Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Korea On Wheels

Korea is a place where a lot of walking takes place, at least for me. Some people from Europe or other parts of the world might see this as a normal thing, to walk on a daily basis, but for me it's different. The thing is, in South Africa, the public transportation system is absolutely laughable. It's pathetic. The so called 'taxis' are so far below what any sane country would consider roadworthy, that it is quite literally a gamble on whether or not you will arrive at your location.

Many times our South African taxis will have holes in the floor, so you can watch the road rush past underneath you, many times they don't have windows (only plastic bags in their place) and on occasion they don't have steering wheels. This has become somewhat of a joke in South Africa, that a taxi is driven without a steering wheel, but there are recorded instances when the steering wheel is nowhere to be found, only a monkey wrench in its place. It sounds incredibly far fetched, but sadly it is true.

The saddest thing about these taxis is that the only people to use them are the people that have no other means of getting about. People don't (for the most part) freely choose to use these taxis, especially if other means are available. The thing is that in South Africa, everything is so spread out, that walking is basically not an option. Imagine a 15 or 20 km walk to work in the morning....not gonna happen.

So on that depressing note; it gladdens me to sway back to thge topic at hand...getting about in Korea.

We do a lot of walking in Korea...already mentioned that, didn't I. Yeah. So, the reason we do so much walking is that in Korea everything is really, really on top of itself (figuratively, of course). Things are so close that walking is almost always a viable alternative to public transport. From our apartment, we can walk to the local cinema, to the bus terminal, to 2 or 3 different 'entertainment districts', where all the shops and restaurants are located, to the gym, to several supermarkets and many other places. And not one of the abovementioned destinations is more than about 20 minutes by foot. It's fantastic.

An old-school set of Chevrolegs

Doing all of this walking gives you (me at least) a sense of freedom that I never had in South Africa. South Africans, whether they like to admit it or not, have an underlying fear and paranoia that is always there. Walking through the streets can be a properly nerve-wracking experience in sunny SA. Either way, the walking here is beautiful and it feels fantastic doing it.

The other alternative

The greatest part about walking around Korea is that when you do get fed up with all the walking, it's very easy to simply wave your hand at the next available taxi (and there are many), climb in, tell him your destination, and be wafted away without having to fear for the floor to give way. Bliss.

Post by Oliver


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