Saturday, February 18, 2012

Exploring Sincheon with a side of Seoul- Part 1

 The story of this journey begins back in Incheon, a few weeks prior to our departure. I had been posting articles on local international forums looking for an English-speaking hairdresser with a good reputation to cut Hyper's hair. It was so long that he was beginning to remind me of an unruly sheepdog. I was given these directions by another user on InterNations to find 'Lucy' a hairdresser who studied in London; 

-From Shinchon Station (Line 2, the green line) take Exit 1.
-Walk straight until you see a "Natur" store (It's your first right.)
-Turn right into the side street.
-Down the street a few paces, on your right, on the second floor, is Lucy Hair. You can see a sign at the entrance to the building.
-Don't go past the intersection (there is a waffle shop on the corner).

I was also given a telephone number which Hyper called to make an appointment on his next day off.

We awoke that Saturday morning, and after eating chocolate chip pancakes, we packed a book bag with supplies for the day.  We packed gloves and hats, my Nikon camera, IPhones, IPad, a bottle of water, and a snack. It was sunny outside but with a sharp, cold wind reminding us to dress warmly. Well prepared for the adventure ahead of us, we locked up the apartment and headed towards the nearest underground train entrance.
Going down the stairs into the dark tunnel!
This was my first time back on the underground train since arriving to South Korea on the airplane. This time, I got to appreciate it much more because I wasn't distracted by lack of sleep and.. well.. everything!

Descending the stairs into the dark tunnel, I noticed on the left side, there was a ramp-type object for bikes. (Yellow in picture). Once again Korea surprised me with something so simple yet so helpful that I'm convinced we should have something similar back home.

This is how you load money onto your card.
You need a T-Money card to get into the train station.

Scanning my T-Money card, I was given access to the rest of the station. The way that the subway system works is that you need to use the card to get in and out of certain areas.

After consulting the map to find out which transfers we would have to make to get to Sincheon, we waited by the doors for the next train to arrive. Much different than the Halifax Metro Transit system, we found ourselves only waiting a handful of minutes between transfers.

The windowed doors open when a train arrives for passengers to get on or off.
Some of the stations are located outside instead of underground. 
The subway system being the safest and most efficient mode of transportation in most of South Korea, there was a lot more going on underground than one might assume.

Bunnies for sale

There were shops.. EVERYWHERE!
7-elevens, coffee shops, banks, clothing shops, street vendors, we even came across a less-than-legal bunny vendor huddled on the floor with her baby bunnies. (Sorry for the blurry picture, she quickly swatted away the Iphone when she seen we were taking a picture.)

Many sources of entertainment were found, including
people dressed up in costumes to advertise products.
These two are posing as a brother and sister and got into quite a fight, pulling hair and shoving each other all over the station.
Oxygen Masks
 One would think that something as important as oxygen mask instructions would be translated into at least one other language, but they weren't. Seeing the oxygen masks in every station made me a little uneasy. It's so easy to forget how close to North Korea I really live, the sight of a possible tragedy jolted me back into reality. What a strange world we live in that we can go about our day to day lives without thinking about the disaster and tragedy that lurks around every corner. I suppose if we did, we would be called paranoid. Is it really paranoia, or an intense sense of reality? I wonder...  

Suddenly a train appeared and pulled me out of my thoughts. Inside the train car, Hyper quickly secured two seats for us. Luckily that day, the train wasn't too busy. He explained to me that there is a section for handicapped people/pregnant women/children and the rest of the seats are first come, first serve. There are no niceties when it comes to seating in this country and on busy days you can be lucky to get a standing spot with something to clutch onto. 

Sometimes there are vendors that will enter the train cars and give speeches to people before handing out pamphlets and business cards. Solicitation is completely legal in this country, even on public transportation apparently. 

I'm on a subway train!

Across the street from Lucy Hair
We found Lucy Hair within a few minutes of our arrival in Sincheon. This city was much bigger than the little suburb where we live. As I looked around, I recognized many western businesses.  The architecture was different as well, more evolved and beautiful. Where I live, it sometimes feels like squares and rectangles with no imagination, only fluorescent lights to accentuate buildings.  
When we arrived at Lucy Hair, the receptionist greeted us and took our personal effects to put in a locker for us. She then gave us a key to the locker. I kind of liked not having to worry about my items, giving me the opportunity to relax without a bulky coat hanging around. 

