Eating My Way Through Seoul

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November 10th 2015
Published: November 10th 2015
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I left Denver at 12:10 on a Monday afternoon and landed in Seoul at 8:50 on a Tuesday night. There was no Tuesday for me. Due to my late arrival, I had to find a bus. After asking at the transportation desk and failing twice at the ATM before I succeeded, I managed to jump onto the bus as it was pulling away. Only to have it stop about 10 meters later. I got to the station and was able to hop on someone's hotspot long enough to order an Uber to take me to Brett's.

Cab drivers in Korea don't speak English. My cab driver didn't follow his GPS, although it did seem to get us there faster. My favorite part of the cab ride was when we would get to a road where we would have to make a turn, and the cab driver would motion for me to choose. Anyway, we got there and I saw Brett who was one of my roommates in college and we had a glorious reunion and a shot of Soju and then I passed out because it was midnight and I had been awake for 24 hours.

Day 1: Since Brett and Jordan (other college roommate) are the BEST, they called in sick to work to hang out with me on Wednesday. We got up on Wednesday (no jet lag YAY) and went to Dunkin Donuts. I know, but they don't do breakfast food and we wanted breakfast food. Brett did a good job of ordering us two sandwiches and two coffees. Except when the food came out it was one sandwich and three coffees. I don't know what was happening in her head, but...Korea.

We met Jordan at a children's science park where we walked around and saw elephants and monkeys and lions and tigers (no bears) and lots of little Korean children on field trips who kept staring at the tall blonde foreigners. For lunch we met Rachel in Gangnam (yes, like the song) and ate at Coco Curry, which is a Japanese curry restaurant. We then went to this area made out of shipping containers and bought soju and Max beer at a convenience store and drank them on the sidewalk. We also walked around the design shops a bit.

Let me interject to discuss the Korean subway a bit. It is huge. And awesome. And efficient. But there are lots of rules, which I learned over the course of the week.

There is an old people section. Don't sit there.

Everyone is silent on the subway. They are all zombies staring at their phones.

If you are standing, you must face the people sitting in front of you. No butts.

No etiquette for letting people off before you get on. Nope. Just push.

If you are ever in Seoul, download the subway app. I'd literally be lost without it.

After our shipping container adventure, it was obviously time for dinner. Korean barbecue!! We got fancy barbecue called galbi-sal, which is beef ribs. As soon as we sat down we were inundated with food. Then they gave us the stuff to cook, and there was crack sauce, and everything was amazing. Also soju. Always soju. After dinner it was time to part ways and go home.

Day 2: Everyone went to work. Boo. I went to a palace. Yay! After being woken up by Big Brother announcing something over the PA system that Brett apparently has in his apartment, I got my butt out of bed and went to the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was only 3000 won ($3) to go, so I wandered around for a few hours. It was beautiful. Most of the signs were in Korean. But there were loads of kids on field trips and a couple of boys came up and asked to take a picture with me. I obliged, and they ran away giggling afterward. For lunch I met up with Rachel in Itaewon, which is the foreigner district. Army base, so loads of white people. While I was waiting for her I pet a 4 month old puppy and got asked out by a Nigerian man. I need to start using my Hungarian more often. We went to a Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant (much to mom's chagrin) and had a delicious lunch. Then we walked around the district, got vegan chocolate cake (strangely delicious), and then Rachel directed me to her apartment where I met Jordan when he got home. We met up with Brett and some of his work friends up in Nowan where we ate soondubujjige (I don't know how to pronounce it either). Jordan had ordered 2 of the dumpling ones, and we ended up with 2 tofu and seafood ones and 1 dumpling. It's like soup. Really hot. Lots of soju with dinner. We hung out altogether for a while longer, drank soju cocktails on a third-story bar (chocolate, kiwi, blue), and went home to sleep.

Day 3: Rachel had the day off! I packed up my stuff and moved further into the city to stay with Rachel and Jordan for the weekend. We ate kimbap for breakfast. Rachel and I had plans to hike up hill in the middle of Seoul to the TV tower. We found the bus that she said took us to the base of the tower. Up up up we went. Up further still. The bus ended at the base of the tower on the top of the hill. Oops. We attached a lock to the love lock trees because we're ADORABLE and then we ate M&Ms and watched tiny Korean children chase each other around. We hiked down and into the city for lunch. She really wanted me to try dakgalbi, and she had found this place with good reviews. We walked down some very interesting narrow alleyways full of itty bitty restaurants until we found the correct one. Rachel ordered dakgalbi. We did not get dakgalbi. We got some sort of chicken with radishes and egg noodles and food I can't identify. It was a delicious mistake, though. We drank makloi with this meal, which is a sort of fizzy milky rice wine. We walked down the river and saw the lantern festival which apparently started that day. It wasn't lit up yet. When we got to the end we stumbled on the opening concert complete with orchestra and singer. It was really cool. For dinner we met up with the boys and got dakgalbi with lots of cheese. I could eat it forever. Then we went out in Itaewon. Brett and his work friends went to a club, but Jordan didn't have his ID, so we couldn't go in. Now, Jordan is 6'5” and has a big blonde beard. HOWEVER, apparently at clubs in Seoul, you need your ID to prove you're under 30 so that there aren't any creepy old guys in the club. So Jordan, Rachel, and I went to a Japanese place and had soju and sake.

