Spending the night in the Subway


Well, actually just one hour…

Went to see Meg at someone’s birthday party at a Reggae Bar in Hongdae.  Left at 11 pm so I could catch the last train home, as the subways stop running after midnight.  Got to the subway station by 11:10, and to my transfer point before 11:25.  But stupid me, when they announced the train to Sanbon, I mistakenly got the name crossed with Sadang.  In the past, I have gotten onto the train bound for Sadang and had to wait for another train, since my home station is further on down the route.

And so I waited for the next train.  And waited.  And waited.  Only it never came.  And suddenly it dawned on me that it would never come.  I still held out hope for an Ansan or Oido train to show up, but when the announcements on the PA came fast and furious and all the remaining subway goers started rushing for the exit, I knew the jig was up, meaning I was stuck in Seoul overnight not knowing where to go.

Fortunately, my transfer is Dongdaemmon and there are the vertical fashion market/malls which stay open until 4:30 am!   And so, since I felt so great (after three days of vomiting and diareah I was finally better, well-rested, and had held down a meal – at first I was ashamed because I thought it was from the half a bottle of soju I’d had without food to eat, but by day 3 I think maybe it was actually a bug of some sort) and I decided to just SHOP and find a jimjilbang.  And so I shopped until the stores closed.  Only I spent the rest of the money I had, and when I went to go to the ATM at 4:15 am, they had SHUT DOWN THE ATM’s and I was STUCK WITH NO MONEY!  That meant I couldn’t get a taxi and I couldn’t pay for the jimjilbang.  (how stupid can I be?  I guess that’s what greed does to you, because I just had to have a couple items I saw because I still don’t have enough clothing that will won’t expose my shoulders while still keeping me cool enough that I don’t die of heat exhaustion at school)

OK.  The subways start running in an hour and a half.  No big deal – I can just wait somewhere.  Turns out, an amazing number of people close Dondaemmon’s malls and the streets were still lively and populated.  I sat outside in the still balmy weather and read for awhile, and then I decided to follow a group of women who were going into the subway.  The subways were well lit and clean, with only a few areas caged off.  Off to one area were a half dozen homeless men and women sleeping, and off to another area in front of the underground entrance to Hello! aPM were about a dozen other shoppers sitting and waiting as well.  The store was piping in a bizarre mixture of jazz and lounge music (and it was really surreal when the “goodbye” song from The Sound of Music began to play)  So I would read there for awhile, surface for awhile, then go back and read.

Around 5:30, all the locals got up and started going through the turnstyles down to the platforms, so I followed.  Then we all got to listen and watch as the Seoul Metro trains went through their paces testing all the doors and P.A.  Some watched t.v. on the screens that play promotional messages about the subways, and others like myself sat and read or talked.

Actually, it was a lot of fun and I felt totally safe the entire time.  By the time 6 am rolled around, there were enough people waiting at the platforms to almost fill the car seats.  So if I get stuck in Seoul again, I hope it’s by Dongdaemmon, and I’m definitely not going to pay for a jimjilbang!  Of course, this is perfect weather and I don’t know what this experience would be like in the middle of winter or summer…

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4 thoughts on “Spending the night in the Subway

  1. Since I live out in Gyeonggi-do I always worry about missing the last train back home — especially since different trains stop at various stations along the way instead of continuing down the entire line to the end terminus. However, it sounds like you had a pretty entertaining time waiting for service to resume, and I might have to go check out Dongdaemun at night to see what it’s like. (Actually, I need to check out Dongdaemun anyway for the Mongolian community that lives nearby …)

  2. It’s not for the weak at heart, as it’s overwhelming. But it’s fun if you feel good and you aren’t looking for anything specific.

    btw, the place is closed on Mondays and the night I stayed over was a Saturday, so I don’t know how populated it is at 4:30 on a weeknight.

    Mongolian community?

  3. The younger people in Korea all understand quite a bit of English. If you ask them if they speak English, they will all emphatically say “no” and deny it. But if you persist, then you almost always find out that they understand what you are saying. They might ask you to speak slower, though.

    The older people – forget about it…

    I find phrasebooks pretty useless, a burdensome thing to carry around, and too awkward to search for when in a pinch. Here in the Seoul metro area, there are two phone numbers you can call with a translator, so I’ve used that twice for emergencies already. If I’m going to do something complicated, it’s nice to have someone who knows the language to write what you need down ahead of time on paper for you, and then you can just hand it to someone.

    Koreans are adept at drawing maps because few people here know the street names and they are accustomed to seeing 3d maps or maps with landmarks drawn out on them. It’s always good to have some blank notebook with you, and if you can say where you want to go and are lost, you can stop someone and ask. They will be freaked out at first, but then when you hand them blank paper and a pen a look of relief will pass over their face, and you’ll get an excellent map almost every time.

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