All the cities we’ve visited have cute nicknames that are proudly displayed everywhere – Beautiful Gyeongju! Sun and Fun Haeundae! Hi Seoul!

At first I was not so happy to see Seoul – after the crappy trip across the county, I was frustrated to find a massive subway system and no map to help understand what train I needed or even how to buy a ticket.  Seoul is Korea’s largest city and on paper, it’s intimidating. Over 12 million people live in the city proper and if I were  ever to make it onto the train, it was going to take me over an hour to reach my destination. To make matters worse, I was carrying around a 25lb backpack and the subway entrance was more of an underground shopping mall with people casually milling around.  Thousands of weekend shoppers +  lost with a pack = PURE FRUSTRATION.

Metros in Asia are a bit different, you first need to determine your destination in order to buy a ticket, then you can enter the subway to find the map. This makes sense – the price increases the farther you travel and as I mentioned, you can go pretty far in Seoul.  Not having a map will never make any sense.

It’s hard to stay frustrated in Korea.  Korean people are the warmest, friendliest people I have ever met. As I stood staring through tears at the Lonely Bastard guidebook (no subway map included), this angel women saw my utter frustration, took my hand, bought the ticket and pointed me in the right direction. This was not a random act of kindness, Koreans are just fantastic people.  In every neighborhood people would jump out from the crowd to ask if we were lost, or how they could help us locate our hotel, a palace, city hall….

I love Koreans.

But back to the subway system.  Here’s South Korea’s answer to a possible attack on the subway:

ROK gas masks