Sunday, March 1, 2009

Seoul, South Korea

I'll be honest. I haven't necessarily been chomping at the bit to go up to Seoul. My thoughts are a city in which 14 million inhabitants call "home" offers me little more than heightened blood pressure, a stabbing headache, and perhaps most damning, a wicked case of the Asian bird flew. With that said, I know I'd be the source of ridicule if I were to leave Korea without atleast one visit to Seoul, or as I like to refer to it, "the big crazy."

I have many talents though navigating huge cluster-fucked metropoli is not one of them. When I heard a Korean friend was taking the KTX (Korean 300km/hour train) to Seoul, I knew I had to seize the oppurunity to have atleast a portion of my journey go off without a hitch.

After Hani (Korean friend) showed me how to buy a Seoul subway ticket (yes, I'm litterally like a 3 year old when it comes to executing citycentric tasks) she went onto her sisters house and I continued to Shilim to stay with my couchsurfing host, Garrett. When you're not expecting it, waves and waves of black hair coming at you through narrow corridors can be quite daunting and intimidating. Not that I didn't before, but even moreso now, I have a great respect for our boys hunkered down in the trenches for WW2 and the Korean war.

Garrett took me to his favorite bar in Seoul. The bartender busted out a guitar and we swapped songs back and forth. The bartender and song Korean dude joined in for an inpromptu trio.

Nothing recharges the batteries more than a restful five hours sleep under your winter jacket on a hard floor. Up and at 'em at 9 a.m, I made my way to a very Korean breakfest of Kimbap (think california sushi roll) and then further to the bus station to finally reach the subway for a day of sight seeing. First on the list was Gyeongbukgung palace. It's Seoul's, if not Korea's, largest palace.

After Gyeongbukgung, I worked my way over to Namsam, otherwise known in English as, Tower of Seoul. The cable call up to and down from the tower was w7,500 and the views of the city were spectactular. Calling Seoul "enormous" is the understatement of the century. If you're in Seoul, Namsam is a must-see.

In this video, you can see about a third of densily populated Seoul, South Korea.

Craving a little taste of home, I made my way to Itaewon. We, the U.S, have a military base there (although it might be easier to list off the cities in which we DON'T have a military base), and, as indicative of military themed towns, Itaweon has quite the reputation for foreign goods and generally debachery. On that particular day I was not in the market for mischief, mayhem, or prostitutes, but I did have a hankering for food I couldn't get back in Masan (affectionilty reffered to as the Alabama of the U.S because of it's rural and conservative ways). Obviously there were the western staples such as TGI Fridays, Bennegians, Burger King etc .. but on my way out of the subway entrance, out of the corner of my eye, I stopped a kebap resturant. Suffice to say, I endulged in the spiced lamb and sweet tazikied goodness.

At Oktoberfest in Seoul

A few weeks ago I hosted a Korean woman named Heeson and her German travel company named Axel. They were so much fun to have in Masan. So much so I invited myself to their digs in Seoul. Axel, a German beer afficiando, recommended that we go to Oktoberfest bar in Seoul. He explained that he was skeptical as well but the beer was indeed good. The DunkelBeirre certainly didn't dissapoint and I loved the Asian themed traditional beer wench garb. Axel said no one under a D-cup had any business wearing the get-up, but that's his thing.