Seoul Subway: Life Changes?

Since a few weeks ago, they have installed these boxes in all the subway stations of Seoul. The cover says in Korean, literally: “In February 2010 life changes”. I wonder what’s changing my life in February…

The answer… in February ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m Back

I’m back in Seoul, after spending a little more than a week in my hometown Fuengirola, with quite a lot of rain, but at 22 degrees celsius (72 ยบF)… and I find myself into this:

The airport with snow everywhere (luckily enough, we didn’t have any problem to land).

More snow…

And more snow from my appartment’s window…

Snow in “my neighborhood”‘s square (wanna try to sit there for a while?)…

A motorbike covered by snow…

So yes…


Changdeok Palace (a.k.a. Secret Gardens)

The Changdeok Palace, also known as Changdeokgung, Secret Gardens Palace, or East Palace (because of its situation, on the east of Gyeongbok Palace (post here, and here)) is one of the five great palaces of Seoul, and the only one which has been declared UNESCO World Heritage. The palace is composed of several gardens, which image changes according to the season of the year. I have only been able to visit this palace during fall, but I can say it was really gorgeous, even on a rainy day like the one we happened to go.

In fall, the color mixture on the trees’ leaves can make the day of anyone who likes photography ๐Ÿ™‚

More color mixture…

It is only possible to enter the palace in one of the organized tours during the day. There are tours available in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, at different times during the day.

One of the yards of the palace. Those stone posts on the ground are indicators of the position where the different king’s officials must stand.

A closer view of the posts. On them there is the name of each official written in Chinese.

This lake gets full of water lilies in summer, giving it quite an amazing look (picture here).

One of the gardens’ gates. The fences are made of bamboo and the roof is the one you can view in many temples and palaces from the Joseon dynasty.

This lake is another one of the many romantic corners in this palace.

Many famous Korean dramas have been filmed in these gardens. Among them, one of the most popular is Dae Jang Geum (or Jewel in the Palace, in the States), set in Korea’s Joseon dynasty.

Jiwon doing the favorite pose of all Asians ๐Ÿ™‚

Visits to this palace are quite limited. It closes on Mondays, and to go in you have to join one of the few organized tours for 3,000 KRW the normal one, and 5,000 KRW for the one they call “special” (I don’t think it is so special, but can be an option if you miss one of the “normal” tours, as there are not many tours during the day). The “normal” tours in English start at 11:30, 1:30, and 3:30. The tour takes around one hour twenty minutes approximately and you can expect to walk around 1.6 miles during that time.

Given their proximity, it is possible to see both the Changdeok and Gyeongbok palaces in one day. If you take this option, it may be better to see the Changdeok Palace first, because it closes earlier and it is also more limited in times.

Finally, I must also say that, only on Thursdays, it is possible to visit the palace without a tour (they call it “self-guided tour”) given that you are willing to pay as much as 15,000 KRW per person. For those who want to take pictures without people around this may be a good option.

Garbage Disposal and Recycling in Seoul

This post is specially aimed to those who just moved in to Seoul or don’t yet really know how to handle their garbage.

When I first arrived in Seoul, one of the things that surprised me the most was how seriously they take recycling here. For all westerners, Korea is a country with too many rules (written and unwritten), and garbage disposal is not an exception.

In Seoul (I am not sure about how the handle this in other cities in Korea) they classify waste into several categories:

1. Food Waste

You can think about food waste as “anything that can be eaten by an animal”. This means bones, shells, toxic or strong spicy food (like a swell-fish) are not food waste. You should keep your food waste at home in a small plastic bag and throw it away without the plastic bag.

The container for the food waste is undoubtedly the most unpleasant one (sorry for the picture if you were eating…).

2. General Waste

General waste is anything that can’t be recycled and is not food waste or a bulky item (such as a couch or a table). The idea is that people have to pay for the waste they generate. The more waste you generate, the more you have to pay.

