The First Full Day: Seoul, Korea

I woke up and I was sweating. Already, I didn’t have the greatest sleep since I slept on the floor with barely any padding. I woke up in thirty minutes to an hour intervals until 3 AM, unable to find a comfortable position. And on top of that was the humidity thick like a fleece winter blanket sticking onto me like a second layer of skin.

But I wasn’t going to let some humidity ruin my day, I thought determinedly. So just like how I would have done at home, I decided to go for a run. Except this time I couldn’t go alone since I didn’t know the way back and I couldn’t completely count on my Korean to save me if I got lost. So I ran with Dad.

Some interesting things as we ran:

  • Public/open gyms. As in, gym equipment in the open, as you walk down the street by the manmade river. But it’s not your typical gym equipment; it’s what I’d call ahjumma gym equipment. It’s not the usual weights and machines, it’s a swing type of machine and a twisting board that, to be frank, only ahjumma and little kids were using
  • Birds! And not just your average pigeon or crow, we saw a beautiful white crane actually catch a fish in the river. Pretty cool.
  • For a while, there was a strong sewer smell while we ran. Nastiness, let me tell you. (it went away eventually, thank goodness)
  • The buildings are squished super close to each other!- And these are the middle class homes too!
  • At the end of our run, there was smack dab in the middle of the modern buildings a Buddhist temple, all traditional Korean style. It threw us off because just a walk away is the residential area and then BAM! this lovely temple garnished like a traditional Korean home.

After showering (which was an interesting feat in our grandparents’ apartment), we headed to downtown Seoul to catch a bus for a tour going around touristy places. Since we were early, we passed time in an exhibition about Lee Soon Shin, Korea’s legendary general who basically single handedly saved Korea. Nine years ago (when we last visited Korea), Chris (my brother) and I used to watch a drama series about General Lee. Chris loved him and got a little figurine, but for me I didn’t know much about him except that he made 거북기(turtle ships) which somehow helped save Korea.

…well let me just say now, I am proud to be in the same heritage as such a brilliant man as Lee Soon Shin. He was determined, selfless, smart, and loyal to his country until death. He went against the Japanese fleet of 130 with 13 ships and won the battle! HOW IS THAT EVEN HUMANLY POSSIBLE. And let me just say, it’s not only Koreans who think that he’s awesome. A part of the exhibition was showing what people around the world was saying about General Lee and it was pretty much the same as what the Koreans were saying; Lee Soon Shin is legendary and one of the best marine generals of all time.

Then the bus tour started. It was a hop-on, hop-off type so we first hopped off at Namsan Tower. We took the cable car to the top then walked up to the N Tower. Scattered around the area on the fences were hundreds of locks, much like in Paris. The locks were usually from couples and had dates and names scribbled on them. Some people were ambitious and actually left phone cases or mugs with their locks. In fact, the tourism organization took some of the locks and arranged them in tree shapes to make more space for future locks.

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All around the area on almost every flat surface people scribbled in Sharpie or pen their names. The fangirls, on the other hand, wrote the names of their favorite groups or biases.

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To change things up, after the bus tour ended we decided to take the 지하철 (subway) back to our grandparents’ apartment. Naturally, I started to compare the Montreal metro system to the Korean system. Based off the subway itself, I’d say that Korea is better. Their subways are well air conditioned, more comfortable, and cleaner. The downside is their method of paying. In Montreal, you can go anywhere for $3 in two hours but in Korea, you’re charged based off of how far you travel.

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And now I’m back in the apartment, back to where I started; in humidity, but I’ve gotten used to it. In fact, I’m going to have to get used to it since this is the weather I’m going to live with for another two-ish weeks…

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