Seoul (Part One)

In May, 2012 I had the thrill of travelling on the “Three-Countries-Three-Weeks-Three-Kids” tour. Imagine how cool that would be, then double it! The first stop on my once-in-a-lifetime trip was to Shanghai, to visit my daughter. Following my visit there, I flew to Seoul, South Korea.

IMG_3964_smallI got into Incheon late at night and was met by my son. We got on the train back to Seoul, then switched to the subway when we got to the main train station. From there it was off to the hotel, which was between two subway stations, so of course we got off at the one on the downhill side and dragged luggage UP the hill in the middle of the night (it might have been raining) rather than getting off at the uphill station and rolling them down. (As a parent, you have to have things to tease your kids about. They’re going to do it to you – ask any of my kids about “the hammer.”)

Pro tip for traveling in Asia (and Europe) — you can make your life so much easier if you take a few minutes to figure out the train, subway, and bus systems. Unlike many (most?) cities in the US, all cities have very advanced public transportation systems which are cheap, easy, and used by everyone. Even if you don’t speak a word of the language or recognize any of the written characters, you’ll find many (most?) signs in English as well. If all else fails, you can do simple comparisons between the characters on the map and the characters on the signs to know when you’re at this station instead of that station.

The next morning we were off to the Seoul Tower on Namsen Mountain in central Seoul. (Towers for communications and/or observation sites are everywhere in Asia. This is not a bad thing.) Namsan Park is a large, lush park covering a peak in the middle of downtown Seoul. It reminded me of a cross between New York City’s Central Park and Los Angeles’ Griffith Park.

IMG_9628_smallYou get up to the tower via a gondola ride. You’ll get great views of the city on your way up, as well as great views of the park below you.

IMG_9670_smallAt the top, you have a bit of a walk to get get to the summit. Along the way I saw the first example of Korea’s distinctive architecture and temple design.

IMG_9671_smallMuch more functional than the Pearl Tower in Shanghai, the Seoul Tower is utilitarian, concrete and  antennas. “Functional” is not a bad thing in this setting and is easily explained by the heavily armed totalitarian regime just thirty-five miles away.

IMG_9754_smallIt was a hazy but sunny day. From the tower you get a fantastic view of the city, with plenty of signs and guides to point out different landmarks, such as the ancient Imperial palace, the current Presidential palace, the skyscrapers of the downtown area, the stadiums and facilities built for the 1988 Summer Olympics, and the Han River running through it all (running left to right in the hazy distance here).

IMG_3960_smallDowntown is on the south side of the Han River, which has bridges across it every half mile or so. Lots of bridges.

IMG_3955_smallLooking toward the north from the Seoul Tower, you can see how densely the high-rise apartments are crammed in as the city gets into the mountains.

IMG_3957_smallThis random neighborhood is near the base of Namsen Mountain. It’s typical of the kind of urban density that you see everywhere here. Seoul has an area of 233 square miles with a population of over ten million.

IMG_9701_smallThe Han River points in the direction of the US from here, but trust me, you can’t get there from here that way. Things get ugly a few miles up that river.

Looking at the bigger picture, that’s a lot of kilometers between here and home!

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Photography, Travel

One response to “Seoul (Part One)

  1. Our big tour was Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Venice. The tour guide said, “Once upon a time” when he wanted to refer to something that happened in the past, which was really charming and distracted us from the “Land Mine Area” signs.

    Like

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