Aight, so I’ve been insanely busy packing, cleaning, applying for employmenting, and hanging with friends before I leave Koreaing. Obviously, if having nothing to do can distract me from writing, so can having an ungodly amount.
In light of this recent but not at all stunning revelation, Imma spit out 5 days worth of texticles. 3, 2, 1, go.
Day 7: Bu Mountain
In February, tEHC made their one extended trip outside of Seoul. Having a 4-day weekend for Lunar New Year (Seolnal), we opted to escape the dreary frost of Seoul and headed for the beaches of Busan.
On the Southeastern coast of Korea, Busan in a bustling port city, second in population only to Seoul. There’s quite a bit to see and do, so we saw and did a lot. We saw Busan tower, Haeundae beach, the largest department store in the world, and visited an uncanny number of college bars in our Pusan University bar crawl.
Our hotel was one of the nicest I’ve ever been in, certainly in the best location. We stayed in the Westin Chosun on the tip of Busan. The peninsula is home to the Nurimaru APEC house and the Southwest end of Haeundae beach. We could literally walk out of the hotel onto the sand of the crescent shaped beach. In a word, it was perfection. If I ever return to Korea, or maybe even Southeast Asia, I’ll be stopping in Busan stup to stay at this hotel.
Day 6: 고기 구이, Gogi Gooi, Meat Grilled
Google translates this restaurant’s name “BBQ,” with an alternate definition of “pot roast.” BBQ is a pretty apt description, but doesn’t quite provide the appropriate mental image, which is a table with a fucking grill in center of it, designed for maximum herd to stomach transportation efficiency.
This joint has been the weekly joint for tEHC since before tEHC was even called tEHC. Being a restaurant with solely Korean clientele, it certainly didn’t take many Friday nights for us to become regulars. Mr. Gooi, as we prefer to call him, seems to take morbid pleasure in provided excessive amounts of meat to our super-sized appetites.
The cuts range the humblest samgyupsal, to the immaculate sowangkalgbi. In the unfortunate event that time, money, or appetite limit you to only one meat, your one and only choice should resoundingly be the usamgyup. This is the meat that dreams are made of, literally; several people have claimed to had hunger pangs, MeatTs (the carnivore equivalent to the DTs), and insatiable meat sweats following their first consumption of this godly cut. Imagine beef belly sliced into paper thin, bacon-like strips before being drenched in a sweet, umami sauce. Words simply will not do it justice. I vow to attempt a recreation in the states.
As tEHC has left Korea in phases, the orders at 고기 구이 have steadily declined, approaching more socially acceptable portions, despite Mr. Gooi’s admirable efforts to provide service. I can’t imagine not having at least one more order of that meat before I head out.
Day 5: Kingstraw: Fusion Conestoga Wagon
Korea pretty much sucks at food service, at least in terms of the service portion. This is not a stereotype. I’ve left more restaurants than I care to count muttering, “the food was good, to bad the staff wasn’t.” Then there are hofs, Korean style bars where most come to get sloppy off cheap beer or soju. It’s common in Korean drinking culture to move from bar to bar through out the night, making stops at a variety of establishments in a single night. So, most hofs serve anju, food one must order with their drinks, to get the most out of their patrons.
This concept is the bane of my existence, not because I don’t want food with my drinks, but because the food os often shitty as fuck (excuse my incredibly accurate French). For a while, tEHC was frequenting the Bonghwa hof, Jjokki Jjokki. If you thought a two foot cheese dog sounded appetizing, imagine it served frozen in the middle, with mayonaise. Imagine paying $13 for it.
For a while, we went. For a while, we thought that was the best we could do without an hour train ride. For a while, we were wrong. Then, we found the single greatest hof ever built: Kingstraw.
On a chilly night strolling around Anam, hoping to hit up enough bars to find one decent one, we stumbled into the fusion conestoga wagon. How could we say no to a name like that? What was the worst that could happen? “Let’s have a round and move on,” we said. It was our first and only stop of the night. WHAT A TWIST!
We ordered 3000cc of Cass, a bottle of Chamisil, and a plate of fries. First, we received a plate of tteokbokki and a bottle of Fanta. We thought it was a mistake, until they brought our beer and fries, too. Service because we’re foreigners? No, everyone else has the same on their tables. Later, we were greeted with nachos, even later came a fruit plate. On several occasions, our fry plate has included chicken nuggets, chicken wings, cheese sticks, and calamari.
After some time just ordering fries, we eventually worked our way out to other dishes on the menu. I can really only remember the one with weird dancing shavings and the only odenguk (fish cake soup) I’ve actually liked.
