Seoul

Saturday | April 27th, 2013

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I grabbed a bus from Seoul Station to take me to Sinsa Station, but I couldn’t stand to be on the bus very long and hoped off in front of the library in Namsan Park to walk for a bit. I’ve always wanted to walk along this road. All the other times I’ve been on the 402 bus it was either going to the CEC from downtown funstops like the US Embassy or coming from the CEC on my way to catch a train at Seoul Station. I never made the time to check this area out until this day when I had more than an hour to kill before I even wanted to show up early at the wedding hall.

There is a mountain out there (top) in the smog. It’s called Gwanaksan. Just knowing that it was there and being able to sort of see it through the haze and rooftops prompted this picture (and many others like it).

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Contrasting this view from where I’d come from in the morning, a high-speed rail station nestled in between two mountains (above, left and right) with visibility in the double digital kilometers. Except for those rare days of fog, Gyeongju doesn’t ever feel closed in or cluttered like Seoul. Those are fine things and for seven years and some months I lived in that and loved every second of it. Given a choice though, Gyeongju wins for livability and will keep on winning as long as I have space, gobs of time to enjoy it, cheap land, cheap houses, and a bicycle.

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Outside of Seoul Station (above), waiting to cross a street towards the bus stop, it hit me that I didn’t feel comfortable in the city anymore. Maybe comfortable is the wrong way to say it—I didn’t feel like I owned the place anymore, Seoul wasn’t “my town”. I know where to go to get the best food, drinks, dancing, and pictures. I know how to get to Sinsa Station in less then 20 minutes from Seoul Station on a Saturday morning (just like I know that it will take more than an hour to do the same in reverse later in the day unless I take the subway and transfer at least once). I know Seoul, but it doesn’t know me.

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So I walked on this road where the 402 travels between Gangnam and Seoul Station, where all the day hikers get on and off the buses to “hike” Namsan (how many places in South Korea have a ‘Nam’ mountain? Seoul, yes; Gyeongju, yes; and ?). The scenes were either out across the rooftops to the infinity of houses and buildings or back at the mountain itself. Seoul seemed to be going through its own struggles with the Cherry Blossom Overlords. All my FIL could say when visiting was that Gyeongju was warm and Seoul cold.

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