After the conference in Suncheon in SW Korea, we were very fortunate to go on a wonderful road trip with a Korean colleague, Chang Hyun Kim. He went to an amazing amount of trouble to drive us around and show us as much of the SW part of the country as possible, as well as making sure that we tried lots of the delicious Korean food and learned about the history and culture. More on the road trip will be coming in the weeks to come.
We were very impressed with Korea’s extensive highway system. Many interconnecting highways and freeways must be a Civil Engineer’s dream, with so many long tunnels (it’s an extremely hilly country), long bridges over deep valleys, and causeways to the many small islands in the south.
A notable feature of highway driving is the regularly-spaced Service Areas—with gas stations, large toilet facilities, bus parking, many restaurants and coffee shops, other small shops (for clothes, holiday necessities, tools, food, fruits) and sometimes even a small grocery store. Usually there’s also a special closed-in smoking area, something we were interested to see, as Korea tries to cut down on the number of smokers. We were there in the summer, so the areas were always really busy and crowded—a veritable hive of activity. It was fun to stop for coffee and/or a light lunch, for us usually noodles, and watch the people and the hustle-bustle.
Most of the service areas have a special name and theme, usually linked to where they are. So, for example, we stopped at the Nokcha Service Area/Boseong Nokcha (nokcha means green tea), close to the part of the country where green tea is grown. Another day, driving back from Geoje Island, we stopped at the Dinosaur Service Area. In this part of the country, many dinosaur fossils and footprints have been found.
What a neat idea.