Saturday, January 2, 2010

Korea Road Trip: Part 1

Gyeongju Arrival:

We took off last Tuesday around 2:00pm here in Suji and made our way down the middle of South Korea. After nearing Daegu we veered South East towards Gyeongju arriving around 7pm. Night had already come so it was hard to see what was around.

On the way we made a few rest stops to eat and take turns driving. Here is one of the rest stops on our way where we got a bite to eat.

Typical for rest stops is a large cafeteria area where you can select from different menus.
I had a bulgolgi rice mix.

JH had a donkatsu plate special.

Driving in Korea:

I have been driving since I was 17 years old. I use to own a car in America, but sold it a year before I moved out to Korea (it was a beater). After I met JH back in May I decided to get my International Driver's License since he had a car and I figured we would share the driving.

Driving in Korea is not that bad compared to probably several countries out there. From what I hear China is pretty unruly and so is India. Still no matter where I end up driving I try to be a safe and cautious driver. Therefore navigating the road means keeping an eye out for drivers that could cause a problem. So that is my perspective on driving. But how does it mix with Korea?

The driving laws and street layout seems to be pretty much the same as back in America. Except that the stoplight signs are positioned as a horizontal strip instead of vertical. Making left turns tends to be the most confusing as a green arrow + red light shines at the same time.

The major differences, I feel, with driving in Korea vs. America is the attitude of the other driver's on the road. I have lived in a big city area, San Francisco and surroundings, so I know what it is like to drive in crowded conditions where people can be pushy. Changing of lanes seems to be the cause of most of my troubles. Some driver's use their hazard lights as a symbol of "Get out of the way, I'm coming in". So you get a lot of sudden lane changes made by the people around you. This has caused me to be extra alert on the road.

Another difference is traffic control. In America, especially in California, you have a lot of highway patrol cars. If you are speeding they catch you and give you a ticket. Out here instead of highway patrol cars there are speeding cameras. JH's car has a GPS unit (in Korean) and whenever there is a camera up ahead and we are going over the speed limit the unit will start to "ding" "ding" and flash. At first I found this really annoying, but after driving long distances and keeping up speed with those around me, I realized it is pretty useful. Those around me tend to slow down as do I when we go through these spots. Just kind of interesting that they use the "big brother" approach to traffic control.

Enough about driving in Korea, let's get back to our arrival story to Gyeongju.

We chose Gyeongju because it boosts many cultural attractions and is an area of Korea I have not seen. So I was excited to see a different part of Korea. Also since it was South of Seoul the weather promised to be warmer and clearer.

Arriving in Gyeongju we searched around for a suitable Pension to stay at and found one. After checking in we went out and found a place to eat.  The restaurant we found was a funky kind of pub where they had "pub" food in a traditional atmosphere. We didn't drink any alcohol, and instead had some grub.

Veggie pajeon
Steamed tofu and kimchi~

The Pension:
If you don't know by now a "Pension" in Korea means a hotel room with a living room, bedroom and kitchen. Basically a really great step-up from typical love hotels. The one we got was on the top floor and looked like one of those "attic rooms" in an old house. In the center of the building were some stairs with a small room that had a computer, microwave and lounge area. We had this small door leading to this area which made for some fun times.

Typical for Pensions are that they tend be dolled up kind of in a girly style. To me it just felt really cozy and comfortable.

Looking outside and around the Pension.

And here we come to the end of Part 1 in my road trip series. I am going to finish off with saying that one of the best parts of exploring Korea is getting to know the countryside areas. Gyeongju was definitely an area with plenty of farm land, albeit though very lovely.

Come back later as I will post more about the cultural trips we took around Gyeongju.


  1. That is quite an interesting-looking pension! The one I stayed at in Jeollanam-do was a very basic affair and lacked any cute accessories like yours ... darn. :D

  2. You look good in black-and-white. The camera was definitely a good buy :)

  3. I've been living in Korea for a while, and I'm thinking about getting a Korean driver's license so I can drive a friend's care like you. However, I was worried about the cost of Korean auto insurance. Do you know how much it costs?

  4. Sorry I don't know about car insurance out here maybe something to ask "Ask the EXpat" blog. Since it is your friends car ask them if they cover friends driving the car. Sometimes policies do this.

  5. Thanks for your response. I guess I would never consider driving without being certain there was insurance there to compensate someone if I were to ever injure or kill someone in an accident. Aside from the practical standpoint of not wanting to be sued for all I'm worth, there's also the ethical component as well. We all plan to drive safely, but accidents do happen.


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