Friday, February 20, 2009

Beijing VS Seoul

Arrival/Departure: Both cities have clean, new airports that are well-designed and well-marked in English. Both have shiny new airport express trains that tie into the subway system. Immigration, etc, was similarly navigable. When I left baggage claim, no one even checked my claim stub, so I should have picked up some nicer stuff.

Subway: Seoul's subway trains are color-coded, e.g., a 2 line train will have green trim; Beijing maps aren't even sure what color the lines are--some maps show the airport line in yellow, some have 13 line in yellow.
Seoul's subway exits are clearly marked with a number; Beijing subway exits use a letter system.
Seoul subway prices are determined by the distance you travel, with a base fee of 900 W (USD 0.62); Beijing subway charges 2 Yuan per trip (USD 0.29).

First Impression: Both cities are large, bustling metropolises with modern infrastructure and massive skyscrapers. I knew Seoul would be a capitalistic, cosmopolitan city, I was surprised the extent to which Beijing is.

Geography: Seoul is built into the valleys and onto the sides of a dozen mountains, such that anyplace you go is uphill--both ways; Beijing is as flat as a kimchi pancake.

Vistas: In part because of this geography, any direction you look in Seoul you are almost guaranteed to see three things: craggy mountain peaks, high rise apartment blocks, construction cranes; since Beijing is so spread out, no two views are all that similar

Cleanliness: In Beijing, every city block seems to have one or two of the items below; in Seoul, you can walk a mile looking for one, or simply add your trash to the nearest pile of garbage bags on the sidewalk.

Beijing street trashcan
Orderliness: Seoul often seems chaotic, but people almost always follow the pedestrian Walk/Don't Walk signs, for instance, and jaywalking is uncommon; Beijing pedestrians actively ignore the signals, and two sets of fences are required on main arteries to prevent vehicular genocide.

Crosswalks: Both cities have pedestrian bridges or skywalks (below is a view from one to another next to the Capital Museum); however, Beijing also has lots of underground crosswalks, espeically in the central area around Tiananmen.

Beijing crosswalk
Taxis: In Beijing, most drivers are surrounded by a cage, something I have not seen in Seoul; Seoul cabbies start the meter the instant they take off, but Beijing hacks may go a third of a block before doing this. They can't speak English in either city.

Toilet facilities: While squat toilets are still a common occurrence in Seoul public facilities, they are ubiquitous in Beijing; further, bars and restaurants often provide the following guidance, and often more graphically:

sign in Beijing bar toilet


Tanner Brown said...

hat about the two cities bar districts? This from China News Service:

Bar owners behind bars for allowing drug use

Seven bar and cafe bosses from Beijing's famous Sanlitun bar street got 12 or 36 months in prison for allowing drug use on their premises.

Liu Hailiang and six other managers of the bars were found guilty of turning their bars into drug-use places for patrons, including foreigners, for about a year.

Acting on a tip, the police raided the bars where more than 2,400 grams of heroin and marijuana were seized, along with 36 drug users, including some foreigners suspected of drug trafficking and other related crimes.


Tuttle said...

I have not heard of similar busts since I've been here. Seoul has about twenty bar districts; the most likely one to find illicit substances I would guess to be Itaewon--but that's only a guess, I'm not trying to besmirch anyone's character.