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Seoul Round 2

SOUTH KOREA | Monday, 28 June 2010 | Views [931]

Noon time Saturday June 26th found me with three of my friends climbing off the bus in Seoul.  It felt pretty good to be surrounded by the sounds of city life, culture, non-Korean food and a few awesome people.  Last time my travels were pretty wonderful on my own but Ben, Tucker and Laura had been to Seoul a few more times than me and introduced some unforgettable spots that I would have never found on my own and will probably visit every time I go back. 


With our minds full of anticipation, the emptiness of our stomach was undeniable.  Then with the temptation of food that is other than Kimchi, rice, chili peppers or fish, we were doubly hungry.  With our eye on the prize only, we struggled, but only for a minute to reorient ourselves to the subway system and we were on our way to Hongik University station and Hondae area for some Mexican food!


I have only two Spanish words for you all, Dos Tacos!!  It was as close to Mexico as you could probably get here in Korea.  The walls were in bright oranges, pinks and yellows like a piñata and 75% of the patrons were foreigners.  After we stared at the menu in shock, contemplating ordering one of everything just because we could, we placed our orders and relaxed in the bad pop music and were even tricked, at moments, to thinking that we might be in different country.  Every now and then I would peer into the kitchen just to remind myself that the cooks had never worn a sombrero in their life and probably never would.  One delicious chicken burrito later, complete with sour cream and pico de gallo (rarities in Korea), we were leaving the little slice of Mexican heaven for our next adventure.  But I promise Dos Tacos has not seen the last of me!


Next on the agenda, coffee!  So we found this little hole in the wall kind of place with no seating.  It literally was like the size of a closet and with our backpacks, the four of us were quite the traffic jam.  It was as wide as a hallway until the space opened up into the corner under the stairs and then it was the width of two hallways.  Anyways, the atmosphere was small and kind of chic with reds and blacks, and most importantly, the smell of good coffee.  Toting one of the largest Iced Americanos I have ever seen, we made our way to find our guest house which was just a few blocks away. 


Finding the guest house wasnt much of a struggle really.  You see it was aptly named The Yellow Submarine and the outside of the three story building was painted in a school bus yellow.   We dropped off our backpacks and went on our way to find beer. 

If you couldnt tell already, we were on a food hunt more than anything else. 


Another few blocks away was Castle Praha (http://www.castlepraha.co.kr/).  This place was a really awesome find.  There was jazz playing from a radio station based in Pittsburg or Philadelphia.  I didnt even notice when the announcer spoke in English, it seemed like it fit the scene.  But really I should have expected them to speak in Czech.  I couldnt help but think of my friends Kristen and Matt who are about to head home after a year’s stay in Prague!  And now that I live in a country where beer is rice based (I didnt even think that was possible), I have a whole new understanding of how lucky they were to have delicious beer at their fingertips!  Castle Praha gave me just a taste of what Ive been missing!  We left, a bit buzzed, after a few beers and bowls of popcorn with no particular hurry to our next destination, another brewery.  


Along the way we stopped at the Hongik Arts market and poked around at jewelry, handmade bags, and paintings and checked out the pretty awesome graffiti that reminds you this is a young neighborhood full of creativity.  There was live music and some pretty awesome people watching.  After a lackadaisical walk through the neighborhood we found ourselves climbing down into the subway station looking for Gagnam on the map.


Gagnam is the location of a few different breweries.  We were looking for one in particular but with no luck settled for Big Rock Brewery.  This was cool with me though!  It kind of had an atmosphere and selection that reminded me of one of my favorite spots in Buffalo, Pearl Street.  Ok, maybe not as many beers as Pearl Street but for Korea, it was pretty awesome.  This was a strange experience for us non-Seoul foreigners.  You see, we stare, just like Koreans would, at other foreigners.  In Tongyeong, we all know each other and when we see new people in town, we introduce ourselves.  Seoul has a large number of foreigners and so they are everywhere and pass people unnoticed, but we noticed every single one.  We might have been a kind of creeper about it.  I actually wonder if this Seoul foreigners look at us and can tell we arent from Seoul, my bet is that it is written all over our faces.  Another great thing about Big Rock was that Brendan and Casey joined up with us!


Next Stop, City Hall for some World Cup action!  Korea was playing Uruguay in the first game of the second round. The lawn in the center of the city was jammed pack with people for the pregame party where many famous Korean musicians preformed.  Luckily for us, it started pouring just before the game started and scared away a piece of the crowd so we actually had a chance of finding a decent spot to view one of the four big screens.  It was an awesome experience but it would have been way cooler if Korea won… but they lost 1-2.  Then in was chaotic cab catching time but we survived and even had some good old Billy Joel to sing along to!

Hondae area nightlife is known in Seoul.  We went to place that was as chill as anything and had some really cool style.  CubaWang, yes, CubaWang was the name of the place.  They played reggae music and had all sorts of interesting paintings on the wall, an array of decorations in bright and warm colors, homemade mojitos and board games.  The menus were old Queen albums with label maker strips of options for food and drinks.  I kicked Tucker’s ass in Connect Four like three times in a row while Brandon and Casey impressed the owner of the place with their Djembe stylings. The owner gifted us a cigar (a rarity here) that we passed around while we played some hearts and all of us were happy.

4 am found us back at the Yellow Submarine hostel watching a bit of the USA world cup with a few guys from California.  We only lasted until half time before we called it quits. 

Next day we made our way to H&M and did some shopping.  Then we hit up a Pakistani restaurant for lunch and we feasted! It was wonderful!  Then we walked over to Namdaemun Market to poke around.  No one really found anything we needed so we moved along to Insadong.  We went to a traditional tea house where we all got cold teas.  They were all so delicious. And the décor of the place was beautiful and serene.  We talked about not wanting to head back to our little city but we had to.

Too bad the soonest bus we could catch was 11pm which had us arriving back in TongYeong around 3am, and in a rain storm none the less.  Needless to say waking up for work on Monday was not easy at all!!  But the weekend was well worth it!  I can’t wait to go back and play!  It probably won’t be until October before I will get the chance again but we will see!!





Tags: seoul, south korea

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