Sunday, March 15, 2009

After much anticipation

Ok, so some 2 months later, 3 trips to noraebang, 1 league soccer game and about 13 pounds of Korean B.B.Q. later, I am finally getting down to writing the second half of the Seoul Trip. I am awesome.........

Picking up where we left off, Mal, Lu and I whad just finished our excursion to N. Seoul Tower and were on our way back to the guest house. Alick arrived to the guest house while we were out and about, so we had a short break and then moved on for dinner in Insa Dong.

With a couple of friends in town and kicking it in Itaewon, a district in Seoul, we decided to meet up with them there after dinner. Itaewon is known for being the foreigner district in Seoul which became evident as soon as we left the metro station. Literally, the area looked like a western area that had a few Korean restaurants/establisments in it. We saw restaurants that can't be found in Ulsan, like a Saudi Arabian restaurant, French cuisine, various American chains that aren't in Ulsan, some that are in Ulsan, and even Cold Stone Creamery.

After getting over the initial culture shock of being in our respective countries again, we catch up with our friends in Gecko Terrace and Bar. The Gecko furthered the attempt to make us feel at home by carding us to get into the bar. Seriously, what countries i.d. apart from the U.S. and maybe Canada and England? Another note about the place was that apart from the staff, all who could speak perfect English, I could count the Koreans that were in the bar on my two hands. This is saying a lot for a relatively large bar which was so packed that we literally had to pounce on the first chair that became available. So we imbibe some beers there, and decide to move on the next bar after the Gecko. There's not much to be said about the second bar because I was pretty much gone at this point, but I will point out that a few of my friends decided to get in on a poker game with what seemed like some of the sketchiest people in Korea. I swear there were at least 4 potential bond villains in there, or so it appeared in my impaired vision. That, my friends, is Itaewon....

Despite planning on starting day 3 at an earlier time, we pull ourselves out of bed soemwhere around midday, wah-wah. All right, half the day is complete, we need to cram some culture for the rest of the time. So we show Alick around Insa-Dong and it's main cultural street, get to this park, Tapgol park, just by chance and then finally get to our main site for the day, Changgyeongung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine.

We first walked around a park that surrounds Changgyeongung, which was literally a trail and a manmade lake. We also stopped in the "botanical garden" at the park, or as we call it in the U.S., a "greenhouse". There are florists in my neighborhood that have a more impressive selection of plants than this so called botanical garden. So Shortster, if you're reading this, you'll be happy to know that the DBG is still the most impressive botanical garden I've seen. The actual palace part of Changgyeongung was ok, more of the same from the day before (Gyeongbokgung), but not nearly as impressive. The best part of the palace was seeing handfuls of Korean children in 한복 (han-bok), which is the traditional garb. We also saw these Korean playing these carnival type games like kicking up some hankerchief type thing, throwing some sticks in some game and many more. Alick and I tried our foot at the kick-up game but we were nowhere near as good as the Koreans.

We finish with the palace and move onto the shrine across the street. We get into the park, get up close to the shrine only to be completely unimpressed. It definitely was not as cool as the previous palace, which wasn't as cool as the palace from the day before. Moving forward, we decide to get out of there and head towards the downtown area and maybe see some government buildings.

We get off at the metro station with the hopes that we might see some of the municipal buildings but the first thing we see when we get on ground level is an outdoor ice rink. Yes, Yes and Yes! To backtrack this a bit, Lu Mal and I had talked about how cool it would be to good ice skating but it seemed very unlikely. Who would've guessed that it would actually happen, right? So after waiting some 20 minutes for them to resurface the ice, we got to hit the ice, and it was awesome! I was in 7th heaven and there is photographic proof of me jumping up and down with the thought of ice skating. Unfortunately, I couldn't express my satisfaction with the ice skating after the fact because my knees were so sore, but it was worth it regardless.

With ice skating finished we were looking at dinner time, so we decided to make a break for Itaewon and see if we could get some western food that we might not be able to find in Ulsan. Within 5 minutes we found a Mexican restaurant, which was pretty much a consensus number 1 pick for the 4 of us. Now the food wasn't as good as you'd find in most places stateside, but it was still pretty ridiculous. And yes, mom, you can get fajitas. As a matter of fact, I not only got fajitas, but got a mojito as well. Not only did we have good food but we were served by a really friendly, outgoing filipino guy that was wearing an afro wig (not really sure why), which just heightened the experience.

We finish dinner and decide to stay in Itaewon for some drinks, why not right? We head over to the Gecko but it was so crowded we couldn't get a table or a place to sit. We move on to another bar, which is really packed as well but we jockey ourselves into a table next to these Moroccan guys. So Lu and I find ourselves talking to the two guys and watching people play pool, which was rather intense, while Mal and Alick routinely beat these Korean guys in darts. After being there for a while, some guy pulls Alick aside because a Korean female friend of his thought he was cute, and this is where the night gets crazy.

So Alick is over at this table talking it up with this girl and I somehow get coerced into sitting over there (I say coerced but it probably didn't take much at all). And the guy who got Alick over there, let's call him random middle aged dude from Florida, decides that he needs to find some girl for me, despite me telling him that I was cool just hanging out. So the guy comes back some 5 minutes later with some girl who claims to be Indonesian-Australian (turns out that she was born in Australia to Indonesian parents and never lived there) so we talk, blah blah blah, she goes away and then comes back and suggest that Alick, myself and Korean girl that Alick was talking to, go to some night club. So we say our goodbyes to Mal and Lu as they head home and Alick and I get ourself into some fun, Itaewon style.

Shortly after treating the Indonesian-Australian girl for the cover fee of the club, she is off on her own. And by shortly, I mean with-in 1 step of entering the club. That was sign #1 that this was not a good idea. #2 was realizing the clientele of the place was the shadiest group of people in Seoul. If the people at the bar from the previous night were villains from a Bond movie, these guys were the henchmen, the butlers with the killer top hats. And to top it off, Indonesian girl knew all of them, on a first, middle and last name basis. Why did anyone think this was a good idea. So after kicking it there for a bit, Alick and I decided it was a good idea to probably leave that place, which included bringing back the Korean girl Alick was talking to. Horrible idea #2 of the evening, as it turned out that this girl was a lot more drunk than we had thought, and a lot more instable than anyone outside of an institution should be. The 3 of us were in the cab and she would be fine one minute, only for her to go crazy the next, sobbing and asking us what we were doing. We tried to let her get out and have the cabbie pull over, but she would magically pull it together only to fall apart some 2 minutes later. And it went on like this for the whole 15 minute cab ride. Thank you Itaewon!!

So I was writing some more to this post and realized that it was going on for too long, so I'm going to wrap up part two and add a short third segment. Don't worry, I've already started it so it will be up in no time flat.


Ben said...

i believe you when you say you literally pounced on a chair. for some reason i have no trouble picturing this.

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