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Journals from South Korea, Yonsei University

2009-04-10 Power Sightseeing

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An example of the locks around the base of the tower.

*Note: This entry, while posted up in April, actually happened on the last weekend of March. :) My friends and I decided to get up on a Saturday and try to hit as many cool places as we could. Our Korean language teacher -- or "sun-sang-neem" ()--mentioned to us that Namsan Park and Seoul Tower would be a really neat place to go, so that was our first stop....but getting there was an adventure itself! The subway was beyond crowded. There was literately not even standing room by the time everyone fit into the subway car - no room to even move our arms or turn around! Good thing I'm not claustrophobic, that's all I can say. What was really interesting was that the majority of the people in the subway didn't seem to blink twice at being so close to other strangers. I tried imagining a subway that crowded in the States, but couldn't see it happening - I think Americans appreciate their personal space too much...then again, I've never been on the subway in the U.S., so maybe it isn't even a Korean trait, but a city-dweller trait! Once we got to our stop, we also saw some sort of rally, possibly a labor union type of protest. It was interesting, because they were singing, instead of just picketing and shouting like they would in the U.S., so at first I didn't quite realize what was going on. This was also where I got to see my first riot police! It was slightly intimidating, as we had to walk through a row of them to get to the taxis. We ended up getting a taxi and drove for about 10 min. uphill to the cable car station at Namsan Park. Since we (Jeremy, Daniel, and I) were waiting for Daniel's roommate, Eric, we decided to walk around Namsan Park for a bit. It was really wonderful! The park itself (at least, the section we saw) wasn't what I had quite imagined: to me, a park has grass and trees and maybe benches to sit and relax. This park was more of a walking/jogging trail that wound around the hill that the Seoul Tower was on. It was very pretty, but in a different way than what I had expected. So many people were on the trail walking and jogging - and what seemed really interesting to me was that most of them were older. In the U.S., I feel like running/walking types of activities are more for the younger generations - here, I find when I go out for walks and runs, usually there are only people in their 50s and above that are out there with me! Once Eric met up with us, we took the cable car to Seoul Tower. Once again, we were crammed into the car like sardines, so I didn't get the greatest view of us going up, but from what I could see, it was really neat. What amazes me every time I see a full view of Seoul is the amount of green that really is around the city. From city level, it never feels like there is a ton of nature around (for me, at least), but then you go up to a high view place and voila! There are trees and hills everywhere. We spent a bit of time looking around the base of the Seoul Tower, and I must admit, there was one thing I really enjoyed: the "love locks". I have no idea what they are actually called, but I guess there is a tradition of people putting up a lock on the fence around Seoul Tower with a person that they care about. A lot of these locks also have messages on them, or doodles. The guys kept saying how cheesy it was, but I thought it was sweet. Then again, I'm into cheesy stuff like that :) So, we went up to the top of the tower after a little bit, and it really was the same as the top of every other major tower in the world: there's an awesome view, the distances from other major cities, etc. Cool, but I've seen it a ton, so it wasn't the most interesting thing to me. In this case, I really think that the journey was the important part, rather than the specific destination. After coming down from the Seoul Tower, our group then walked to the National Theater of Korea for a mini-rest and map check. We found the way to the subway, and proceeded to go to COEX Mall. WOW. COEX Mall is really big. Actually, even that is an understatement. We didn't do anything besides eat some lunch and then look in the Adidas store, so I'll have to go back sometime again. Maybe to watch a movie, since apparently they also have a really nice cinema. It was funny, because the guys were saying that this was the first time they actually "wanted to shop." That basically sums up how awesome the mall was. Power sightseeing: an awesome time, but I definitely hope that I can gradually fit in sightseeing rather than just do it in a "one day power run." Until next time, Jenny

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