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I love my neighborhood. And so when the Piri Piri Lexicon posted an invite for her “Show Me Your Neighborhood Around the World” series, I quickly signed up.
In case you don’t know, there was a song before called “Oppa’s Gangnam Style” by a famous Korean singer named Psy. In his music video, Gangnam (a district in Seoul, South Korea) is pictured as a place with a lot of pretty ladies who like to drink coffee in the morning but party like crazy at night. Oh, and let’s not forget his famous horse dance. I have good memories with the song, but it seems like the song sums up much of what people know about Gangnam. And so, let me show you another side of Gangnam through the pictures I’ve taken around Gaepo-Dong (개포동), one of the neighborhoods here in Gangnam.
Typical Houses in Our Area
Imagine this: Seoul, South Korea’s capital, is smaller than Singapore, the COUNTRY. And yet Seoul’s population in 2014 was more than twice Singapore‘s. Because of this people in Seoul favor living in apartments rather than houses. According to my husband there’s another reason: apartments are more modern, while brick houses like ours are “old-fashioned” and makes one look poor. I love my house and would choose it over an apartment any day, but I do agree with his suggestion that it probably has something to do with me being a foreigner. After all, we don’t have brick houses back in the Philippines.
Here’s what an apartment building here looks like:
Here’s what some of the houses in my area look like:
In a country where land is becoming more and more expensive, we’re very blessed to have a home we can call our own. One that we can also hopefully pass on to our children.
There are a number of ways to travel around in my neighborhood: by bus, by cab, by subway or by bike. But the one way that’s still my personal favorite (and which I plan to get one day, when I’m at the right age) is this:
I wish I could have gotten a better picture but I was afraid that the old man might freak out. The sight of this brings to mind a time when I saw an old man in this electronic wheelchair racing with kids across a huge street in the Bundang area. I was mesmerized by the sight: Koreans have such awesome technology! I couldn’t help but imagine myself racing with my grandchildren!
Okay, now back to the actual modes of transportation. Some reasons off the top of my mind on why I love commuting here:
1. Arrival and Departure times are easily accessible online;
2. Fare prices are also accessible online (although I never really check the bus fares);
3. There’s an app to check subway info;
4. Payment options are easy. One can pay using their T-Money (cards we buy at the subway station with stored money), T-Money enabled Sim Cards and credit cards. These can also be used for cabs;
5. From my experience it’s always clean;
6. Buses and subways always have a map nearby (in English and in Korean);
7. There are seats reserved for the preggies, the disabled, senior citizens and women carrying young children;
8. There are numerous bus stops and subway stations and they’re usually not too far from each other;
9. And also, it’s safe. (From my experience anyway).
The local buses and cabs and subways differ based on their colors. Let me give you a gist of it:
1. Korean Buses
Seoul is divided into districts which are divided into “neighborhoods”. And so
Blue — These big guys take passengers across districts and travel longer;
Red — Express buses;
Green — Travel shorter distances and stop at transfer points or subway stops;
Yellow —these travel within their respective districts.
2. Korean Cabs
A. Orange cabs — Company owned (which means if they give you any trouble you can complain to the company);
B. Orange Cabs/International Cabs — these are usually for foreigners, I’ve not actually seen one.
C. White or silver cabs — privately owned (they’re their own bosses);
D. Black cabs/Deluxe Taxi — the more expensive cabs (higher base fare but they’re said to be more trustworthy).
E. “Call” Cab/Brand Taxi— To get a “call” cab the idea is to call the cab company so that the cab can come straight to wherever you are to pick you up. (You’ll know it’s a “call” cab because it has the word CALL and a phone number written across its doors.)
Source for numbers B, D and E: http://travel.cnn.com/seoul/life/seoul-taxi-guide-783378. For A & C my Korean friends and family.
About the personal cars here in Korea: people here don’t seem to be into colorful cars much. The cars I see here are usually black, white or a shade in between. One time, my friend and I played a game called “Spot the colored car.” The first to spot the most colored cars wins! That’s how rare we saw colored cars then!
Parks and Playgrounds
We’re very lucky to have a few parks in my area. Each park will have at least one playground, and the playgrounds here are beautiful! For example:
This is the Ilwondong Food Street, a popular street in my area lined with restaurants, cafes, LAN Gaming Centers (aka “PC Bangs”, direct translation is “PC Rooms”) and pubs. My hubby and I come here once in a while when we’re looking for good food. The stores and restaurants and even gaming centers here usually open at around noon and close in the morning.
Schools and other Education Facilities in our area
One popular area for education is the Daechi neighborhood. The schools in this area are famous for being able to successfully send many of their students to some of the top schools in the country. This has also enticed many famous “hagwons” (Korean academies) to set up shop here. This has made Daechi one of the most expensive residential areas in Seoul because the only way kids can study in the schools there is by living within the area.
I’m okay with not living in that area because there seems to be a lot of pressure on children here in Korea. Here is what an elementary school here looks like:
This particular school is also made of red bricks, that there’s a huge field (For various sports), there’s a sports center connected to the school and a small playground for the children to play in during break time. Not all schools here though are necessarily made of bricks.
This daycare center is fairly new. I think it’s just a few years old. It’s now attracting quite a lot of attention because of how nice it looks:
There are no wet markets in my neighborhood, but there are a few supermarkets. The bigger supermarkets (owned by what’s called a 재벌/Chaebol or the conglomerates/wealthy clans) are Lotte, GS Mart and Emart. A law was passed years ago that ordered these bigger supermarkets to close two Sundays a month so that customers are forced to buy from the smaller supermarkets.
I mean, how can the supermarkets compete with the bigger ones. At one of our favorite supermarkets, Lotte Mart, there are lots of free product sampling throughout the place. By the time we’re done shopping both our shopping carts and our stomachs are full!
This isn’t really a “market”, but some shops line up outside apartment complexes to sell food to the tenants. This is usually as good as a market because often they sell vegetables and fruits here.
Now there you have it, my neighborhood in a nutshell. What’s your neighborhood like?
Hope you enjoyed this post! If you’d like to know what other neighborhoods around the world are like, visit the Piri Piri Lexicon and visit the other links there as well! 🙂
For Seoul’s population I used this link: https://www.google.co.kr/publicdata/explore?ds=z5567oe244g0ot_&met_y=population&idim=city_proper:028010:027460&hl=en&dl=en#!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=population&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=area&idim=city_proper:027460:028010:037500&ifdim=area&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false