“다가올이별에 난”

Date: 1/8 – 1/11

Location: 서울

As a forewarning, I am aware that the song and featured image do not match each other, at all. Stop judging me, I like SHINee.

On a lighter note, here’s a shout-out to my homegirl Susan with whom I skype-drank on her birthday which is two days after mine. I justified my noon imbibing by saying we have to double-rainbow double-birthday no matter how far apart we are. Hope you had a blast, Susan. Judging from your new super classy profile pic, I feel like you did.

Alright, back to Korea stuffs.

~ ~In-town Exploration! ~ ~

Here’s some photos of Bukchon, an area in the older part of the city which has houses built in the traditional hanok style. Also are pictures of Namsan tower and the view from up there. It’s like Tokyo tower and the Seattle Space Needle had a child who subsequently suffered from stunted growth. There were lots of love-locks on the tower like there were on the bridges of Sevilla, but there were tons more around this tower. It has something to do with mountain legends granting luck specific to staying together with your partner, I hear.

~ ~Out-of-town Exploration! ~ ~

On one of the days, Andrea had a scheduled tour to go to the Demilitarized Zone and Joint Security Area between South and North Korea. Julia and I wanted to see some of that stuff too, but didn’t want to wake up at 7 or pay 80 dollars to go. So we went to the town of Imjingak aka DMZ-lite for cheapos and South Koreans [who are actually forbidden from visiting the border]. At Imjingak are a whole bunch of memorials for the Korean War and those who died in it as well as a cool shrine for North Koreans who emigrated to the South and can no longer perform their ancestral rites in their homeland.

OH. And there’s a big rusty train and snow. Julia and I had a fake snowball fight and then stopped when we realized our hands were burning from the cold. Oops. Also, Julia took this bad-ass picture of me right before I pelted her. Nice job, Julia.

Actually getting into the DMZ requires jumping through several hoops including a passport checkpoint. Julia joked about how we might have gotten detained because of my bag of Oreo-O’s which are contraband in the North [according to her]. NO FREEDOM NO FUN NO SWEETS. Among other oddities are the biggest flagpole in the world placed in a fake city that the North Koreans built on the border. The North Korean flag flying atop it is so large that it must be taken down when it rains otherwise the entire tower will collapse under its weight. [Stoopid]. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures from the edge of the viewing platform so this is the best I could do. You can almost see it if you enlarge the picture. Also, there is the Dorasan train station that was planned for use to connect Seoul and Pyongyang, the capitals of the South and North respectively, once the country gets unified. As of right now, it’s a modern and sterile building with a little bit of a creepy vibe to it. Also, there were some weird souvenir stores that sold a few North Korean products [mostly alcohol]. It was a little more than I’d have liked to pay but from what I hear, most of the DPRK products taste pretty bad. I sort of wanted to get the Communist blueberry wine, though. >_>

Included in the bus tour of the place that Julia and I were on was the Third Tunnel, a secret tunnel drilled by the North Koreans that was going to be used to attack Seoul. The air down there was pretty oppressive, but I mean, the North Koreans must be used to that [*badum-tsss*] and it ended in a dramatically lit barbed wire barrier from which you could see the part that was actually in North Korea.

~ ~

The remainder of our stay in Seoul involved lots of shopping including an all-night stint at the Dongdaemun commercial center. I didn’t buy much, but I did escape with a lot of knock-off designer socks which were cheap as hell. I love argyle.

Speaking of which, I think I may have found my spot in Namdaemun. It’s another shopping district in Seoul with lots of street vendors including those selling my beloved socks and street foods which were just spectacular. I don’t know what this one was called but it was basically various foods wrapped in a semi-sweet semi-savory crab and something else dough which were then deep-fried until golden-brown and then impaled on a chopstick.

“I don’t really need much to be happy, guys. I just need my cheap knock-off socks and crab-on-a-stick.”

~ ~

Among other food-scapades, on our all-night Dongdaemun shopping adventure, Julia, Andrea, and I went into one of the street vendor tents in order to get some food and we sat down to eat inside. When we were almost done with our meal, I caught some movement in the corner of my eye by the gas stoves in the corner. It. was. mice. Bleugh. The owner caught us staring at the three or four that were scurrying about the floor and embarrassedly tried to shoo them away. Everyone was too tired at that point to care about food poisoning so we just sort of laughed and chalked it up to life experiences and things we never want to happen again.

And speaking of things I never want to do again, let’s add chop off an octopus’ legs while it is struggling to get away from my knife to that list. Our hostel manager offered to cook us an octopus dinner. He later explained that we would also be killing the octopi ourselves, which included sawing their legs off with a sharp knife while you held their head and watched their eyes cry out to you in voiceless pain. AHOO.

Andrea has video of my octopus murder, but for right now, here are some pictures. Octopus heads are super slimy and amorphous and their tentacles keep trying to squirm away even after you’ve cut them off. Also, when you eat them, the suction cups stick to the inside of your mouth. We had some of the legs live right after they were separated from their bodies and the rest our hostel manager turned into a great spicy octopus fry. I love that our hostel manager just randomly offers to cook us things without charging us. It’s the feeling of sharing because you have plenty. I appreciate that so much.

Enough of the food though, as my last entry on Korea [aww.] I’d like to make a few observations about the Korean people. The Korean people are not shy. They are brash. They say what they want to say and do what they want to do. The language can get really loud and heated even in normal conversation and even though I couldn’t understand exactly what everyone was saying, the Korean people seem to like to speak their mind. This can sometimes translate to people pushing me out of the way without excusing themselves but such is life in the big city, I guess. In unrelated news, the analogy that  Seoul : Busan :: Tokyo : Osaka is entirely correct. The people in Busan seemed more casual, friendly, and just the tiniest bit rougher whereas the people in Seoul seemed more cosmopolitan and in a hurry to get to a business meeting. That’s just my hasty generalization, but I’m sure there has to be some kernel of truth in there.

From here, we move south to Hong Kong! ONWARD!

One Response to ““다가올이별에 난””
  1. Anonymous says:

    this is grace. too lazy to log in.

    your observation about busan people is pretty on the money from the pop cultural info i’ve gathered. XD a lot of times on shows, if someone from busan does something, he (bc most of the ones i’ve read about are men >>) is labeled a “cold busan man,” which i usually let just go over my head, but then it was explained by a korean translator that people (men?) from busan are like a totally different breed of korean. she said it was hard to explain, but that the part of her family from busan is crazy/rough/etc. lol. so though i’m not sure busan and osaka coincide in terms of like…warai or something, they’re probably comparable in other ways. busan might be closer to hiroshima though?

    tokyo and seoul are definitely peas from the same pod though, lol.

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