15 June, 2006

Seoul/Incheon, June 3-4

April had been planning a trip to Seoul on the 3rd to pick up her parents from the airport, and I went along to do a little shopping and then catch up with a friend I'd met on a previous trip to Seoul. Upon arriving Saturday morning, we took the subway over to COEX, a gigantic mall complex. I discovered April to be quite the efficient shopper. She picks out what she likes, tries it on, and if it works, she buys one in every color. In shopping this way, she had a pretty smart pile of clothes in short order. I picked up a couple of things myself.

After a bite to eat, we headed in different directions--she to the airport and I to Dongdaemun Stadium, again via subway, to meet Barkley. We'd both had enough shopping for the day, so once again I had the pleasure of riding the subway [Sidenote: In spite of its tendency to be intensely crowded, the Seoul subway system is quite cheap and easy enough for a foreigner such as me to figure out, and it sure beats taking a taxi--in my opinion--even if it means being crushed by and with strangers, though I think I'll try to avoid the #7 line around 9AM from here on out.]. Twenty-two stops and one transfer later, we disembarked in Bucheon, a city west of Seoul. Having just moved there from Anyang, Barkley nearly didn't find his apartment building, but luckily for him, he did. We had a fun evening watching movies and eating pizza.

The next day we decided to check out the large port city of Incheon, home of the international airport. We took the subway to the end of line #1 and were interested to see what the end of a line looks like. We were underwhelmed by the small station and the tracks that just trailed out into some grass thinking that the end of a line deserves something more noteworthy. Just outside the station we saw a sign for Chinatown and made to check it out. A quick pass was all we needed, and we were on to other things. We ran across Jayu Park (Freedom Park) which had a beautiful view of the city and some statues celebrating US-Korea relations including one of General Douglas MacArthur. The plaque beneath his figure proclaimed Korea's gratitude to his service and called him a hero, but the military guards posted near the statue spoke to me silently of other things. I did some reading later and discovered that the park has been the scene of conflicts between young activists and older patriots.

Next we took a taxi out to Wolmido, a bustling promenade on the oceanfront. It was a warm and sunny afternoon, and there were lots of families out enjoying the fountains and sea breezes. After awhile, we tired of the sun and went up to Wolmido Park where we took a lovely, shaded 2km walk around a hill that afforded views of the port and benches that proved useful for short naps. There we called it a day, and after getting my stuff from Bucheon, I made the journey back to Gangneung.

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