We lasted almost eleven months in South Korea without a car. During that time, we did plenty of exploring by train and by bus. We decided that after we bought a car last week, we needed to break it in with a road trip. A friend in Seoul wanted us to meet her sister who was visiting, so we thought that was the perfect choice.
Clarissa and I were sick on Thursday so I wasn’t able to pack ahead of time. We didn’t leave until 12:30 on Friday afternoon. We quickly realized that we needed hi-pass (similar to ezpass in the USA). We stopped at a rest stop to buy one. That was an exciting ordeal. The ladies at the counter said that we were the first foreigners to get hi-pass from them. It took a while to set up the account. Part of the problem was that we don’t have a Korean bank account so we can’t do automatic billing. We had won, so we just charged 50,000 (like $45) and went on our way.
Tim and I agree that the topography of the drive was similar to what we see driving from Virginia to Pennsylvania. Some of the architecture is different. But it didn’t feel that different from one of our normal road trips.
Speed traps are a major difference. It is rare to see a police car in South Korea. Traffic violations are pretty automated. Speed limits are posted. There are specific police enforcement areas, which have signs posted. If you speed, a traffic camera takes a picture of your licence plate and a ticket is mailed to your house.
We don’t have a Korean GPS yet, so Tim just used the waze app that he used stateside. It worked wonderfully. Clarissa did well in the back seat the first two hours. I think that she liked being able to see everything. I had to move to the back seat for the last hour or so.
Our original plan was lunch at Osan, shopping at the BX, and dinner when we arrived at Dragon Hill Lodge. With our late start we didn’t get to Osan until almost four so it was more like an early dinner.
We went off post to Sawatdee, Tim’s favorite Thai restaurant. He got curry and I had drunken noodles. Clarissa ate spring rolls.
We then headed to the commissary for our weekend breakfast items. Finally, we went to the BX. Osan’s exchange is by far the best in Korea. There are several kiosks and small shops in addition to the main exchange. We actually found pink gloves that fit Clarissa’s hands at one of the kiosks. Also, the exchange has good items and is laid out in a way that actually makes sense (which cannot be said for the other ones).
Needless to say, it was worth the three hour drive. I bought two pairs of jeans that fit and looked cute. Tim got some new work clothes. Clarissa even found a Finding Nemo sippy cup.
We let Clarissa play in the playplace for a bit to burn off some energy and then decided we should eat again because everything would probably be closed by the time we arrived at Yongsan. Tim had a sub from Charley’s and Clarissa and I split a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.
Tim did very well driving in Seoul. It was almost 9:00 by the time we arrived so the traffic had died down some. But it was still pretty busy.
Our room at Dragon Hill Lodge was very warm. I put our food in the refrigerator (but didn’t realize until morning that it wasn’t cold). It is PCS season (lots of families moving) so we ended up with two double beds. Now I know what it is like to share a bed with my two year old…
We were up early on Saturday so that we would have plenty of time for exploring. Our sausage wasn’t cold so we decided to toss it. We opted for a fast food breakfast on the way to Changdeokgung Palace. We took line 3 to Anguk (exit 3). It was a very short walk from there.
As we arrived at the Palace, it began to snow. So we decided to just pay the 3,000 won admission and walk around on our own.
The palace was pretty. But honestly wasn’t as large as the other one and seemed to have similar style. It was way less crowded, probably because of the snow. To be fair, we also didn’t see the whole complex. It started to snow harder and Clarissa was very cold. We decided to go inside for some hot chocolate before heading back to the subway.
We needed an indoor thing to do so we headed to Coex mall. I believe it is the largest underground mall in the world. It was one of Tim’s normal hangouts during his Air Force days. Clarissa picked out some Tayo stickers and an Octonauts puzzle at Daiso (like a Dollar Store) so she was happy. We also brought her to the entrance of the aquarium so she could see some fish. We all felt better after some food.
The snow stopped and it warmed up to about 37, so we decided to head to Bongeunsa Temple which is very close to the mall. It is the same subway stop, just a different exit (Samseong on line 2).
It was a very large temple complex. There were other people walking around but it was not busy at all. They have a templestay program where you can spend the night there. They also had a large hall for weddings. There were some monks playing drums and chanting, but not many.
After the temple, we decided to head towards base. Most of the places we wanted to see closed at 4:30 or 5. Clarissa fell asleep on the train and even slept some on the walk to base which surprised me because it was so cold outside.
We didn’t find anything interesting at the Yongsan px so we headed back to the Lodge for dinner. We went to Green Street. I ordered a steak and Tim had a spicy Asian dish.
We had originally planned to have brunch with Tim’s friend on Sunday but she was sick.
We decided to head out early and go to Hahoe village in Andong on the way home. It really was in the middle of nowhere and took three hours to get to. It would have been so worth it though. The place was huge and had several sections of traditional houses, shrines, and stores.
We didn’t get very far before it started sleeting. We decided that since it is only about an hour from Daegu, we will just go again and make a day of it. There were several small museums (mask museum, world doll museum) to see as well.
Apparently January in Korea is not a good time for exploring. We need to wait until it warms up a bit to see more. But it was a great first road trip.