Two weeks ago, Huddy and I finally tackled the behemoth of all subway lines: Line 1. Line 1 has 97 stops and runs on over 200km of tracks to the north, southeast, and southwest outside of Seoul. It is the oldest line, dating back to 1974. Knowing we could never tackle all three end points in a single day (Soyosan to the north, Incheon to the west, and Sinchang to the south) we decided to break things up a bit. We had already been to Soyosan to hike the mountain about a year ago, and were somewhat underwhelmed by the experience. Despite the hike itself being beautiful, the summit was shrouded in tree cover, and provided none of the spectacular views you grow accustomed to hiking in Korea. So we had one end down. This time we decided to tackle the longest of all trips: 2 hours south of Seoul to Sinchang. Since Line 1 passes by the fortress city of Suwon, we decided to stop there for some sightseeing before heading to the end.
Suwon is home to the Hwaseong Fortress Wall, a UNESCO Heritage Site which was constructed in 1796 as part of a bid by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty to move the capital there. The bid was unsuccessful, but the wall has remained in place ever since, and was fully reconstructed in the 1970s. The wall surrounds the city center and the Haenggung Palace, punctuated by various gates and towers. For just ₩1,000 you can buy a ticket to walk the length of the wall, though we saw plenty of people doing it who hadn’t paid. Following the Suwoncheon stream north from the palace, we entered the wall at the north floodgate. As we walked, we sipped on some whiskey and joked about how terrible I would be at manning one of the posts. Clumsy, weak, and uncoordinated, I definitely couldn’t be an archer. But Hudson said he might let me pour the hot oil on people’s heads through the small holes in the wall. Best if I stay hidden when the action gets going.
After over an hour of walking, we came to a point where we could either hop off and go get some galbi, or ascend a steep set of stairs with no end in sight. Obviously, we went for the stairs. We weren’t disappointed. We took a minute to rest and sip on our whiskey at the summit and were approached by a lovely older Korean man. We chatted for a few minutes as he told us a horrendous story about murder and decapitation about 10 feet from where we were sitting. Cheerful fellow, that one. Eventually we parted ways and decided it was time to find some of that renowned Suwon galbi.
The below freezing temps had taken their toll on our fingers and faces, and we began the long descent into the city center with bellies rumbling. As luck would have it, we stumbled on a galbi resturant almost immediately. Ducking inside, we warmed our fingers over the hot coals as we waited for the meat to arrive. The marinated beef was juicy and spectacular and with a couple beers, a bottle of soju, and some kimchi, we finally felt the warmth returning to our extremities.
As the sun had already set, we knew we needed to be on our way to Sinchang. Still another hour further on Line 1, we braced ourselves for the long ride out to the unknown. With each stop several more people alighted and even fewer boarded. By the time we arrived at Sinchang, just a handful of passengers remained on the train. And as we made our way towards the only exit, we realized something very strange. There was no one here. We exited the station and looked around. A highway to the left. Some fields to the right. And nothing. Darkness. Nothing but the glaring beacon of light from the solitary Mini Stop convenience store directly across the street. For the first time in all of our subway adventures, we had truly found the end of the line.
With only one choice as to where we would be exploring, we crossed the street and entered the MiniStop, relieved to see tables inside. We wandered the aisles for snacks and then, jackpot! A dusty wine rack hidden at the bottom of a shelf in the back. With small paper cups from the counter, Hudson and I drank our bottle of Yellow Tail while we let our phones charge and tried desperately to warm our fingers and toes, numbed more thoroughly than it seemed a bottle of wine could cure. The last train from Sinchang each night departs at 9:07 and we were on the platform at least 10 minutes early to make sure there was no way we would be sleeping at that solitary MiniStop. Farewell, Sinchang. Safely on the train, we laid our drunken heads on each others’ shoulders and easily slept the two-hour return trip away.
Another curious and wonderful day, and another subway adventure in the bag, though we still have to tackle Incheon before Line 1 is truly finished. We will conquer you, Seoul subway!!! Anyone else ever been out to Sinchang? Any ideas what’s past the MiniStop? I’m dying to know!