07 Jan 2013, 09:23

Seoul layover

I just had a one night layover in Seoul Korea on my way back from Christmas holidays with family. I flew with Korean Air and normally they include accommodation in the ticket price but I was disappointed to learn that during the peak Christmas season hotel is not included. As I was having to arrange my own accommodation, I thought I’d take the opportunity to try staying in Seoul city itself and have a bit of a look around. The city is approximately 50kms from the city centre and takes about 1hr on the train. There is a special line called AREX (AiRport EXpress way) and a one-way ticket to Seoul Station on the ‘commuter’ service costs 4050 Won (£2.34) - there is also an ‘express’ service which costs a bit more. Going back to the airport the next day, I made the mistake of going to ‘Incheon’ rather than ‘Incheon International airport’ - the two places are nowhere near each other and so I wasted a bit of time backtracking.

From Seoul Station I walked  to my hotel. I was just about to buy another ticket for the subway when a Korean man came over and asked where I was going, ‘Myeong-dong’ I replied to which he said he thought I should save the money and walk as it wasn’t far and he would point me in the right direction. He ended up walking with me which I was a little uncomfortable about at first, thinking he was up to no good, but I quickly realised that he was very drunk and so not likely to be much of threat, other than getting us both completely lost! From what I could gather he was a cook but his boss wasn’t treating him properly and so he had been drinking to make himself feel better. He said his daughter lived in America and apparently he nothing better to do on a Saturday night, which made me feel sorry for him. As it turned out he took me right past my hotel which was quite an amazing coincidence as the hotel was not well sign-posted. At that point I thanked him and he just walked off. The hotel was nice enough with the room being quite small with just enough room to fit a double bed, TV etc which, I’m told, is normal.

Seoul at this time of year is FREEZING with ice and snow everywhere. Apparently it has consistently colder winters than any other city on the same latitude. I had a couple of hours the next morning to walk around the city. I found some breakfast then walked past the town hall where there is a public  ice skating rink and then up to the Gyeongbokgung palace. There were policemen stationed every few hundred metres standing in the freezing cold - not sure whether that’s normal or if there was something special happening that day? The people are polite, friendly and bow all the time which I found very endearing.