Conquering the Seoul Metro

Wednesday, 20 Sept, 2017


The apartment was so quiet. I thought we would awake to voices and engine noise, but silence. It's hard to believe we are in the middle of a city of 10 million people. We had a leisurely start and enjoyed a good filter coffee, but eventually I decided it would be a good idea to venture out for some beakfast supplies. We could have gone to the convenience store at the end of the street, however, checking out big grocery stores is always interesting in a new country.

The street outside our apartment

Catching up on social media and blogging

We headed to the local homebase store via the winding back streets of Itaewon, so much quieter after the vibrancy of the night before. Clearly cafes are more of a lunch or evening hangout, as they were all closed. Lucky we weren't in search of coffee. Once at the store we spent a while finding goodies to enjoy. Besides the breakfast essentials, we stocked up on cheese and ham for lunch, as well as an assortment of cookies of unknown quality. Some peanuts, chips and crackers rounded out our basket. Much of the fruit and veg selection was more expensive than home, even considering that the fruit was in season, for example, paying $10 for a small bunch of grapes seemed excessive.

Georgia found some Pocky's

We then set off in search of a bakery. En route to a Turkish bakery identified by Google Maps, we discovered a Paris Now with fresh baguettes, ciabattas and pastries on offer. Lunch was now officially sorted. We decided that there was plenty of time to enjoy more traditional Korean lunches on the road.

Once breakfast was done, it was time to put the bikes together. Good news, as there was only one minor problem. Georgia's speed sensor had been broken off its mount, but was expertly reattached with a cable tie.

Highly trained bike mechanics hard at work

Chores finished, it was time to discover how to use the Seoul metro. We purchased our T-money cards and uploaded 20,000 won each, being enough for a few days of metro travel. Jonno was in charge, and expertly guided us through two metro transfers to Myeongdong station. Our early experience indicated that the Seoul metro was a much better option than the Korail lines. It seems that privatisation results in different levels of investment in technology and infrastructure. The highlight of the Seoul metro system was being able to monitor our train arrival in real time with a littel engine moving across a screen. We are easily entertained.

Descending into the Seoul Metro

Our plan for the day was to walk the Namsan circuit, a 6 kim tour over Namsan park, following pathways and parts of the Seoul city wall. We could have just caught the cable car to the top, but where is the fun in that?

We took our time, enjoying the expansive views over the city. There were lots of people out enjoying the beautiful day. There was no sense of any concern or fear about activities just to the north of us. We stopped for a picnic lunch in one of many of the rest areas, then climbed a steep set of steps shadowing the city wall which had been reconstructed, and now circles the city.

Heading up to the wall

Climbing the steps beneath the wall

Lunch stop

As we reached N Seoul tower, there was a traditional cultural performance with plate spinning, and sword fighting demonstrations. We enjoyed the experience, and then wandered to the terrace to admire all the declarations of undying love that had been attached to the railings, and a fabulous view over the city. We guessed the direction of our cozy home as we headed back down the city wall to the reconstructed Sungnyemun gate and onto the Namdaeumun market.

A cultural Korean Sword dance

All those love locks!

We made it to N Seoul Tower

The Namdaemum Market is the biggest in Korea, and I was curious to see some Korean folk handicrafts. We admired wood carvings of the Eiffel tower, lace doilies and stuffed toys that would do Hello Kitty proud. Nothing you would want to bring home with you.

A lane way of Namdaemum Market

Back on the metro, we headed home for showers and a snack, before heading out to dinner. Jonno and Georgia were keen to try a cuisine that they didn't eat at home. There were so many options. It was like wandering through Eastwood on a busy night though with every possible cuisine on offer. We considered a Bulgarian restaurant, but it was empty and there was no menu. There was an interesting looking Mexican, but in the end we decided on a busy Tapas restaurant. Georgia particularly liked the eggplant topped with mozarella in a delicious tomato sauce whilst Jonno's favourite was the chicken paella. However, the highlight of our dinner was the amazing gelato we had on the way home. The best ever!!!!

We aim to be on the road by 6:30 tomorrow, aiming for a big days ride. Will we make a 100km? That's our challenge.