Korea Continues To Amaze Me On How Fast It Grows

You would think 2 years was only JUST a short time in history, but for Korea, it might be worth 5X’s the amount of time in other countries.  

After arriving at Incheon International in early August, the only thing that bothered me was my specific Immigration line had the slowest agent out of the foreigner accepting crew. As a result, I ended up being served as one of the last few who flew in on my plane.  Other than that, it was very smooth. After walking over to another line & being served right away, I got to baggage claim where most of the bags had already been taken. So, lucky me, my bags rolled right up one after the next and it took literally less than 30 seconds after I got there to grab my bags and go!

Up next: get a phone!

I walk over to the first available “phone rental service” which is SK Telecom. I ask her if I can return the phone to a place in Seoul after renting it for a week and she says, it might be tough. The reason for her concern was that there’s only 2 centers that accept the phones and one’s in Ulchiro and the other is I think she said is in Yongin possibly. So, both locations were a bit far from where I was staying – south of the han river.  I ask her if I can get a phone tonight if I visit the stores and she says that stores are open til 10p tonight. So, I take my chances. It’s a little after 8p at the airport. So, I’m thinking I’ll be there quick enough. At least I keep my fingers crossed.

The reason why I feel Korea’s changed a bit in 2 years is that the buses from the airport into town felt much more advanced or more efficient than before. Now they had a bit more of an official ticket booth that had flatscreens both in English and Korean and all the buses, along with their locations where to be picked up to go. The lines were a bit more organized and it just seemed like they really improved this. For a foreigner, it’s a lot easier. Whereas in the past, it was literally trying to find a needle in a haystack and monies changed hands at the pick up locations…making it feel a bit more primitive. Obviously, for someone whos’s used to it, it’s fine. But again, for a foreigner, the new way of doing things has definitely improved.

The wait for my bus to Yeoksam Station (route 6020) was a little longer than normal, but as soon as it got there (only about 5-10 mins late), they had an efficient form of baggage claim as well.  To make sure that you got your bags when you got off at the right stop, they provide you baggage stickers (basically mimicking the stickers you see when checking in for a flight)  and the bus driver also makes sure he knew where you were jumping off. The limousine bus ticket at the ticket booth wasn’t just your old stub either. The Koreans are getting savvy and building a little booklet where your ticket is printed on one side of it and the rest is advertisements (expedia.co.kr had a 5% off coupon) and information. This particular booklet had a big section about “biking across the country.” It wasn’t some patronizing section, but on both sides making me feel like they really want people to bike here. No wonder the economy just keeps on rolling.

On top of this all, the buses are just as luxurious as ever. These have HUGE reclining chairs (basically first class) for only 15,000 won for the 40 min ride.

While riding to Yeoksam (an area within Gangnam), I start to write about these revelations I had when arriving 2 years after I left.  The ride was smooth since it was after rush hour.  We got to my area about 45 minutes later.  So, if you’re coming in during rush hour, you might have to add a bit more time to your estimated arrival.

I jumped off earlier than my ultimate stop because one thing you have to know is that Taxi drivers don’t get excited about someone who has a TON of luggage, but only wanting to travel a short distance.  It’s kind of “rude” to not have a bigger fare with the pain of dealing with your luggage.  So, I get off at the Express Bus Terminal which is a few stops before my ultimate stop in Yeoksam.  I also OVERtip the guy.  My taxi fare comes out to 6000 won or so which was even high because it took forever for us to find my Goshiwon.  I tipped him 4000 extra won and felt good even though I didn’t need to.

Goshiwons existed when I left in 2010, but they seem to be more common now.  While I didn’t have a ton of time to research all the different ones in town before I left, I also knew I would have to call a bunch of them and visit them as well.  So, I waited until I got here, checked into the one I’m still living in and doing the research from here.

I’ll write more about my Korean housing experience at Castle Fine Goshiwon in a different post, but just had to share another bit of proof that Korea advances quickly.

A few days later when I was talking to one of the recruiters who called me back, she had mentioned “Shin Nonhyeon Subway” station to me.  She was saying that they were located near there.  However, 2 years ago, I don’t recall anything called “Shin Nonhyeon”** on the subway lines, but rather just “Nonhyeon.” It blew me away how fast they added to the subway lines.  When looking even deeper, you’ll notice that Korea’s also built an additional line in the past couple of years to Bundang and opened up a number of other stops as well.

**Correction: it appears that this station was opened in 2009.  I found a reference to it on a wikipedia article here.

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