Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Korean Review: Day 8 - Transportation

The transportation here in Korea is ridiculous!
Ridiculously awesome that is (for the most part).
During my year, I've traveled by subway, bus, train, plane, taxi, ferry, and car.
Each option has presented it's own pluses and minuses.

Subway
I already wrote about my subway experiences in an earlier post. This post details my feelings about the subway, and while they haven't really changed all the much since December, I still find Seoul's subway system to be one of the best, if not the best, in the world.

Bus
The bus system here in Seoul is really very efficient and on point. There are three different colored buses that will take you to various parts of the city:

Blue buses service the city of Seoul itself. They stay within the city limits (for the most part) and are super frequent. I take either the 641 or the 461 home from work everyday to change up my commute to work each day.

Green buses are used to primarily connect major subway and bus terminal stations. They tend to travel a bit farther outside of the city limits of Seoul to achieve these duties.

And finally, red buses connect Seoul to the outlying communities (aka "suburbs"). These buses tend to be a bit more comfortable and more like charter buses in the states.
With all of these various options available to the everyday commuter, getting around Seoul could not be easier. Not only do buses connect the city to the outlying suburbs, but there is also an extensive, well developed country wide bus system. Buses used to travel from city to city (and I've used them to get to Sokcho, Jinhae, Yeongdoek, and Samcheok) are spacious, clean, and super friendly. There is ample leg room, the seats recline, and there are foot rests! Talk about traveling in style!

Train
I have only had the privilege of traveling by train once, but it was a very pleasant and enjoyable experience. Matt and I headed back from MudFest early by train and it was very reminiscent of the many train rides I have taken throughout Europe during my summers with Camp Adventure. While the KTX isn't quite as high class as the Deuschbahn in Germany, it still provided a very smooth and uneventful journey.

Plane
The main airport in Seoul, Incheon, is one of the cleanest and best run airports that I have had the opportunity to travel through and use. Trips to Thailand, Taiwan, Jeju, and pick-ups of my parents and brother have allotted me quite a lot to time in this establishment. For it's shear size and daily business, I've been extremely impressed with the quality of service that is provided here. The only drawback is that it is located about an hour outside of Seoul, so the commute there is a bit of a pain. But from the moment that I landed in Korea (and was greeted by the paparazzi), Incheon has always been a very pleasant experience.

Taxi
The taxis here in Seoul are amazing and horrendous at the same time. The fare is super cheap. A 10 minute cab ride will cost maybe 3-4 bucks at the most. Each cab is equipped with a GPS unit and use their meters. So there's never a debate about the fare, which is a blessing. However, getting a cab to agree to take you to your final destination can be a major pain depending on where you are located.

Hailing a cab from the Gangnam area is an absolute nightmare. One night, Ruth, Alex, and I were turned down by about 20 taxi's in a row! We later found out that certain taxis stay in Seoul, while others are destined to leave the city limits. However, this was still super discouraging and added an extra 30 minutes onto our journey home. There are also cab drivers who attempt to screw you over on the fare. This is by far my least favorite form of transportation here in Seoul, but with the buses and subways shutting down around midnight on the weekends, sacrifices have to be made.

Ferry
The one time that I boarded a ferry, I almost ended up stranded on a remote island off the coast of Incheon. The ferry schedules are a bit ambiguous and can be hard to decipher sometimes. With that being said, the ride itself was very enjoyable and pleasant. This is one form of transportation that I wish I would've utilized more, as I would've liked to have explored the islands around Korea more.

Car
Traffic in Seoul is hectic! The morning rush hour results in heavy congestion full of stop and go driving and lots of pointless honking. Welcome to the big city! The night time isn't all that much better as business men hurry off to the local hof to meet up with their colleagues, while others make their way home.

When my lead teacher picked me up for the first time following orientation, the first thing that I noticed was how nervous she seemed driving. She was super fidgety and had a hard time sitting still. Honestly, I don't blame her! I'd be a bit of a wreck as well if I had to brave the streets of Seoul in a car. I'm glad that I haven't had to navigate these streets behind the wheel of a vehicle and have been able to rely on others to get me around!

Bottom line is that the public transportation system here in Seoul is one of the best in the world (in my opinion). Of course there are things that could be improved, but at the end of the day, getting around the second largest city in the world is made a fairly easy task thanks to this efficient and well-thought out system.