Best of all, it’s cheap. I’ve never walked out of this place hungry, sober, or spending more than $15. AND, when you’re not too busy filling your stomach with food and booze, you can soak in the awesome K-pop on the plethora of wide-screen TVs. Kingstraw was where I was introduced to Itaewon Freedom, J-Tong, and a few other crazy songs I never found out the names to.
Day 4: the LG Twins
Man. Baseball is cool. I love it. What makes it better?
Thundersticks and highly complicated cheers? For sure.
KFC and Burger King being sold at the door? YUSSSSSSSSS.
Vendors dishing out dried fish and squid? uuuuuuuh, not so much.
Look, baseball is baseball, and I really love baseball. There is nothing better than watching a game live, with a beer in hand. In Korea, no one settles for a relaxing game of ball, risking the off-chance of boredom. Instead, they’ve brought in beer, scantily clad ladies, jubilent mascots, and INTENSE cheers and songs.
Some Korean version of a Kelly Clarkson song? HEEEEEeeeey!
Day 3: Hongdae
[note: I don’t have pictures of Hongdae, because bringing my camera would be technological suicide]
I ran out of steam during the writing of day four, had to call it a night an and start again this morning. Now, I have the vitriol and enthusiasm to write about the most intense neighborhood of Seoul, Hongdae.
Hongdae is the name given to the area on and around Hongik Daehakgyo, one of the major universities in Seoul. How can a neighborhood with a portmanteau for a name be anything but spectacular? I don’t know, because it can’t.
Hongdae is insanely active on Friday and Saturday nights. People are simply in every possible place a person could be, even on top of other people. Appropriately, there are also an unknowable number of bars, restaurants, and clubs for said people. Answering the question of “which came first, the people or the clubs?” has eluded traditional Korean-style scientists for dynasties.
The best part about Hongdae is that you can go in practically any mood–only wanting to be alone would be excluded–and have a great time. Wanna sit outside and enjoy the weather? Grab some Capri Sun-style bags of alcoholy goodness and head to the park near the top of the hill. If you’re lucky, there be some hip band entertaining the crowd. If not, there will probably be a circle of semi-decent drummers.
Want to listen to awesome pop music from the 90’s and 00’s? I’m talking about Blackstreet, Salt-n-Pepa, Michael Jackson, Rihanna, and other bands I can’t remember hearing because I had too much fun (wink wink nudge nudge (I was a little inebriated (okay, more than a little))). Do you enjoy being in a tiny, windowless room with crazy customer art and graffiti on the walls? Well all of these things are Sk@. I swear it’s pronounced “ska,” despite the very natural desire to call it “skat.” A good place to get a buzz and into a dancing mood.
When your dancing mood inevitably overcomes you, head to Ska2. Its not far down the road, but it couldn’t be more different from the original Sk@ if it tried. This is a club, simply put. Well dressed people grooving to a surprisingly good mix of current pop tunes. I’ve never heard “Like a G6” or “We no Speak Americano” so many times before in my life though. If there is a hit of the season, Ska2 will definitely play it. Drinks are priced below the club average, so you can feel like a baller without spending like one.
If you’re craving some fuel for the party, you can also hit up one of only two Taco Bells in Korea. Get your bean burrito on, y’all! No night is ever perfect if it doesn’t include a crunchwrap supreme. If you’d rather get some korean style food, you can also hit up the many hofs, chicken joints, or galbijib (rib houses) in the area. If you’d rather eat the best sandwich of your life, find that lady serving up the egg and spam sandwiches. I saw her once, got a sandwich once, then she disappeared into the mist. A spectre of delicious food past, never to be seen or smelled again.
If you’d prefer to get trashed without talking to anyone, head to one of the many Ho Bars. I’ve only been to Ho Bar III, but are reported to be over ten. I dispute the existence of a Ho Bar VI, but I’ve spotted all the other editions of Ho Bar. At any rate, Ho Bar is the loudest bar I’ve ever been to, and unnecessarily so. Nobody’s dancing, everyone’s drinking and screaming in vain attempts to communicate with other members of their drinking party. Good luck. If, in a twist of cosmic fate, you’re able to actual get an entire conversation across to someone, you’ll probably also get free LASIK surgery from the far too intense green lasers going epileptic inside. Why do we go here? No reason other than cheap drinks. SAY LA VEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
In retrospect, I suppose Hongdae is really only fun if you want to drink, think outside of the bun, or dance. If you don’t want to do those things, well, you’re either a robot or Democratic People. If the former, you can still go to Vinyl; they have a robot on the outside of their building.