Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Pillow Book

Most Koreans seem to sleep on the subway, at least part of the time - and little wonder, because aside from the impossibly busy lives they appear to lead, the daily commute in Busan is probably by subway, and even though the trains run like clockwork, it's still almost an hour from one end of the city to the other. While not many would probably make that journey, spending a significant portion of the day underground is a reality for many.

The transit authorities, or perhaps rampant capitalism, has done its best to provide distractions for its captive audience. Shops are common - in fact sometimes it's more appropriate to describe them as subterranean shopping centres, and of course, vending machines are everywhere.

So you can get drinks and all the usual things you would expect from a vending machine in the West, and fortunately as far as I can tell, none of the truly bizarre items that can be readily dispensed in Japan. This presents the occasional challenge to the Korean commuter, who faced with a sudden hunger or thirst can try to run to a machine, obtain an item, and run back to their carriage in the 15-20 seconds the trains invariably wait at a station. I'm assured it can be done. But, if the worst should happen, the next train will be along in six minutes.

There are some minor oddities. Hot drinks from cans which can be difficult to hold without burning yourself, and popcorn machines that are not uncommon although I've yet to see anyone eating the stuff on the train. While I dare say there are stranger things to be found it was a first when I discovered a book vending machine, which may be more of a rarity unless I haven't been paying attention. I couldn't make much of what was on offer for an unbelievably cheap 1,000 and 2,000 won (£0.54 and
£1.09 respectively - admittedly, they are quite thin), but while still in Korean three books had the English names of their respective authors - Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Now while Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates might be light subway nap-time reading I wondered how many Koreans were reading the Essays of Warren Buffett on their way to work. Still, I'm impressed if they are.

Unfortunately although I can read Korean I'm a long way from understanding it so tempted as I was to something (yes, Buffett was tempting), I had to pass, and as I'm not much of a subway sleeper, I'll have to find other ways of amusing myself on my travels.



Z-5

1 comment:

wonderful-electric.co.uk said...

They sell hot drinks from cans over here in the UK too. Admittedly mostly in supermarkets and petrol stations, but they are on sale. Tried one once - bloody hot espresso, and didn't taste that good. But it was hot.

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