Vacation to Seoul South Korea – Day 3 – Paju

The weather has been clear and cold in South Korea. We packed hats and gloves and were given fleece blankets by one of our tour guides. We have been comfortable traveling around Seoul in the winter time.

We each bought a transit pass so we could move around freely via subway and bus. With all of the traffic we have encountered, I am glad we did not choose to rent a car and drive here. I get to enjoy the scenery without having to focus on deciphering signs and avoiding commuters.

Today’s agenda was to visit Chris’ home in Paju.  Paju is an area North and West of Seoul that Chris describes as being the size of an entire county in the USA.  His village in Paju is just a few miles from the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone).  He can see North Korea from his place.

We took a train into an area where he regularly transfers. He is familiar with that section and took us out for breakfast. We went to a little shop where he ordered toast for each of us. The restaurant had just 4 tables with oversized rocking chairs that we would typically see as part of an expensive set of outdoor furniture with large cushions in America. Toast was a sandwich where the outside bread was sliced thin and resembled a sweet French Toast. Inside was ham and eggs. It was delicious and cost about $6 for the three of us.

Chris then took us down an alleyway to a street vendor who sold several fried foods including corn dogs. We ordered a corn dog for each of us and the attendant invited us inside to sit. We entered the shack to find 2 women preparing food for the day.  I noticed several wrappers of cheese sticks and hot dogs and a pack of skewers.  We sat at a tiny table with tiny chairs as the ladies took our precooked selections and returned them to the friar. This “restaurant” was about the size of a small kitchen or large bathroom. The wallpaper was old and faded with lots of Korean scrawls on the wall. The ladies were welcoming and it felt like home. We were given a complimentary cup of soup that contained unrecognizable vegetables. It was hot and it was good. The corn dogs were delivered and upon first taste, we were in heaven.  The extra crunchy outer section surrounded a muffin-like inner section that held the sausage. The snack on a stick was served with ketchup already applied.  Total cost for this snack for 3 was about $3.

We hailed a taxi and rode about 10 minutes to Chris’ village and walked to his apartment. His town can best be described as rural. In this land of 10-20 story apartment building, his village had few buildings over 5 stories tall.  He said that most of his students’ parents were farmers and worked in agriculture.  Chris lives on the third floor in an apartment about the size of my dining room. His furniture consists of a bed, desk, and chair. In this space he also has a kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. It is not a lot, but it is enough for him and he is happy.  This is the place where he sleeps, games, and keeps his stuff. He has many friends and meets up with them most every day to do fun stuff when he is not teaching ESL (English as a Secondary Language). He has been here since August and is thoroughly enjoying everything about his new home.

He has a date tonight, so he took us to the bus stop, got us on the right line, gave us directions on how to get home and sent us on our way. The first leg of our journey was an hour bus ride that took us along a long section of the DMZ.  I was expecting the DMZ to be a forest or a mountain, or a ridge or something–it’s not.  The area of DMZ that we passed looked like a frozen swamp. This area is about 3 miles across with a double fence topped with razor wire along the entire zone. We could see North Korea on the other side–mountains, military vehicles, and guard shacks, but no other signs of life. Our side has bustling traffic, high rise buildings and civilian activity

We connected to the subway system and made several transfers on the way back to Incheon. The entire trip took about 2 hours and cost us about $2.50 each. The subway station is about 3 blocks from our hotel.

There is a hyper market called Lotte Mart a short walk from the station. We decided to check it out. Lotte Mart is a tall building with parking on the top floors, shopping and services on the bottom floors. Food is sold on the first floor, department store merchandise on the second floor, dentist, pet store and other services on the third floor, photograpy studio and martial arts on the fourth floor. Each story is connected by an escalator without steps. That allows for shopping carts to be gripped by the grooves in the moving ramp so that 1 cart can access all departments.

The grocery store portion had more employees than shoppers–and there were a lot of people shopping. Women dressed in formal traditional Oriental garb were soliciting gifts and samples throughout the store. Other employees were stocking shelves, mopping floors, and running the cash registers.

We were on our own for dinner for the first time and decided to walk around until something looked good. Just a block from our hotel in the first restaurant we passed, there were lots of people enjoying dinner. That was a good sign, so that’s the place we chose to eat. It was a Korean BBQ restaurant. We chose to sit at a table rather than on the floor and had marinated pork. We cooked it ourselves over a wood fire and mixed in a variety of vegetables and spices in leaf of lettuce sandwiches. We had side dishes of what can be described as boiled scrambled eggs and crab soup. Once again the food was outstanding for about $20.

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Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 6:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Sooo interesting! Enjoying the play by play of each day and event.


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