Uncharted Only – or, the time I got out at a random subway stop.

Yesterday I had the day off my school’s birthday! Have I mentioned how much I love this country?

Seoul has finally decided to let the sunshine in, so I decided my day of freedom would best be spent wandering the streets of Seoul, checking out some new neighborhoods, unbound by the winter-coat-shackles of wintertime. This city is MASSIVE, so “new neighborhoods” gives me an overwhelming amount of options. I hopped on the #9 subway line, unsure of where exactly I wanted to go. I have spent countless hours underneath the city’s asphalt, zooming in and out of tunnels hundreds of feet below ground, wondering: what’s happening upstairs? I spend a lot of time in areas like Hongdae, Gangnam, Insa-dong, and Itaewon…but what is going on in between stops? Some other Seoul expats had the same thoughts, and started writing Seoul Sub→urban, a blog about the areas surrounding subway stops that are usually not visited by Seoul’s expats.  Inspired by Charlie and Liz (Seoul Sub→urban’s masterminds) I exited the subway at a stop that I consistently transfer at when heading to Hongdae, but have never exited before. [Click here for my interview with Seoul Sub→urban!]

(click)

Everyone. Has. A. Smart. Phone.

Dangsang station (당산역) is an elevated metro stop located in Yeongdeungpo-gu, which Wikipedia describes as being an “administrative district.” The station sits on the southern bank of the Han River, conveniently located next to one of many entrances into Seoul’s Hangang Park (한강공원), a riverside park that stretches along the southern shore of the Han, across 12 different districts. I didn’t do much exploring of the immediate ‘hood, because I was pulled by some sort of magnetic force into the park on the river. I felt right at home walking around this park, missing my beloved Riverside Park on NYC’s Upper West Side. But the gorgeous weather and riverside breeze eased my homesickness and I loved exploring this area for the first time. For a Thursday afternoon, there were quite a few cyclists out riding, speed-walking seniors, and very few joggers (for some reason, jogging is not popular in Korea). Here are some photos from my walk.

An outdoor, public pool/water park right on the river. Excited to come back when the pool is filled!

On the outskirts of the park is this gorgeous pavilion-style building, government office of some kind.

“Seoul Marina” – missing the 79th St Boat Basin

Not a car dealership. Almost every car in Korea is black, white, or silver. BO-RING!

I had plans to meet a friend (Sarah, who happens to be my orthadontist’s daughter, whom I met at the army base’s Passover Seder. This is my life.) at Vatos Tacos in Itaewon for dinner. Even though it goes against my uncharted-only rules for the day, I’ve been wanting a second round of the mouth-watering, Korean-Mexican fusion for months.

Kimchi Carnitas Fries at Vatos – mouthwatering fusion.

So I made up for it by walking a lot, and walking across the Han River for the first time! I walked southeast towards Youido, where the Hangang park grows wider and has more recreational activities. I then strolled along Sogang Bridge (I think that’s the name…), which was powerfully relaxing, and noticed an awesome, overgrown tiny island when I got to the end.

A cool bridge.

A cool view.

The overgrown plot of land, juxtaposing Seoul’s cityscape.

But once I got to the other side of the bridge, and headed into the Gusu-dong, Yonggang-dong, Dohwa-dong neighborhoods, most of what I saw wasn’t all that breathtaking. I should mention that I was hungry and had galbi tacos on my mind, so perhaps my exploration skills weren’t at an all-time high. A mix of developed office-building clusters, a street that was made up of exclusively Korean restaurants of various offerings, and residential apartment buildings. Kids sprinting in and out of English language academies, grandmothers selling fruits and nail files at the same make-shift stands, and mothers staring at their smart phones while they pushed baby strollers. Perhaps I didn’t dig deep enough into the neighborhoods, since I had a destiniation in mind. But Seoul is, above all else, a place for urban dwellers: there doesn’t need to be a fire-breathing dragon around every corner, or an amazing contemporary art gallery down a mysterious winding alley.

Everyone needs funny underwear, no question.

A day worth smiling about.

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