Sunday, January 25, 2009

Seoul Subway System

P1100028 In many ways Seoul Subway reminds one of the Tokyo's own underground transportation mechanism. The stations are clean, you can use an IC card to get in and out, and it is by far the easiest way to get around in the city. There are just as many differences however: Among other things, all of the subway system seems to belong to a single entity with each line being denoted by a number as well as a color instead of names, all subway lines seem to be local, the IC system works slightly differently, the stations seem to be more poorly lit, the overall grid is much smaller and less complex (but then this is not a surprise, right? Tokyo has one of the most complex subway/train systems in the world.).

P1100035I guess a few words of wisdom for anyone who is going to be navigating Seoul's underground train wonderland: Make sure you get a map beforehand. Most stations have maps but not always in English. The trains themselves and the stations do have station names written in English as well as Korean (and Japanese on board the trains) but the numerical ordering of lines and the whole color system can get a bit frustrating without a map to keep track of which stations to use for transferring to another line. One good map is the one over at the official web site - here. The IC cards are very useful and makes it easier for travelers who don't want to deal with figuring out which ticket to buy. The particular one I bought was called T-Money and it was usable on board the bus from Seoul Tower as well. The IC card is sold at the stations and there are machines for recharging (though not for the initial sale). 

P1100031 Finally I want to mention one weird thing that happened on the trains a few times (which is a lot if you consider the fact that I was there only for 3 days). There seem to be people asking for money who go from car to car. One time it was a blind lady with a cup of sorts, playing music from a little radio type thing and walking slowly so as to allow people to put money in her cup. Another time it was a guy who gave letter type thing to everyone in the car including me (though the content of the letter is completely lost on me since it was completely in Korean) and then came back and collected them, some people giving him money with the letter. It was one of the weirdest experiences I had in Seoul. Come to think of it, I guess there is a law against asking for money directly so people came up with these indirect, creative ways to do so...

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