Yesterday was another homework-rich day. We were short on food though, and since most of our evening meals concept of Ramyun, and I love to put a variety of things into my ramyun like greens, mushrooms, fish cake, and dumplings, it was time to get more.
So the day's destination was a big supermarket that would have my roommate's favorite Ramyun (Rabookki ramyun which is rare to find). The first supermarket that we went to, and that she was certain would have the ramyun, didn't, so we had to from Seoul station to Wangsimri instead. Which is a line change and eight subway station on the circle line. Thankfully our university stop is on the green circle line, so it's easy to get around.
I did remember photos this time.
Especially of the magical escalator that transports the shopping cart upstairs and downstairs without anyone having to hold it. As soon as you roll it onto the escalator, it just locks in place.
And also the packaging station that we used to wrap some or our heavier stuff in a carton box and carry it home.
Also - Korean cucumbers look very different from those I am used to from Europe. I did't buy them this time, but I will have to try them just to see if they taste the same as European cucumbers. I doubt it.
Pears here are different too. They're huge and round like apples with a sort of gray brown color and they taste... They taste like milk with a hint of pear. They're very good.
Today, surprisingly, was my first weekday without homework. So when I came home after school, I looked out from our terrace at the blue sky and thought: "today is the day to go out."
As usual, my roommate didn't have a huge amount of homework either, so I suggested that we go somewhere.
She has a tattoo artist that she has been following for a good year that she likes. He is based in Suwon, so for a long time we have been joking about going to Suwon, as the train station right across the street has trains going to Suwan.
Today as I looked at the subway map, I saw that Suwon was on it too, and so I said: 'Le'ts go to Suwon'.
For a bit of context, Suwon may be in the greater Seoul area, but it is not Seoul. It is a city south of Seoul. I had always thought of Suwon as relatively small. Well it wasn't.
It was a huge city, and yet, it was such a comfortable one too. It gave off a very different feeling from Seoul. It was comfortable and felt like a place where one could live and settle down.
The houses had green and blue rooftops stacked with pots to store food like kimchi inside.
The stores were different too. Of course there were the usual brands that one sees in Seoul too, but there were a lot of smaller stores too that I remember seeing six years ago in some of my favorite parts of Seoul. Most of them are gone from the inner city now, but they are still around in Suwon. Metal works, woodworks, hanbok (korean traditional clothing) makers, and a ton of other and more specialised shops.
Susan seemed busy and full of life. But a different sort of life from in Seoul. There were hardly any visitors or tourists like us. The people all belonged there, and it felt like the real South Korea.
The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. The fruit was cheap (meaning normal prices for european eyes), and it was pretty too. Really pretty.
I read the road signs to get orientated and led us up a hill towards a park on the mountainside. From up there we could see all of Suwon. Well most of it at least.
It was quiet up there on the mountainside walking along a well kept forest. And there were birds. The sound of birdsong. I came to realise how few animals one sees living in Seoul.
Birds are a rarity. During my weeks here I've only seen about four pigeons. And then on our campus (which is also on a mountainside), I saw a cute looking squirrel with sharp triangular ears. It looked different from squirrels in Europe.
It felt peaceful walking in Suwon. Despite the occasional sound of airplanes flying by above. It was still quiet. It's not that Seoul is loud. In truth it's a very quiet city. I rarely hear people shout. The sound of cars isn't bad. Overall it's a very quiet city. It isn't like being in Paris or London, or any other big european city I have passed through (and that's a long list of cities). Still Suwon felt peaceful in comparison.
We walked along the park at the top of the mountainside and made out way over to the Hwasung fortress. An ancient wall stretched down from the mountaintop all the way to the Hwasung gate.
We walked down the steep slope, along the fortress wall, careful not to slip on the snow and ice, although really there is hardly any of it here. It gets cleared very quickly after a snowfall.
We kept saying "Wow... Suwon is awesome," as we walked around. The feel of the city was just different and comfortable. Seoul is a great city, but it doesn't feel like a place where one can really live for a long time. Suwon is close enough to have the same benefits as districts in Seoul, and yet it's far enough out to be different.
It has animals. In seoul we have only ever seen one cat out and about. A handful of dogs, being walked by their owners, but still it's limited. Animals are raised kept inside apartments for the most part. But here there were a few clever and cautious cats roaming the streets and dogs being walked, and birds singing, and ducks swimming
By a happy coincidence, on our way back, we walked across a bridge over a river. It was half frozen, but there were still ducks swimming around.
It felt like Chunggyecheon stream, which is one of my favorite places in Seoul, except that this was prettier and better.
The streets on either side weren't nearly as busy, but the riverside was popular. People biked and walked past and used the fitness machines displayed at decent intervals along the river. Parks and public spaces like that always have areas with some work out machines for the sake of the general public's health. A lot of older people especially come here to work out. It also means that the parks are well frequented and used.
it was a good time in Suwon. I'm glad that time and lack of homework allowed for a spontaneous trip. Suwon was a city that felt like home. More accurately it felt like a place that could very easily feel like home for anyone.
I wonder what other great places and cities are hiding at the far end of the Seoul subway lines...