Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Seoul trip - day 1

Ever since living in Korea, two of the things on our to do list have been (1) visit Seoul and (2) ride the KTX (Korea's high speed train).  We booked our train tickets a few weeks ago and were anticipating this trip ever since.

We originally planned to spend 3 nights and 2 1/2 days in Seoul (leaving Busan on Saturday morning and coming home Tuesday morning), but ended up cutting our trip short due to really cranky toddlers who did not appreciate us messing with their routine and forcing them to sleep in a hotel room where they didn't have any toys or room to run around.  Not to mention, we only had one double bed, so Talton slept on the floor Saturday night in an effort to give the boys some room to sleep with me.  Well, Connar was super fussy all night long and actually ended up sleeping with Talton on the floor for most of the night.  

After touring around the next day, we decided to switch our train tickets from Tuesday morning to Sunday night in an effort to not have the same situation with fussy kids who didn't want to sleep in a new place.  That meant we missed Monday when we were going to tour a Palace and Seoul Tower.  Oh well, you do what you gotta do when you're a parent.  Being flexible is the name of the game a lot of times, and this was no different.  We packed up our bags with the hope of one day returning to explore those new places. 

In the time we spent there, excluding the lack of good sleep, we enjoyed walking around Seoul and really liked what we saw of it.  :)

We set out early Saturday morning at 7:15 to head to Busan Station and hop on the 9 am train to Seoul, scheduled to arrive at 11:44 am.  Talton and I were so proud of the boys and their behavior on the train for nearly 3 hours, not to mention the time they spent in the car and in the train station waiting before that.  They did an amazing job that morning!

Busan Station

It's only fitting that the train station have a big mama clock.  :)

We had to keep Parker restrained in the stroller by the tracks.

This is what a first class car on the KTX looks like.  It's very spacious.  We were very spoiled with all that space, and it made us wish that airplanes had that much room.  In our dreams!  We took two seats and then the next two seats in the row behind it for our family of four, but the single seat on the opposite side is perfect if you're traveling alone.  I didn't have a chance to walk through the economy class but saw it through the windows from outside, and it looks very nice as well.  There is quite a bit of space there too.  Since you have to keep your luggage with you (nobody checks it like at the airport), the space in front of our seats was plenty of room for us to put our medium size suitcase, duffel bag, and diaper bag.  There was a small area above the seats where you could store small bags, etc., but it was not big enough for a large suitcase.  I'll post a picture of that space I took on our way home in the next post "Seoul trip - day 2" so you can see for yourself.
We each had a ticket like this, and the crazy thing is that nobody EITHER WAY on our trip asked to look at our tickets to be sure we actually paid for tickets or were sitting in the right train car or seats.  You could actually walk into the train station and walk right on a train, because there's not a place to check tickets before getting to the train.

I've read that a worker on the train will occasionally walk through and verify seats by asking for your ticket, but I saw this with only ONE person on our trip to Seoul.  From what I read, if you get caught without a ticket, they ask you if you have the money to purchase a ticket and if not, simply guide you to the door and wait with you until the next stop where they'll usher you off.  No police or real trouble.  Then, my guess is that you could just hop back on the next train and try again.  I totally wouldn't do that, but I just think it's so interesting how they trust people so much around here.  That is not something you'd see back in the U.S..
 The boys kept busy on the train watching movies, playing games, and having snacks.
Can you see the little Korean boy in the window in the seat in front of Parker?  He didn't think Parker was as much of a hoot as Parker thought he was.  :)  He did somehow keep sneaking away from his mom to take a peek at Parker's movie on the iPad.  :)

The scenery was anything from lots of buildings, to lakes, to forests, to mountains, and even tons of farming land.

Our train got up to 303 km/h = 188 miles/h
These are the standing room only seating, also known as jump seats.  They're cheaper because they're located between the cars and there are only a couple of fold down seats available.  You see people walking from car to car after each stop trying to find a space between cars to stand if that's the sort of ticket they bought.
We finally arrived in Seoul after a 2 hour 44 minute train ride!  I'd say that's much better than the amount of time it would've taken for us to drive there, which would've been around double the amount of time at least.
Seoul Station
(and yes, there's another big mama clock on the left in case you were wondering)
waiting on a taxi in the taxi line
We stayed at the Ibis Hotel in the Myeongdong area of Seoul. It was very clean and in a great area as we would find out by walking around after taking our bags up.  And the best part after the nearly 3 hour train ride was that the hotel was only a short 5 minute taxi ride from Seoul Station!


They were being such silly boys while waiting on the elevator.  Parker was trying to feed the car to Connar.  :)

We set out to explore the area around our hotel and to grab some food.  These were the streets behind or near our hotel.  There were tons of stores and little stands selling all kinds of stuff.
What a nice sign!
The name of this shoe store is funny to me.

These food carts were getting prepared to head out to the streets.

A big Christmas tree in front of the Lotte department store.
We arrived just in time to see it light up!
This lady was literally squatting in the back of her van while grilling what looked to be like some sort of meat.
This lady was keeping up with traffic pushing her cart.
There were some interesting buildings...
Can anyone explain to me why this police officer directing traffic has a vest on that reads "BEST DRIVER"??????
This was a serious police car.  It reminds me of some sort of Ghostbuster car.


So except for the bathroom door that was to the left of where I was standing, this was our hotel room.  Not much room at all, but we tried our best to make it work.  The boys got prime seats for eating arrangements, while Talton and I sat on the floor.  The things you do for your kids....  :)

This baby bed was in our room when we returned from getting food.  ha.  It was as hard as a rock under that blanket.  Needless to say, it was not slept in.
How about this pamphlet in the room?  Hmmmmm..... Aren't I already your guest?

"Seoul trip - day 2" next....  :)

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