And how do they do it? Well you can’t throw away your waste in any bag. They have special bags specific for every district (Gu) of Seoul. You can buy these bags at any Family Mart or Seven Eleven in your neighborhood (they are specific for every area, so buy them at the convenience store you will probably have in your building). You have to specify the size of the bag in littres (10 or 20 litres are the most common sizes, and a pack of ten 20-littre bag is around 4,000 KRW). One problem if you don’t speak basic Korean is that they don’t usually speak English at convenience stores, so the word in Korean for trash bag is something like “soo-reh-gui pong-too”, good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

Container for the general waste (์ผ๋ฐ˜์“ฐ๋ ˆ๊ธฐ). On the sign you can read “By all means, use only standard bags”.

Containers for food waste and general waste, located at the back of the building where I live. Under the CCTV sign, the say that you have to throw food waste without the plastic bag, which you have to place separately in the blue bin.

These are the standard bags that you have to pay for.

3. Recyclables

Every building has its own recycling facilities where you have to take your trash and classify it by paper, glass, vinyl, plastic, milk packs. The signs are usually written only in Korean, but you don’t need to know what they say, just look at what’s inside every bin and put the same things inside (not too difficult huh?).

This is the recycling room in my building. Usually they are at the basement of every big building.

Korean signs for bottles (๊ณต๋ณ‘), plastic (ํ”„๋ผ์Šคํ‹ฑ), and vinyl (๋น„๋‹).

Korean signs for styrofoam (shock absorbing material found in electronic products’ boxes, noodle containers, etc.), fluerescent lamps, bulbs, and batteries.

Here on the left, you can also see the containers and signs for cans (์บ”), and milk packs (์šฐ์œ ํŒฉ).

Another view of the recycling room.

4. Large Items

You also have to pay to throw away large items such as a couch or a chair. The price depends on what you are throwning away, from 2,000 KRW for a small fan to 15,000 KRW for a double bed or a piano.

The process to throw away such an item is kind of complicated, you have to go to your neighborhood’s local office, pay the fee over there, and they will give you a sticker that you have to put on the item once you throw it away so that they pick it up on they day they will tell you.

Anyway, I can tell you that if you talk to the maintenance guy in your building (you better speak Korean or have a Korean friend), you can probably reach an agreement with him so that he will take care of the item: I had my building ayoshi get rid of my old bed for 1,000 KRW, which now makes me think he didn’t quite follow the rules… ๐Ÿ˜‰

The main source for this post was a brochure I got at Seoul Global Center (SGC) entitled “Living in Seoul 1: Garbage Disposal”. If you are in Seoul, the SGC is at the Press Center near the city hall (City Hall subway station, exit number 4). They can help you with this and many more things.


Everland (notice the similarity with “Disneyland”) is the biggest theme park in South Korea. Despite its age (it has been opened since 1976), every summer it still attracts masses of Koreans willing to get away from Seoul and spend a fun day.

The entrance to the park reminds that of any Disneyland.

What I liked the most of this park is that it is in the middle of the mountains, with attractions mixing with the trees. The park is so huge that you have to take a chairlift to go from one area to another. The rollercoaster in the background is one of the most recent attractions (it opened in 2008). It is made of wood and has one of the steepest freefalls in the world (you can see some pictures from when they were building it here). Unfortunately (or luckily) I couldn’t ride it, as it was closed because of the rain.

One of the few attractions that we could ride was the “Safari World”, or “์‚ฌํŒŒ๋ฆฌ ์›”๋“œ”, as they write it in Korean.

Basically, they get you on a bus and take you on a tour in a “Jurassic Park” style.

In Safari World, animals (bears, tigers, lions, jabalis… what you can usually find in a zoo) are more or less in liberty, although as you can see they are quite far from being wild animals. This is that this poor bear had to do to get some cookies from the bus driver.

This tiger on the other hand, decided to forget about the cookies and take a nap instead.

These kind of giant rats are coaties. They had them walking on these bridges that went over the path that people followed.

This is the most similar to a roller coaster I could ride… ๐Ÿ™