Day 4: Saturday. It rained forever. We had a late start because Korea doesn't wake up until around 3 on the weekends anyway. We hung out at the apartment for a while (I was so sore) and then Jordan and I went on an excursion to the Olympic Park right by their apartment. It was pouring rain and the park was filled with about a million Korean girls and maybe 3 guys. They were lined up for tickets to a music awards show. We cut through them and continued on through to the death tower.

Death tower (n.): Skyscraper in Seoul built by the Lotte corporation that is in the middle of a sinkhole area but it's ok because it's not built on a sinkhole itself..............

There's a mall in the death tower. We went to weird Korean stores. Then Rachel came home and we went out for more barbecue. This time it was a fatty pork called samgyeopsao. For dessert we walked around the market and bought these fried dough pockets filled with cinnamon, sugar, and peanuts called hotteok. Also fish on a stick called odang. We bought some mochi-like things, and the woman was so impressed with Rachel's Korean that she gave us an extra 10. We went home and ate all the food.

Day 5: Still raining. Another slow start. For lunch, Rachel, Jordan, and I got gachu jang bulgogi. Spicy beef. If I lived in Seoul, my sinuses would always be clear. Except for the pollution that comes from China. Buttheads. After lunch we went to a cafe and got pat bingsu, which is shaved ice with cream and red bean paste. Surprisingly delicious. And huge. We hung out back at the house for a bit and then went to the giant fish market where we met Brett. After getting lost, we finally found all the fish. Here's how dinner went:

-Point at the octopus. Ask for 4. Pay $5 (total). Take the bag of live octopi in water.

-Go to another stand and point at the flat fish. Negotiate price. Man takes fish out of water and pierces its head with a hook/scythe thing. No warning. Just BAM. Blood on the floor.

-Man takes fish to the back for about 5 minutes and comes out with fish on a plate now cut into sashimi with some free salmon sashimi. Hands you bag with head and spine.

-Follow random Korean man down a sketchy alley to a restaurant. Hand him bags of octopus and fish remains. Drink soju and eat all the sashimi. Delicious.

-Random Korean man returns with octopus chopped up on a plate. Still squirming. Eat tentacles quickly and chew a lot. If you don't chew them enough, they could stick to your esophagus and kill you. Slimy. Delicious.

-Random Korean man returns once again with soup made of fish remains. Eat the soup. So happy.

Day 6: Everyone went to work. Rachel and I met Jordan for lunch and then I was off on my own. I tried to go to the dog cafe (dog cafe!!), but it was closed because Korea doesn't wake up until 3. I went to Insadong, which is the big tourist street. I accidentally found the poop cafe, which I had secretly been hoping to go to. I drank a latte out of a toilet mug. I tried to go back to the dog cafe and saw lights on and got my hopes up but apparently it was closed for a holiday. BOOOOOOOO. I miss the dogs. I decided to go to the lantern festival at night to see it, you know, lanterny. It was beautiful, but crowded. So many Koreans taking pictures of all of the things. I left and went to Brett's for my last dinner. Apparently I had been lost for 2 hours. Woops. Brett and I ate dumplings and drank Soju. I said goodbye and headed back into the city.

Day 7: Woke up. Said goodbye to Rachel and Jordan. Flew to Taiwan. To be continued...

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12th November 2015
Galbi-Sal Barbecue

Adventurous eater!
I can't believe you ate octopus that was still writhing--you have the palate and stomach of a perfect traveler. Clearly, you were in appropriate company to enjoy all those exotic treats. When you said you were going to the Dog Cafe, I was a bit nervous because, besides eating wiggling beings and stuff spicy enough to clear your sinuses, they are a little famous for eating dog! Come down to Peru--you can drink frog juice! What will Taiwan offer?
18th November 2015

Life is too short
An adventure is to be had each day if you are willing. Sounds like Seoul has soul. I've always wanted to go to Seoul. I'll have to move it further up on my list. Looks like beautiful architecture and amazing foods.

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