South Korea (Part 4)
As I mentioned before when I worked in South Korea from 2005 till 2007 I lived in Gangnam Gu district which literally means “South of the River”. And the river in question here is the “Han River” which played a very important role in South Korea’s history. With it’s many bridges it is a magnificent sight at night with each bridge lit up in different colours. I remember on one of my first excursion walks through the streets of Gangnam I came across some interesting street Art and modern architecture.
Seoul is a city that rapidly expanded to become the world’s fourth largest metropolitan economy which is known as the “Miracle on the Han River”. Traffic in Seoul is a constant chaos and non-stop. I have experienced many a times where I have spend twenty minutes or so in a Taxi only to move a couple of blocks further from where I got in. Changing lanes happens when one feels like it without any prior indication to fellow commuters. Not just one lane. If one wants to cross oh let’s say four lanes at once then one will do so. It was one reason why I never drove a vehicle during my time in Seoul. And I never had to really as commuting within the city is much quicker going by subway. One thing that struck me and I am not sure if this has been noticed by other expatriates is that I never saw any cars that had a different color than black, grey or white. Apart from the buses, that run in different colors indicating the distances they will go to transport commuters. The colors (blue, green red and yellow) also represent a meaning. These are not just blindly chosen but carefully thought about. I think I traveled only once on a Seoul bus in my two years there. My main mean of transport was always the subway or the taxi. I also never saw a Honda, Lexus, Toyota, Fiat, Opel, Renault or what have you. In fact the only foreign car makes I saw were Mercedes Benz or BMW. It was always a Hyundai or a Kia or Daewoo that flew past me.
I have known South Koreans to be very proud of their nation. A very patriotic lot. And that was certainly noticeable looking at the limited foreign products that were available in the time I was there. A Nokia or Blackberry mobile phone you simply could not buy. And if you had a phone from overseas you were in for a surprise as you could not use it in South Korea. If you had a mobile phone that was using a sim card than you would have the same bad luck as in South Korea mobile phones do not operate with sim cards. So you could find yourself ending up with multiple mobile phones, especially if you were frequently traveling in and out of South Korea. Mind you this was back in 2005 and I am not sure how that situation is today but I am assuming it has somehow adjusted and become somewhat more flexible.
The Seoul Metropolitan Subway System is the world’s most extensive one by length and the world’s second largest by number of stations. New York grasp the first spot here. It is also the world’s second most used subway. Tokyo is number one here and to those who have lived or live in Tokyo this certainly will be no surprise. I had the fortunate however extremely rare experience of capturing an empty subway on my DSLR. It probably must have been during the Chuseok holidays because otherwise I can not think of a period where this could be remotely possible.
to be continued…