South Korea: Day 1/10 (Hangang Park)

It was nearly six in the morning when I exited Incheon airport. The morning cold greeted me as I looked for Bus 6011.

Sat on the bench directly across the 6011 bus stop sign and reviewed the to-do tasks. I have exchanged my dollars with Korean won and I have bought the money/t-card that I’b be reloading later for use in the subway and select stores.

The remaining dilemma was locating the inn we’d be staying in. The instructions were simple but I doubted if that were the case – for me, at least. Observed passengers getting on the bus as I waited for Bus 6011. They used  money cards for their fare. The card I bought only had KW3,000 in it. I remembered reading somewhere that there was another way of paying so I observed some more. Good thing the 6011 still hasn’t arrived.

Saw a ticket booth so I purchased a ticket for Bus 6011 (KW10,000). I failed to notice the bus stop that the lady at the booth selected for my ticket. It read Angok Station. I don’t know how the lady got Angok from my English inquiry. My bus stop was supposed to be Hyehwa-dong or Sungkyunkwan University. But of course, I paid no attention to this assuming that the bus would be stopping in all stops. The bus arrived and I surrendered the ticket and then we were instructed to put on the seat belts. I only understood this through gestures.

I saw the driver study all the tickets failing to realize that the driver was taking note of the stops indicated.

From the airport, the airport limousine passengers could enjoy the highway view. The traffic became heavier as we entered Seoul. It was a weekday. The buses were packed with bored passengers glued to their mobile phone screens.

I knew I had to get off at the seventh station as I took note from the 6011 bus stops. I realized that the bus didn’t stop in all stations when I heard Hyehwa-dong being announced but we have already passed the stop at the time. See, there’s a recorded audio announcing the stops first in Korean, then Chinese, and then in English. So by the time I realized it was my stop, we were already way past the stop. The time I realized the purpose of the red buttons on the baggage deck above our seats, I had no use for it.

Lost on your first day. And it hasn’t even been half a day. So I stayed put hoping that the bus would go through the same route to go  back to the airport after the last stop. So I prepared myself for a lash of Korean words. I wasn’t really sure if it was a good thing that I do not understand Korean, hence I won’t really be hurt by the driver’s comments on my stupidity.

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As the last passengers got off, I approached the driver and gestured my dilemma. After a few seconds of disbelief. What I got from the tone was that he couldn’t believe I missed my stop and I had wasted hours by getting to the last stop. Somehow, I understood that he agreed to drop me off my stop on the way back to the airport – without an additional KW10,000. We would have to wait at the last station for a few minutes as scheduled. He was gesturing me to get off the bus after a few minutes. He even called someone to get the English word for what he wanted to say. And then he blurted “Toilet?”. He was asking me if I needed to go to the bathroom since it was a long ride. Despite the serious not-so-friendly look face, Mr. Driver was kind and considerate. So I shook my head and gestured that I was okay and there was no need for a visit to the toilet.

Despite getting lost, the whole 6011 route was like a city tour of Seoul.  I couldn’t really feel bad because I was enjoyed watching what the bus windows offered. Also managed to secure a Seoul subway map that I’ve searched for (and failed to find)  in the airport.

He dropped me off at my stop. I gave my final set of bows of gratitude. From the bus stop, I easily found the inn. The instructions from a blogger were very detailed and helpful. Met Mr. Sea, our landlord, and checked in.

Once I have dropped the bags and washed, I looked at the “itinerary” and looked for the easiest place to visit. I seriously needed to study the Seoul subway routes. It was only last week that I gor to use the LRT and became more familiar with the MRT in Manila. I seldom go to Manila. The commute is too much a hassle for leisure trips that I’d rather go to the provincial malls. But for this trip, I definitely will have to become more familiar with the subway.

Before taking the subway, walked around the block in search for lunch (was starving) and coffee, surveying prices along the way.

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Spotted this cafe out of the main street. It’s a shop with character. The place offered basic benches for waiting customers and good music – and great cafe latte😀
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Madame manages the cafe. Madame’s character is reflected in the shop’s aesthetics, coffee, music, -everything. One cannot help but be charmed by this place.

Recharged with caffeine, I started exploring the subway through Hyehwa Station.  The first challenge was to locate the KTX ticket booth in Seoul Station. I had to purchase tomorrow’s O-train tickets from KTX Seoul Station.

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The older subway stations have brick walls, Seoul Station being one of them.

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I did manage to locate the KTX ticket booth and purchase tomorrow’s tickets. The tickets were more way more expensive than I expected and I hoped a whole day of sightseeing around South Korea would be worth the expense.

With O-train tickets purchased, it was time to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. I realized I haven’t had lunch. The food prices in Seoul Station stores seemed a bit pricey so I thought I could get cheaper food from the parks. Hangang Park was on my itinerary for it’s bike rentals😀 I still had the strawberries I bought earlier😀

To get to Hangang Park, one needed to exit at Yeouinaru Station. I panicked when the money card encountered error on my way to the exit. The attendant was kind enough to assist me to the exit.

Hangang Park is a popular destination for bikers, runners, and couples and families. It’s a good picnic area. During lunch time, you’d seen people in suits and office wear eating their lunch in one of the benches during their break.

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This is lunch (Tteokbokki KW3,000 and soda KW1,000). Not a very healthy choice, I know.
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And this is the view that comes free with the lunch (aside from the table and chairs)

I could get used to this. A great thing about Seoul is that you can get some peace and quiet a subway ride away. I could spent an entire day checking papers here, I thought. Got my table and chairs provided by the food stalls,  there are clean and well maintained restrooms nearby, and the subway is less than five minutes walk from here. It would be great to stay until dark to see part of evening Seoul.

The park also has bicycle rental stations. For KW3,000, you get an hour’s worth of bicycle use. Just leave your ID and pay the fee. You get your ID upon returning the bicycle.  I didn’t even use my 30 minutes in exploring the river side. The view is great plus you get to see a lot of bicycles I only see in magazines – the super pricey ones :D  I had hoped I could complete at least one side of the Hangang River. Not gonna happen. It’s quite a long river😀

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IMG_1708From Hangang Park, one can also take the  Hangang River cruise (KW12,000) that last for 70 minutes. The cruise is reserved for another day.

I was on my home before five in the afternoon. I need that long sleep. I have an early start tomorrow for the 7 am O-train departure from Seoul Station😐 With the pricey tickets, missing the train is not an option.

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