Lucy wasn't the hairdresser that ended up cutting Hyper's hair, but the gentleman that did spoke excellent English and followed instructions quite well. As I sat at the window (waiting area), I was overjoyed to find an English magazine to read! I flipped through the old 2008 issue of 'Star' Magazine and relaxed in the pretty pink bar stools while Hyper got pampered (okay maybe I was a little jealous).  

I was fascinated by some of the different tools that these Korean hairdressers used. One in particular looks like a vacuum cleaner. They stuck a bag attached to the device over the woman's head and it started inflating with air to make a hair dryer. (See picture below). Hyper loved his haircut, and I was overjoyed to be leaving with a man instead of a sheepdog for a companion. 

Waiting beside a lovely Valentine's Day decoration of flower petals spelling something in Hangul.
Lucy Hair (LOVE the chairs!)

After grabbing a bite to eat at the first Burger King I've been to since coming to Korea, we couldn't decide where to go next so we just walked around Sincheon for a bit to see what we would come across. Around the corner from Burger King, we discovered a 'Subway' franchise. Hyper was furious that he ate at Burger King when there was a Subway so close; he didn't know that they existed in South Korea. We came across a shop called 'Cupcake' with the picture of a cute little pink elephant on the sign. It was the cutest little cupcake shop ever! From Chocolate Oreo cupcakes to Earl Grey and Green Tea cupcakes the flavors were all different and quirky in their own way. The shop also featured a nice, large library and it was a wonderful atmosphere. I wish I wasn't so full from the Burger King, or I would have stayed for awhile and sampled some of the cupcake creations. I am sure we will be returning for some Subway subs in the near future, so I will defiantly make a note to make a stop at 'Cupcake' when we do. 

Patio heaters... indoors
While we were walking around, we noticed some movie posters outside of one of the buildings. One of them featured Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in 3D. Both of us were excited for the new Ghost Rider film, so we went inside to see if it was playing that afternoon. Inside, I looked around for a bit while he tried finding an English sign or English-speaking employee. I seen some strange poles with 'hats' near a counter and inquired about them. They are outdoor patio heaters. Inside. Figure that one out. Oh and did I mention they are gas-lit. Can you say fire hazard? (See picture on the left). I guess Koreans really hate the winter cold, and here I thought it was warming up outside. 


Snack counters look exactly the same as Canadian snack counters. (See picture on the right). The usual popcorn, soft drink, chocolate combos were all available. One thing I really liked about this particular theater was a little sitting area near the snack counter. It was well decorated with huge windows letting the natural sunlight light up the place. You could sit on one of the comfy couches and watch the many birds that they had in cages sing and fly around. I'm used to theaters being dark and closed in, but here I found a slice of beauty. 

Hyper found out that the movie that was playing wasn't actually playing in 3D at this theater, that was just on the poster. We decided to wait to see it in 3D another day and to continue exploring the city. 

Me and my beloved
We happened across a Starbucks and I decided to be brave and see if Korea could satisfy my Starbucks craving without ruining it for me. I ordered the usual; a Venti Caramel Mochiado with extra drizzle (I left out the triple expresso shots because the employee who served me only knew a little English.) Hyper doesn't drink coffee... mostly because like his name suggests, he would get too hyper. He decided to try a cinnamon roll. The cinnamon roll was bland and a little dry, but then again I'm a little picky when it comes to cinnamon rolls after being spoiled with my Mom's homemade rolls my whole life. 
Huzzah! My Mochiado was perfect! However, I did forget that Starbucks had changed their cup sizes recently so I ended up with a larger Venti then I usually drink. It was marvelous to sit in a Starbucks and drink my beloved caramel drink with all the wonderful, familiar Starbucks smells surrounding me. This was the highlight of my day. 

Once energized with my caffeine, we headed back towards the train station to catch the next train to Seoul. Hyper wanted to show me at least one of the palaces before returning to Incheon. 

To be continued... 

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