Onward to Seoul!

Having successfully hopped, skipped, and jumped over to Korea for the sake of sorting out our visas, I thought I’d put down some of my thoughts on the entire process and Korea in general.

1) Everything’s expensive there, basically the same price as in the US, but in won, which makes everything looks horribly expensive because it’s just about 1,000 times more worthless than the dollar. So a can of pop will set you back 1,000 won…

2) Hotels, transportation, entrance fares, etc., i guess this means durable goods and services, cost the same as the US. Our hotel was 135,000 won a night and it wasn’t that good. Food’s thankfully cheaper, especially the good Korean food, with lots of yummy sides!

3) It is quite a short flight from China, so if you really need to sort out your tourist visa and get in on your next entry, it’s not a bad choice, though, as mentioned, expensive. It only takes like two hours, and there’s good public transportation from the Seoul airport. But it’s far! ICN, the new one, the only international one, is 75 km away from Seoul. It takes an hour and a half by public transportation bus, probably longer by subway (we didn’t want to try it), and supposedly an hour by taxi, but that’ll set you back 100,000 won, or 100 dollars.

4) Do take the subway to try to get around. The maps are convoluted, they actually try to draw the lines to scale and have every little turn show up, but they go everywhere, are quick, inexpensive, and relatively frequent, though not as frequent as Beijing’s. Seriously, the maps suck; they’re dense, they’re angular, and one map doesn’t look the same as the next so there’s no consistency and where a station was on one isn’t where it is on another. It’s just all wrong. And the colors all look the same to me…

Seoul Subway map v1 of infinity

Seoul Subway map v1 of infinity

Seoul Subway map v2 of infinity

Seoul Subway map v2 of infinity

Otherwise the subways are more than sufficient as a means of getting around; certainly better than LA’s ;)

5) They do all sort of speak English, sorta, kinda, not really. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of going to an Asian country that I don’t speak the language in, this is why. It’s like, there’s lots of good looking street food, but I can’t ask if it’s vegetarian for Maria to eat. The good news is that the language is not tonal like Chinese, so you can read and pronounce it as it looks when written in English. The written language also looks pretty good; I think Maria and I had figured out some of the underlying patterns by the time we left.

6) We were able to get street food though, and very good ones: baked goods shaped like a fish with sweet red bean paste in it. The lady was making them on this huge, rotating waffle iron type machine with fish molds on it. We had been walking around for a while that night actually, looking for street food, unwilling and not ready to call it a night without more dessert.

7) In China, anyone staying the night has to register within 24 hours with the local police department; tell them you’re here, where you’re staying, give them a photo, etc. These usually last for as long as your visa allows you to stay in the country. So like good little foreigners, we had registered immediately when we first got there, and like good little foreigners, we had left the country before both our visa and police registration had expired. We assumed that this meant we had some leeway on the whole “24 hours, must be registered” thing, because technically our previous registration hadn’t expired. NOT TRUE! Apparently, it’s whenever you enter the country, you have 24 hours to present yourself to the local police department. Not that anyone gave us trouble with it since we were a full day late, but, well, I can see problems arising.

8) As far as personal updates go:

a) My IFC concert has been postponed due to difficulties in getting the required government approval to sing Handle’s Messiah
b) Renovations at my apartment may finally finish, next week; there’s light at the end of that tunnel
c) I’m not sure I want to work for my father anymore…but that’s a much more complicated matter that I’m not sure I want to touch upon here
d) My great uncle passed away Monday morning. He’s the first of my relatives to pass away for me, and the first funeral that I will be attending this coming Sunday morning
e) As great as this apartment is that I’m staying in, I’m not sure I want to any more either, considering that at some point my mother and her entire family will show up, and most likely for a lengthy period of time.
f) I am still sick. Blah.

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