may end up shorter than expected.  Either way, here is my adventure in Seoul over Chuseok (clomplete with enough pictures to cause Blogger to have saving errors multiple times).

I woke up at 5:30 AM because I was going to walk to Gangneung Bus Station and I knew it would take about an hour (from the last time I walked it), and of course I wanted to be there a bit early to figure things out since it would be my first time taking a bus out alone.  I was out the door by 6:05 AM and amazed when I arrived at the bus stop a little before 7AM... which meant I had a while to wait.

I got a Vitamin C 500 drink for 700W, but I swear the guy said 300W or 400W at first.  In fact, I bet he did because 삼 and 사 sound nothing like 칠.

I eventually got on the right bus (he checked my ticket when I held it out to the bus driver, nodded vigorously, and then chuckled when I smiled back).  Success!

Once the bus was moving I was laughing uproariously in my head because the television was talking about goats.  This seems stupid, but Elizabeth had sent me a goatcam video link the day before and I joked about watching it on the bus for three hours... and then there were goats!

We made one rest stop and seriously, rest stops are amazing in Korea.  There's a freaking greenhouse in the middle of the women's restroom.  And then, of course, the coffee vending machine dispensed my can of coffee into a soft bed of fake grass at the bottom instead of clattering around.  This place...


In less than three hours including the rest stop break, I arrived in Seoul at the Seoul Express Bus Terminal.  I bought my ticket using Niko's old post-it note as a model and filling in the information I needed.  I'm working up to understandable and pronounce-able speech.  And actually having a vocabulary would help.
I couldn't find the subway (turns out it was right in front of me, but it was labeled as an underground shopping mall so I was confused... and afraid if I went down and got lost I wouldn't make my 11:30 AM meeting time at Nambu Bus Terminal.  So I looked up a map on my smart phone and started walking.


Look at it.  It was hot, but totally worth it.


I arrived at Nambu exactly at 11:30 AM too.

Wednesday - Studio Ghibli & Itaewon


Maren, Mark and I got tickets to the Studio Ghibli Exhibit at the Hangaram Design Museum.  15,000W per person.

The stairs from the lobby to the outdoor area leading to the design
museum.  Yes, there's a shell in the background.   Amazing.

No photography was allowed in the exhibit, but I can give a brief synopsis.  Basically, there were six rooms whose walls were lined with frame after frame of the original animation layouts for all the animated films.  On the layouts, other than the ridiculous sketching skills of these animators, there were also colors showing illumination, red lines and notes showing figures entering scenes, action occurring in the scenes, how and how long the layout would be panned, the scene numbers, etc.  There were also TVs placed next to some of the layouts so you could see the original and the final cut.  It was really cool to piece together the meanings of all the colors and notes on the layouts (since the Korean was a little.. beyond our grasp).

At the very end we entered this room:


The walls were covered in stickers drawn by all those who entered the exhibit.  I drew a Totoro and put it up high on one of the walls.


Here are some other shots of the walls.  I love that Homer Simpson and Squidward made it there.




After the exhibit, I took a picture with Totoro outside!
We stopped for a quick bite to eat at a Vietnamese place that was stuffed with people.  I had sweet potato-stuffed fried rice paper rolls.  Very yummy (though they made me feel a little off, of course: darn you fried food.)

Then Maren and Mark helped me get a T-Card to ride the subway and buses!  Now, I actually have a new check card from my bank that is arriving that will have a transit function which will allow me to purchase tickets online, but this little guy was only 3000W so I'm not too worried.  Also, if I was carrying this around and dropped it, it'd be a lot better than dropping my check card.

Basically, before you pass through the turnstiles you will see two types of big blue arcade game-like machines.  One of these you purchase the actual T-Card from.  Yes, there's an English option.  In fact, everything in the subway has English on it so don't be worried if you're traveling around!

It comes in the box below which I later realized had a maze inside.  Yes, I did the maze.


After getting your card from one machine, you take it to the other blue machine and load up a certain amount of cash on it. 10,000W will take you many different places, but if you're busing out to distant places like Everland you will definitely need to load up more like 30,000-40,000W to be safe.  The most I paid for any one subway trip was less than 1,500W.  That's crazy cheap when you think about it.  They have a base rate and then add on a few hundred Won depending on the distance you travel (which they calculate by where you scan your T-Card at the turnstiles.

Then you get this amazing subway application for your smart phone that lets you enter your starting point and destination and proceeds to tell you exactly what lines you need to be on and what direction, how long it will take, how many stations you will pass through, and what subway car you should stand in so you can have the most direct route to your next line.  And it's free.

To commemorate my first subway ride, a picture:


All of the subway trains I was on announced in Korean and English the names of the stations are you arrived.  Some, like this one (Line 2), also had monitors displaying the names and which side to exit on.  But be forewarned, the monitors were actually off by one station when I was riding it at one point so make sure you are listening to the voice and watching the walls when you reach the stops (since they prominently display the names).

We went to Itaewon looking for food.  It was about what I expected for being the "foreigner" area of Korea.  


We didn't actually look around too much since we were all quite hungry.  We decided to eat at Amigos and get Mexican food.  The restaurant had a very American restaurant feel to it.  I could have done without the waiter hitting on me when I got there and when I left ("I'll see you next time you come to Itaewon."), but the food was really good.  I had beef enchiladas... and they tasted like beef enchiladas.


I told my Korean "mom" friend about the waiter and her response was so hilarious.  She was saying things like, "Oh, I'm so worried!"  "Bad guy!" "Be safe!"  Hil-ar-i-ous.

We got Baskin Robbins, headed home on the subway, and I have to say the bridge lit up over the river in Seoul was not one I'll forget. Beautiful...

