Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Jan 21, 2012 – Where Seoul Meets Body (part one)

So it’s been awhile since I’ve really sat down and written much of anything resembling anything. I don’t think I’ve even talked about Christmas or New Years, and I definitely haven’t mentioned my trip to Seoul.

I think my plague has been briefly addressed, and it has severely cut into my writing time, due to me just being utterly ass-up exhausted.

As I’m on a four day weekend, on a writing kick, and currently avoiding my place like the black death (for reasons I’ll get to eventually), I guess now is a good time to start getting caught up. Let’s do this chronologically!

…Or as near to it as I can manage.

First, Seoul.

I hadn’t been there since my first day, and even then I really only saw bits of Incheon, where the airport is, so it was definitely an adventure!

Korean trains are utterly brilliant. The ride in was only an hour long, and it was this smooth, warm, quiet trip—very different from GO Transit. And cheaper! The round trip came to just over 8000W (8$), which is about the same amount as a one way ticket from Oshawa to Toronto.

I don’t much care for the ticket system here though. You buy a ticket and pay extra if you’d like to sit down during the trip, and there are only so many tickets available. You can still buy a standing room ticket, which is a bit cheaper, but it can get pretty crowded and uncomfortable.

Anyway, Seoul.

So. Damn. BIG. (That’s what she said.)

Fact: Seoul, Korea’s capital city, has over 10 million people who reside there. That is almost a third of the entire population of Canada. Now, think about the differences in land mass between the two countries. True, much of Canada is better suited to polar bears and arctic seals, but still, small wonder an old lady shoved me out of her way at the train station. I assume it was an old lady. I have heard some of them can be relentless in their rudeness here, especially towards foreigners. Ironically, I was shoved as I was stepping aside to let someone else pass me, and instead I nearly knocked that person over. Fortunately I know the Korean phrase for “I am so sorry!” (choe song hamnida!—pronounced like ‘cho-eh’), but I still received a ‘pabo waegukin’ (idiot foreigner) look before the woman went on her way.

Our first destination was Yongsan (yong = dragon, san = mountain—best city name ever). In Yongsan, there is an electronics mall. Not a store, a MALL. I had need of a new camera since the one I brought from home is nearing ten years in age, which is positively ancient by technological standards. Surely I could find something in this veritable Mecca of devices.

The place had four floors. Cameras, TVs, DVD players, Blu Rays, computers, laptops, accessories, phones, video game systems, games—and for like half the cost of what you’d pay in Canada.

D & T had been to this place a few months before I came to Korea, and they remembered a guy who had given them a really good deal on a camera, so we went looking for him and we actually managed to find him! He initially showed me a camera that was so fancy, I honestly felt kind of afraid to touch it—but then the price was waaay higher than I had wanted to pay, so I didn’t have to. We showed him D’s camera, explaining that I wanted something a bit cheaper and a lot simpler, and he pulled out a nearly identical model, with a much lower price tag. Also, because this guy was so awesome, he threw in a free case, the memory card, and a device that converts the memory card into a flash drive—and he also gave one of the memory card flash drives to T & D to say thank you for bringing me to his shop. Brilliant.

From there we went on a lunch quest and ended up at Lotteria, which is Korea’s answer to McDonald’s (although they do have McD’s here). Their stuff is pretty tasty, but I always have to doctor my burger before I can eat it, as they always have mustard and raw onions on them. Also, while ketchup does exist in Korea, they do not give nearly enough packets for French fry consumption. I definitely miss the cups and pumps from home. Ketchup chips too, for that matter. But there’s kimchi everywhere to make up for it. It’s almost like the country somehow knew I would have an almost obscene addiction to the stuff... mm.

While eating though, it felt as though we were being constantly watched. Even in Seoul, where we do not play the Waegukin Game* due to such a high number of foreigners there, we were still getting the OMG FOREIGNER stare from a lot of people. It’s fun when little kids are staring though, because they just smile and smile and love it when you wave to them.

*(Spot the Foreigner—whoever has the highest count wins!)

After food, we wandered around. We were meeting up with some fellow Pyeongtaekers later in the evening for dinner, so we had some time to kill. That was when we found THE ARCADE.

T & D are really into video games, so whenever we find an arcade, we always check it out. There were jet fighter games with seats that moved when you would steer the plane, DDR, good ol’ fashioned shooter games, arcade classics... and there was this one game that D and I tried out that involved playing Japanese Taiko drums and hitting the right beat. It was a lot of fun (way easier than the Rock Band drums—madre de dios, but I hate those things), and we had a small audience by the time we finally lost. We tried our hands at the claw machines (they’re everywhere here), made lots of Toy Story jokes as we did (“The claw—it moves!”), and established that in this particular arcade, the damn things were rigged.

Eventually we said goodbye to the fabulous arcade and headed down to the subway to try and get to Itaewon where we would meet our fellow foreigners.

to be continued!

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