Day 4: How to say “hedonism” in Korean

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Today I met up with my Korean friend Heejin. First stop was Myeongdong, a fashion district. Though rather than fashion, we were here for the 종로김밥 for breakfast. They are a kind of “kimpa,” rice wrapped in seaweed, eaten with spicy daikon kimchi and squid.

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IMG_0217It was good, but today was hedonism day and so we were far from finished. Heejin may barely weigh 100lbs (if that) but she puts my fat ass to shame when it comes to putting food away. The next stop was ice cream, and despite the fact that it was 10 in the morning, the place was packed and there was a line. Heejin taught me how to order two mango flavored ice creams in Korean which I managed to squeak out, but then the guy taking orders asked me a follow up question which threw me, so I asked Heejin what he said. I asked in Japanese, and the guy picked up on it and made it clear he spoke Japanese too. This was when I slowly began to realize, I would never be able to learn Korean if I lived here, because everyone speaks Japanese. He had asked if I wanted big or small. That may have been the dumbest question ever. They were out of mango so we got different flavors and went to sit down inside. The walls and tables and floors were covered in graffitti. Jeehae was here and Hyeojin loves Seonga. This became a common theme throughout the trip, as anywhere frequented by young Koreans had been decimated with graffitti.

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After dessert, we headed back to Insadong-gil to an art showcase. With hedonism comes a need for a bit of culture. We figured 20 minutes should do it, so we spent some time looking at various arts and such not.
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IMG_0262At this point we really didn’t know what to do. Heejin’s lived in Japan so long she was almost as much of a tourist in Seoul as me. We did the only thing we could think of. Consume. IMG_0252We went to a tea shop in Insadong. This one was themed after a train station. The ground had train tracks running through it. The seats were from an actual train, complete with luggage racks overhead and tray tables in the arm rests. Of course the walls and tables were covered with graffiti. I had a pomegranate tea that was entirely too girly. Heejin had a sikhye drink, sweet and made from rice. We also had the obligatory rice cakes. If you get sick of hearing about everything we ate, scroll on to the pictures. Today we really only ate and drank and drank and ate. If only everyday could be so wonderful.

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We left the tea house, even more full, wandering around trying to think of what to do next. We passed a Korean Starbucks, which actually had its name written in Hangul. We then stopped and got some silkworm larvae to eat. I say “we,” but there was a bit of arm twisting involved to get me to even eat one. They don’t taste as good as they look, and considering they don’t look good to begin with, that’s quite a feat. Heejin popped them like popcorn though. Such a champ.

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IMG_0293After wandering around downtown for a bit, trying to decide what to do, and finding that all the Karaoke places were still closed (3pm is freaking prime time) we decided it was once again time to consume. We went to a little underground restaraunt place. I initially ordered a citron tea, but Heejin one-upped me by ordering a big pot of Korean rice wine and a Korean dish made from vegetables and acorns or something called 도토리묵 (Dottolimuk…maybe?). At 3 in the afternoon, I thought there was no way we’d be finishing that big jug of wine. By 6pm we were finishing up our second one and talking loudly. The table next to us had 3 korean students and a Japanese exchange student speaking in English to each other. I thought “what weirdos” until I realized we were a big white guy and a korean girl speaking Japanese to each other. By 8 we were stumbling out the door after polishing off a third jug of rice wine. Did I mention Heejin was a champ? Because Heejin was a champ.

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IMG_0380After stumbling out the door we noticed it was dark, and decided to head up to the mountain Namsan, where Seoul Tower is, to catch a good night view of the city. To get to the top of the mountain there is a cable car, or stairs for people who are in shape (or think they are) and aren’t drunk (or think they aren’t). This wasn’t us, so we hopped onto a cable car and hobbled to the top of the mountain. There was a spectacular view from the top of the mountain. Pretty much everyone we talked to recommended not wasting money by going to the top of the tower, as the view from the top of the mountain is supposed to be good enough. Well at 5 bucks it wasn’t exactly breaking the bank so we went to the top anyways. Granted the view from the top of the mountain is plenty nice, and more than adequate, but the view from the top of the tower is really fantastic.

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IMG_0401After making our way down the mountain (and opting for the cable car rather than walk down the mountain on the steep steps while utterly wasted off our asses) we were again at a loss of what to do next. Not really, we knew exactly what was coming next. Korean BBQ and lots of it. But it was a question of where. Anywhere around the mountain or tower would be outrageous tourist prices. Plus we were (I was) still stuffed from the previous outings, so to burn off some calories and make room for beef, we hired a taxi and drove around the city. Not aimlessly of course, we were going somewhere. But when you are drunk in a taxi in a foreign country and you don’t know where you are going, it just feels like you are cruising around the city, which was fine by me. Fortunately in Korea, like everything else, taxi’s cost a fraction of what they do in Japan. The taxi drivers seemed to speak some Japanese too. Love this country.

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Heejin picked a spot that was really nice. Nice to me amounts to lots of meat, and a vacuum hose thing hanging from the ceiling to play with while the meat was cooking. It was a few bucks for a 3 person serving of kalbi beef. This looked like plenty to me, as I was still stuffed, but 3 servings for 2 people doesn’t add up nicely, so Heejin ordered 6 person servings. A champ. A champ to end all champs. Kalbi is cooked on a grill in front of you, then wrapped in lettuce or a leaf with a bit of sauce and maybe some other ingredients like radishes or kimchi or perhaps a second slice of kalbi. Kalbi goes great with beer, but even better with soju. Except when you are already drunk, but then you really don’t have a choice do you? No. No you don’t. We finished up the night leaving behind some wasted beef, which I’m completely sure was my share. I just couldn’t hang with Heejin. I think in the end I gained 5kg that day, and she managed to lose 3.

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~ by foomfoom on August 22, 2006.

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