Thursday - Everland


On Thursday we went to Sadang Bus Terminal to catch bus 1500-2 to Everland.  Future riders: the website tells you to exit out of Exits 2 or 3 from the subway.  Do that, then walk straight up the road to the first bus stop you find along the main road, not the bus stop around the curve where the expressway is.  We had a fun time trying to figure out and run around getting on this bus.  First we crossed the road, then the bus driver pulled up and just pointed to the other side of the road so we ran down through the subway (crazy foreigners on the loose!) and came up the other side.

The bus ride was supposed to be around 80 minutes long, but it took over three hours due to Chuseok traffic.  We got stuck in line for this huge memorial that people were heading too.  We also had a late start because Maren and Mark just barely missed the first sub they needed.

But then we arrived at Everland!  Here's the fun part of the blog: mostly pictures.


We got our Chuseok for Foreigners discounted tickets from the Information Booth at then went to European Adventure to eat at the Burger Cafe.  I got a Premium Big Burger Set... so good. Tasted like a real hamburger!


Then we went to Zootopia!  I tried to steal a giraffe for Niko but it didn't work.



We went into Animal Wonder World which was basically a zoo.  They had Fennec Foxes.  So cute!  I got to pet one too.



Then these guys were crawling over our heads as we looked at baby animals and other small rodents.


There were a gajillion of them.
They do exist!

Yep. Tigers too.
I have no idea why the Fennec Fox looks so upset on top of that turtle.
Also, there are dinosaurs in Korea.

We accidentally ended up inside of this theater where they
had some sort of animal play.  I think a thief stole something
and then let all these guinea pigs out to run. GUINEA PIGS!
I encouraged Maren and Mark to go do their couple thing (which involved the T-express rollercoaster which I would not touch with a 10-foot pole) and my wandering led me just in time to be in the front row for a parade!







So there were people who were obviously foreigners dancing in this parade, and
I wonder if they work at the park year-round or just for extra cash every once in a while.




There was dancing, singing, and it was very bright and colorful!

When the parade ended I headed over to the Four Seasons Garden.  Look at how freaking gorgeous this place is.




All over the park they are setting up for their Halloween events...



Turtles!
Yes, that's a rainbow in a fountain.  And while I know why I see it
scientifically, can I just point out that Korea is so very magical.  This is up
there with butterflies in my hair.
Then I went into the European village area...




And then into more gardens...




The Ferris wheel in the background is very old and being taken down
soon, so this picture might be worth a bit in the Everland story books.
And in the European Adventure area there was a carousel!




I refused to take a selfie so no shot of me on the carousel, but here's the view from my horse!

More wanderings led to Aesop's World (for kids) and all of the shops for souvenirs.




I bought 11,000W worth of candy in this candy shop.  Also, the tree is covered in flying
eyeballs for Halloween.

And the view as I said goodbye to Everland.  Definitely would be great to go again at Christmas I think!


Some of my most exciting candy finds.  A gummy that looks like a scrambled egg (didn't taste like one, but it was delicious!); these chewy things that tasted like cinnamon-gingerbread cake (no idea, but delicious); and these adorable marshmallow treats!


I also got some souvenirs that I shouldn't have.  An owl pillow (come on, look at it!); a Fennec Fox neck pillow (because these things are apparently huge here?); and a penguin popcorn jar that contained caramel popcorn at one point.  Yes, this is the penguin from Madagascar.  I'm going to use it as a cookie jar.  A 13,000W cookie jar, but a cookie jar nonetheless.


Also, the fountain light show that greeted me as I stepped outside of Guro station and a mini-360 degree tour before I headed to Jeanie's house (where I was staying).

Friday - Insadong (I Will Return!)


And finally, Friday morning dawned and I hopped on the subway to Hakdong Station to meet Soo Hyun and Alli.


We wandered a little and grabbed some Thai food before we left for Insadong.  Here's two pictures from the Hakdong Station area.


I will visit the Hello Kitty Cafe in the near future.  Also, please notice the sign
in the picture on the right.  Not only is there a cat cafe here, but no clue what
the last place is for.  Totally lost in translation moment I think.

Insadong was packed!  But there were tons of handmade Korean souvenirs to be appreciated (and bought).



Need a take-out cocktail?  Only in Korea.



All handmade stuff!

We went to the crazy ice cream cone store!



You couldn't get a huge curly one filled with ice cream, but you could get these little shepherd hook ones (3000W).

The ice cream guy was hilarious.  As he's filling up my ice cream cone he says to me, "Hey, Lady.  How are you?  It's really hot today.  I'm really tired and want to go home.  Here you go.  Goodbye Lady."  And then handed me my ice cream cone and patted me on my shoulder to move along. Seriously one of the funniest things ever!  His delivery was fast, spot on, and even probably rehearsed.

It was good ice cream too!

I got a picture of the landmark Starbucks that is actually written in Korean.


This is probably the closest I'll ever come to an idol...


We hit up a five (or six?) story Daiso.  Look at all the colors of organizers.  This place has everything (except can openers... will I ever be able to find a can opener?).


I have no idea:


We went to a Bubble Tea shop!  I got a mango smoothie.  Alli bought this beautiful sunflower from a seller on the street.


I hopped on to the subway at 3:40 PM and headed over to the Express Bus Terminal to catch my 4:40 PM bus back to Gangneung.  There was an interesting moment when I found a coat someone had left and tried to explain to the driver with hand motions that someone had left it behind in the overhead compartment.

And a view out my bus window as I traveled back to Gangneung after my adventures:


It was a fun experience and I will be returning soon!  There is tons more to explore in Seoul!


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