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Around Seoul



The first morning we had a meeting with the theatre staff to discuss our needs. The staff was all very nice and obviously quite capable. I was very relieved. After the meeting I had the rest of the day off, so it was time for me to get out and explore. According to my Seoul guildebook, finding your way around Seoul can be very difficult, even for the locals. Buildings have numbers on them, but the numbers are given out in the order in which they are built. Thus, house number 3 sits next to house number 542. The staff at the hotel told me that the easiest thing to do, if there is a specific place you need to go, is to call the place you want to go and get them to fax you a map. It all seems a bit strange.

I had taken a fall getting into the hotel when we first arrived and badly scratched my glasses. Fortunately, most everyone in the hotel speaks a little English, but that certainly isn't true anywhere else. The hotel staff found an optician for me, called and got a map faxed over, and put me in a taxi. The map they gave to me and to the driver was all in Korean.

map

The driver got me there with no problem, but once inside it was very difficult to explain what I needed. Fortunately there was a young man in the store who spoke a tiny bit of English and so he helped us. I got a brand-new pair of glasses for about 1/5 the cost of new glasses in the U.S. Amazing. And they were delivered to my hotel the VERY NEXT DAY!

Seoul is a lovely city. There are many modern and interesting skyscrapers.

Seoul Skyline
Seoul Skyline
Seoul Buildings
Jongno Tower
Skyscraper in Seoul
Skyscraper in Seoul
Skyscraper in Seoul
Skyscraper in Seoul

There are also many older neighborhoods mixed in with all of the newer areas

Seoul
Seoul
Seoul
Seoul
Seoul
Seoul

Just as I was leaving New York, I discovered I had ripped a hole in one of my shoes. So when I left the optician's I went in search of some new shoes. On the way I just happened to see a tiny little hut on the sidewalk in which there was a man repairing shoes.

Shoe Repair Hut

I held up my foot so that he could see my shoe and he motioned for me to come inside and sit down. He took my shoe and began working. He started digging at the sole with a large screwdriver and really tearing it all apart. I got a little nervous. But he then added on a piece of leather, stitched it up by hand and then put it all back together.

Shoe Repairman

I had to wait about 20 minutes for the glue to dry. Then he polished it all up, charged me about $6.00, and off I went - all with no words being spoken. Brilliant.

I continued to walk around the city and just get my bearings and see what I could see. Can you imagine having to drive and following these road signs?

Road Signs
Road Signs

America is well represented all over the world, including Korea. Of course there is a bit of a Korean flair, but it's still American. Have a look at the Korean version of Burger King and Starbucks.

Burger King
Starbucks

One day I had asked the concierge directions to get somewhere. He told me that I would have to take a subway. That was a bit daunting, but I had to do it. I went underground and stood looking at the maps and the paying machines for a long time. The concierge had given me a subway map, so I knew where I was going. Apparently the charges are based on how far you travel and on which subway trains you take. I had to take two trains and go quite a ways. I finally showed my map to the ticket seller and he said I needed to pay about 90 cents. I got my ticket and went down to wait for my train.

Subway station

I have to say that the subways in Seoul are the easiest I've ever been on in my life. Each train route is numbered as well as color- coded. Each platform has signs showing you which station you're at, which one the train is coming from, and which one it's going to. You always know where you are and you can always see if you're headed in the right direction. There are also little electronic signs which show which station the train is at and how long it will take to arrive.

Subway Train

Once you're in the subway system, you need your ticket to get out as well as in. If you change your mind and decide to go somewhere else instead, then the machines won't let you out of the station until you've paid the difference in the fare. When exiting the subways, there are maps everywhere showing you the neighborhood you're in. All eight exits of an intersection are numbered. The maps show you which buildings are at which exits so that when you come up to street level you're actually on the side of the street you need to be on. And when people give you directions they tell you which number exit you want to take. It's all very well done. Having access to the subway really opens up the city to you. It's wonderful.



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Irma Hale
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
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Copyright © Irma Hale. All Rights Reserved.
Thanks to Design Computer Systems, Inc.



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