Explore Seoul, a self-tour program where foreign students participate for free, provides three courses each with missions to be accomplished to finish the tour.
“The objective of today is to solve the assigned missions and be sure to use public transportation only. We hope everyone can find the true beauty of Seoul,” said Han Sang-jun, the coordinator of Explore Seoul.
Course 1: Haneul Park ― Han River cycling
Course 1 started with a visit to Haneul Park, which used to be a landfill, transformed into an ecological park to commemorate the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea Japan. Riding an eco-friendly designed small electronic vehicle allowed the group to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
At the summit, the group reached a bowl-shaped observatory “Power of Dreaming GROWING SCULPTURE,” presenting a fine view of Seoul passing through the open field full of silvery grass.
“‘Wow’ was the only thing I could say; the river, buildings, and the view of the park was stunning,” said Aida Kao (National Taiwan University, Graduate School).
After descending 291 zigzagged stairs, the group each rode a bicycle from Yeouido to Banpodaegyo along the Han River.
“The autumn air and shiny water of the Han River were refreshing,” Kao said. “I hope to join this program again to fully enjoy the scenes of nature and people in Korea.”
Course 2: Seoul Forest - Hangang Water Taxi ― Ttukseom Outlook
Visiting Korea for the second time, Eden Rabusa, a participant from the Philippines, was excited as she headed toward Seoul Forest, a manmade theme park in the center of Seoul.
“This is my second time visiting Seoul Forest, but I feel excited since this time I have interesting missions to solve,” said Eden Rabusa.
After taking pictures, the next course was to take the Hangang Water Taxi and get off at Ttukseom Park station. The water taxi seemed to be the best part of the tour as it was comfortable with its luxurious leather interior design.
“I felt like a rich person, riding such expensive water taxi. I’ve never had such a thrilling experience,” Rabusa said.
The water taxi dropped the group off at Ttukseom Park to visit the Ttukseom Outlook. Known as one of the best sights in Ttukseom Park, the outlook was designed in the shape of a caterpillar giving it the nickname, “J-bug.”
“Normally I would do nothing on weekends, but through Explore Seoul, I was able to experience a good change. Feeling the breeze as we rode the water taxi was the best part. Overall I’m very satisfied,” said Arjun Nanjundappa, an employee at Samsung Electronics from India that participated in the program.
Course 3: Seoul Seonggwak (Fortress Wall) ― Samcheong-dong
With the leader’s suggestion of walking to Dongdaemun from the Press Center, instead of taking the subway, the group headed toward Korea’s number one national treasure by foot.
During the path, the group came across Cheonggyecheon. The bright sunlight creating crystals on the surface of the water brought exhilaration to the day’s tour.
Heading toward an alley near Dongdaemun, the group spotted the road to the Seoul Seonggwak, a fortress wall used for defense and protection built with untrimmed stones. As the sun reached its peak at noon, the group began to feel exhausted.
“I knew that the day required lots of walking, but I didn’t expect it to be this tiresome,” said Hsieh Yung-han, a participant from Taiwan.
The wearisome voyage continued, but once the group reached the Malbawi Observatory, all beads of sweat seemed worthwhile.
The final destination of Course 3 was Samcheong-gil, where the mission was to find a statue of a woman on top of a roof. With heads tilted back, the group wandered the streets. Participants asked store owners and people on the streets, but in the end, had to rely on a tablet-PC.
“Walking all day was exhausting, but it was a true opportunity to explore Seoul. I never knew there was so much nature and greenery in the city,” said Cheng Chia-ping, a participant from Taiwan.
Explore Seoul is held on the third Saturday of every month. Foreign students interested can download the application form from the “Cultural Experience of Seoul” Web site (http://www.addicted2seoul.co.kr), and send it through email (firstname.lastname@example.org). For further information, visit the official English-language homepage of Seoul City (http://english.seoul.go.kr).
* Reporter: Hur Jin & Ko Min-seok & Lee Min-jeong