Friday, October 10, 2014

Seoul-searching Day 3: Namsan Oreumi, Namsan Cable Car and N Seoul Tower

For the final leg of our itinerary Day 3 in Seoul, we took the train to Myeongdong to explore the modern attributes of the city. We stopped by for a quick snack of hotdogs and drinks at 7-evelen before walking towards Namsan Oreumi - an outdoor elevator that runs between Namsan Tunnel #3 Commemorative Plaza and the Namsan Cable Car. The walk from Myeongdong Station was confusing. We did follow the sign towards Namsan Tunnel #3 but somehow we lost our way as we walked uphill, and seemed to be getting closer to the cable car station with no elevator station in sight. That alarmed us because we didn't really want to walk all the way to the cable car station. We asked around but got more confusing directions (and mostly blank stares). We stopped, checked our maps and sniffed our way through the streets, and finally found ourselves walking towards the direction of the Namsan Oreumi.
so relieved when we saw the cable car sign at the top of Namsan Oreumi
We were very lucky there weren't many people queuing up for the elevator so we didn't have to wait for a long time. But we had a few minutes to sit and rest after wandering (and getting lost) in the streets of Myeongdong. The Namsan Oreumi could carry up to 20 passengers which meant we took close to half of the allotted space. The 140m ascent to the cable car station gave us a view of the Myeongdong streets below us. Convenient (if you could easily find it) and fast and it's for free! We were all excited when we saw the Namsan Oreumi making its way back from the cable car station. The kids started counting off, making sure all of us would be accommodated, and none left behind. Curious Ira wondered who was controlling the elevator as we ascended Mt Namsan. There was actually a control panel which passengers need to press to open and close the doors and to go up and down the elevator track.

When we got to the Namsan Cable Car station, it was evident that we were going to have to queue for a longer time as there were more people walking towards the ticket counter. The line was snaking up the staircase, too. Round-trip tickets cost 8,500 won ($10.06) for adults and 5,500 won ($6.51) for children. We bought round-trip tickets.

The cable cars were big and could carry up to 48 people. With all four sides made of glass, we could enjoy the view of the city as the cable car brought us to the top of Mt Namsan. We did plan to be at the top while there was still natural light and stay up until it was dark, to see the city lighting up at night.

From the cable car station we still had to go up flights of stairs from the cable car station to get to the main activity area and N Seoul Tower ticket counter. It was a long, steep and exhausting walk (specially if you're not used to walking uphill) but we were rewarded by a great view of the city below. We could see the roofs of the Gyeongbokgung Palace and even the hanok village. 
it was still a long way up to the top

While the adults were busy admiring the view and taking photos, the kids entertained themselves in the misty play area.
a view of the city before sundown
We decided not to go up the N Seoul Tower since we already had a good view from the base of the tower. We initially considered going for the dinner and Tower combo but we thought the kids might not like the food so it was going to be not worth the money. The kids were also having so much fun playing with each other in the mist area so we just hung out till it was dark for the night view of the city from Mt Namsan. The Tower itself was a sight to behold as it was illuminated by spotlights which change colors. 
N Seoul Tower

There were different shops and eating places at the base of the tower, too. The was also a dedicated place where couples can display their love declarations adding to the thousands of locks making up the "trees of love locks". Locks can be bought from the shops at the base of the tower in case couples forgot to bring their own (of course, at a higher price). A variety of souvenirs are also being sold at different shops.

By 8:30pm it was already about to rain so we made our way back to the cable car station, took the cable car down to Namsan Oreumi, and took another ride on Namsan Oreumi to get back down to street level. The trip down was packed but we were lucky to get the "driver's seat". Ira was directly in front of the control panel and pretended to be the elevator controller/driver. He was so thrilled to be the one to close the doors and press down for the elevator to descend. 
our ride back on Namsan Oreumi

We walked along the streets of Myeongdong and found a Korean restaurant. We didn't go for Korean BBQ this time. We also opted for a place where we could sit on the floor. It got a bit uncomfortable after some time sitting like that but maybe it's because I wasn't used to it. The kids didn't have any complaints at all. They enjoyed the new dining experience and they were able to eat well. Korean food, thumbs up!  

Before heading back to Yongsan Residence to retire for the night, we went window shopping. Since we were already in Myeongdong what else could we do but go window shopping?! We walked along the shopping streets (several of them) at around 10pm so some of the shops were already closed or about to close. There were shops after shops after shops selling beauty products and they were really relatively cheap. Face mask packs of 10 can go for as low as 2,500 won ($2.96), now that's a great deal! Unfortunately, I am not really using face masks or other beauty products so a stroll along this street for me was just to experience going from shop to shop to see if the products were indeed cheap as what I was informed. To see that much variety still shocks me. I was almost tempted to buy just because the items were cheap. But reason won over impulse buying. 
Kelvin, on the other hand, was hoping to get a snapback. He said that could be his souvenir from our Korea trip. Unfortunately, this shop specializing in snapbacks was already closed when we passed by. We stood there hoping they might still let us in (the lights were still on) but we had no luck. I took a photo of it to remind him of the name of the shop in case we see it at the outlet shops or Busan or Jeju. He felt bad but was hopeful he could find another shop around the area that's still open.

So that was it for Day 3 of our Seoul exploration. The kids couldn't wait for what tomorrow brings. We had Kidzania and Lotte World in our plans so it's kids adventure day and they were all pretty much excited about it.

Travel tip of the day:

  1. For N Seoul Tower, there are several dining and tower combo to choose from. The Tower has Korean, Italian, French and American dining places. If you're a foodie, a combo package (observatory entrance + dining at one of the restaurants top of the tower) may be an option to add value to that dining experience.
  2. To get to Namsan Oreumi, take subway Line 4 to Myeongdong Station (exit 4). Signs maybe confusing from there so I suggest following the main road from exit 4, then turn left at the intersection. As you walk along the road you will see the Namsan Oreumi on the left, just before the tunnel along the highway.

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