So here we are, my last full day in Korea. Soon after arriving in Korea, I made a list of things I'd like to see or do. Near the top of the list was Seoul Tower. But for some reason, I just never brought myself to go throughout the year. But now I knew it was my last chance, so I decided I'd finally go see it today. It didn't hurt that my hotel is actually within a decent walking distance from it. The only other thing I thought about seeing was Namdaemun Market, which is the oldest and largest market in all of Korea. So after a way over-priced breakfast at the hotel, I got ready and headed out.
The idea was to head to Namdaemun Market first, since it was closer. So I start walking and walking and walking... I seem to get lost, but I see Seoul Tower in the not-too-distant background. So I head for that instead. Figure I'd just go there first. So I'm walking towards Namsan Park.... when I stumble into Namdaemun Market. The place was basically a huge maze. You can get turned around there pretty easily, which I managed to do. Not much of interest to share there, though. It was just a cool big street market.
From there I found my bearings and continued towards Seoul Tower. After a decent-length walk, I find the glass elevator (no, not the Willy Wonka variety, sadly) that takes you from ground level to the cable car. So then I buy my ticket for a round-trip cable car ride to the tower grounds. After some waiting, I finally get on the car. It takes a few minutes to ride up. On the journey, I had a nice chat with a Korean lady who spoke pretty much perfect English and minimal accent. She had apparently been a high school English teacher, which explains why she was so good (probably the best I've heard a native Korean speak English over the last year). She was taking her little handful of a son up to the tower.
So I finally get to the area, and it's pretty cool. There's a large open ground area like a stone park. But I just bought my ticket to the observatory. They seemed to really try and make this place like a mini-theme park almost. All the workers, especially around the elevator areas, are super chipper and friendly, like you're about to enter Disney or something. I get on the dark elevator with the girl, who tells me to look up at the ceiling. We start going up, and there's a video like we're blasting off into space or something. Then I get off and walk down a path where they take a picture that you can choose to buy at the observatory. And finally I get to the observation deck. It was pretty cool. The view was a bit hazy, but you could still see stuff. I took some pictures, as well.
I wandered around for a bit looking all around at the view. On the glass they have different city names from around the world and how far they are from the current spot. Also on the deck were a souvenir shop and a candy store. I then headed back down to grab some lunch, as it was coming on to 1 PM or so by this point. I found a burger place that claimed to be "The best burger in Seoul." Now... I've been looking all year for not even a good hamburger, but even just a halfway decent one. Any chance I got, in any of the countries I've been to, I tried different hamburger joints just to find a decent burger. And so far, I'd failed. This was pretty much my final attempt to find a decent-to-good burger in Southeast Asia. So... how was it? Good. Really good, actually. Not sure it was worth the price I paid for it, but it was actually quite good--the best I've had over the last year, anyway.
And then it was time to head back to the hotel. I made my way all the way back down the cable car, down the glass elevator, and down the walking path to find a taxi that could take me back to my hotel. I'd been walking relatively non-stop for about 4 hours, so I didn't feel like wandering about lost, trying to find my way back to the hotel. The way I'd even gotten to that place was by luck in the first place. So I find a cab and show him the address in Korean. He basically laughs in my face and, in Korean, tells me it's "that way." It was too close for him to bother driving me, apparently. Clearly he doesn't know me. Something can be at the end of a street and it will take me an hour to find it. So I walk in the direction he pointed and, of course, get lost. I find another cabbie and ask him for directions. He kinda hooks his hand in a general direction (like walk and turn left). These cabbies would be much better off just driving me than me figuring this out on my own. I follow his directions and, still, fail to see anything that looks familiar. I come across the entrance to the subway station one stop over from Seoul Station and decide to just take that--I knew how to walk to the hotel from Seoul Station. So I go, and of course the exit I need it a huge walk away. But I manage to get there and find my way back, eventually to the hotel.
And that was my final Seoul adventure! (Well, at least until I inevitably do something stupid trying to get to the airport tomorrow.) I will only have a couple more posts to this blog--one being a "journey home" post and the other being a kind of epilogue to the whole trip. So keep an eye out on those, also to be posted this week!