Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Korea's Kool!

Of course, I mean cool in a figurative sense. It is actually so hot that it hurts. Look at this thermometer! Those are degrees Celsius!!OK, no, it's not 70 degrees Celsius. Anyway, on to the story of the last 2 days. Well, if you don't already know it, Korean food has become my favorite food in the world (sorry Japanese food!). Part of the reason that Korea is great is the abundance of Korean food. Now, I kind of think good food can be broken down into 4 categories: food that is good for you, food that tastes good, food that is good (either because of the love that went into making it, the company of people that you love, or the circumstances under which you eat it), and food that looks good. Well, the new champion in the pure flavor category is the Bi Bim Bap shown below. It was just some Bi Bim Bap from a little known out of the way shop, but the flavor was basically driving me insane. I was honestly trying hard not to vocalize my elation.
Well, that was on Monday at around 1pm. Before I ate the super Bi Bim Bap, I spent most of my day relaxing and playing on Google Earth with my very nice Japanese suitemate (seriously, almost everyone at the hostel is really nice, which is one of the only reasons that I stay in this sweltering armpit rather than moving to the air conditioned and clean hostel like the French guy did). I had no plans to meet anyone on Monday, so I spent my day walking somewhat randomly through Seoul. Here I am at KU, Korea University. KU and Yonsei have some of the most beautiful campuses that I have ever seen. Way more attractive than Davis. All my Korean friends must have been disappointed when they saw UC Davis for the first time. KU looks like a mix between Yale and a French palace from the baroque period. Davis is nice too, but it doesn't look this spectacular (or clean).
After KU I went to Dongdaemun, which is a big gate in the middle of a round about. The gate was neat...
But the riverside park a stone's throw away was amazing! Seoul has this creek running through it, and along the sides of the creek is a green belt that stretches for miles. Best yet, the water is clean, and you can swim in it. On a hot day, thousands of families with small children line the river, especially under the bridges, and splash around with their children. The architecture of the place is really well done. Despite the fact that there is a major road on either side of the green belt, it is easier to hear the sound of water than the sound of traffic.
Dongdaemun is also a major shopping area, so I bought myself a really nice shirt for $10. Turns out I was supposed to bargain. Oops. I love my new shirt. It is designed for this type of heat. After that I walked down the Euljiro tunnel for several miles...
Until I got to City Hall. At City Hall I got Kim Bap. 3000 Won, and it is the size of a burrito and contains meat. It was also good. As good as it could have been after that Bi Bim Bap.
So, as it turns out, the 15th is "Liberation Day". When I walked by City Hall on the night of the 14th, there was a concert going on and it looked like this.
"Liberation Day" is the day that Korea got independence from Japan. Basically, the end of WWII. After 7 hours of non-stop walking I was getting a little tired, and since I was supposed to meet Lynn in Sinchon, I figured I would go to Yonsei University and relax. Besides, I wouldn't want to only visit KU! That would be playing favorites! So, Yonsei University has an 8 lane road in front of its gates. The crosswalk only turns on once every 5 minutes or so, and you have to cross quickly because the signal only lasts enough time for a person to walk over at a brisk pace. As I sat on the far side of the street, I saw that there was a large group of people just in front of the gates that seemed to be singing and celebrating. From 100 meters away, at night, it looked like a lively Liberation Day celebration. I crossed the street at the light, and found myself suddenly part of the group. What I thought had been singing, was in fact chanting. And it was not a Liberation Day clecbration, but a very animated anti-American protest. What I thought had been school guards from a distance were, on closer inspection, police that were there to make sure the protest didn't get out of hand. "Wait," I thought to myself, "if I remember correctly, South Koreans are notorious world wide for having protests turn into riots." The chanting people, whom I was now in the very middle of, seemed very supprised to see me as well. I have never gotten so many threatening stares in my life. Having instantly gotten myself into a potentially very dangerous position I got myself out of it right away. I walked quickly away and hid behind a bush for 15 minutes. When the group had passed, I power walked over to a pay phone and called Lynn. She thought we should meet at Yonsei University, but I insisted on meeting her at her house. Anyway, got out of that one OK. Here is a statue of a tiger, the symbol of Korea, beating up an American GI that looks like a monkey. There was lots more stuff like this, but I wasn't exactly comfortable taking flash photography when I am trying not to draw attention to myself.
Well, I went to Lynn's house, and she, her friend Choi and I ate some green tea ice cream that I bought on the way.
So the next day, Lynn, Choi and I went on a day trip to Nami Island, recently famous because it was the set for some of the most important and romantic scenes in "Winter Sonata" the most famous and popular Korean drama, worldwide. It is a little island in the middle of a river. Very senic.
Here is the fantastic map that Lynn drew. You already know how hot I think it is when girls do cartography!
Oh, here is a picture from "Winter Sonata" that is posted along one of the trails. If you don't already know who these people are, they are named Yon-sama and Choi Ji-woo. They are basically the mascots of the globalization of Korean pop-culture, and probably the most recognizable Koreans in the world.
Here is the place where the famous "first kiss" scene was filmed.
Here is Lynn looking at the replica snowmen from the "first kiss" scene.
Me, pretending to be Archer Yi, but with a sligshot rater than a bow. Oh, and this is where we bought "Korean traditional junk food".
Me at the "Drama Cafe". Fitting name. This island was all about drama...
"Korean traditional lunch boxes" with travel buddies.
This shot sort of lets you see how beautiful everything was.
We had a very crowded train ride back to Seoul and ate again in Sinchon. We had Nengmyon, which is noodles on ice. It was then, after 5 minutes of failed attempts, that I earned the next belt in the art of chopsticks use by picking up a wet ice cube with metal chopsticks!!! Do I need a fork?! Bahh! Never!
By the way, be careful when saying the Korean word for chopsticks. If you pronounce Korean words with a Japanese accent (which I frequently do), when you try to say "chopsticks" you will actually be sexually harassing people. I try to keep this blog PG-13, so if you are interested in the meaning, contact me in person. And thank you, Lynn, for pointing out my error rather then letting me say it.

2 comments:

Mom said...

Hi Son,
Nice Shirt. Diego came by to pick up his table. We handed him his mail and he left mumbling, "I'm in so much trouble." But he seemed fine and healthy otherwise.
Love,
Mom

Trenton said...

Oh, I hope he isn't actually in trouble...