Day 3 in Seoul:
The next morning I decided to explore Myeongdong. I made my way down the hill of death to the main Myeongdong street. On the other side of that street was the Korean version of an outdoor mall with street vendors, shops, cafes, and tons of people. Now I was dumb and didn’t realize that I could cross the street underground by walking through the subway.
There’s actually a little market underground and each stop has multiple exits on either side of the street at different locations. So basically I walked about 3 blocks out of the way to cross the street, but it’s good exercise right?
When I entered into the Myeongdong shopping district it was like entering into another world: “Asia-land” where there were people everywhere, talking and screaming about products, flashing signs, street food steam, tastes, smells, noise, colors, street vendors shoving “free samples” into my hands and then pulling me towards their store, and a pervasive buzz of a language I couldn’t understand. It was overwhelming at first, I wished I could take in the scene without having to worry about getting hit by a moped or accosted by a salesperson. I eventually grew accustomed to this new “Asia-land” and had fun wandering around for about 2 hours.
Eventually it was too cold and I thought my face was going to fall off so I found a coffee shop and ordered some peppermint tea. My first attempt at ordering was a complete failure. I said “Can I have a peppermint tea” very slowly, but I think the whole “can I have a” was too much for the cashier’s English skills, so I repeated “pepp-er-mint tea” veeery slowly and he understood. Score!
It was very good, real fresh peppermint leaves in a tea bag. Speaking of how cold it was outside, I always thought people used face masks (like the kind surgeons wear) to prevent themselves from getting sick, and then reading about the pollution in Beijing, I thought they were to protect a person’s lungs; In Korea people wear the face masks to shield their face from the cold! They even have little fleece masks with animals on them! I want one.
Eventually I met up with Monica and we ate lunch at a little place in Myeongdong. We had spicy rice that sat on a hot plate in front of us. It was so good! -You can tell I love all things spicy.
After that we went to see a traditional Bucheon village from the 1400’s. They are traditional wooden houses that people actually live in! It was really fun walking around and seeing the traditional architecture. Eventually we stumbled upon a house that was giving a tour. Apparently the people who live there use it as a vacation house (aka they’re super rich).
We took a tour of the beautiful house. There was a table covered in mother of pearl which was so pretty! We then had traditional tea. It was really good but I had no idea what it was. I asked the tour guide and she said it was plum. Monica then looked up the korean translation for the word because she was convinced it wasn’t plum- apparently it was apricot! So for the rest of the day we decided to call it plumpricot tea.
After our tour we decided to get everyone in Korea’s favorite desert: waffles with fruit and ice cream. We had a giant waffle with cookies and cream and green tea ice cream, kiwi and a banana. It was amazing! After we ate our waffle we took a bus to the night market. The night market was definitely not what I was expecting. I was expecting an all-outside market with cheap clothing and trinkets and street food, but since it is winter there was only one street with some street food and clothing and trinket stalls, but there were multiple huge indoor malls.
The malls were very different from a typical American mall because there were no actual stores, each vendor had a little location in the mall to set up what they wanted to sell. There were a lot of very nice expensive things, but also somewhat pricey knockoffs. I saw a lot of knockoff Louboutin shoes and expensive purses. Each floor was a different category: women’s clothing, mens clothing, children’s clothing, jewelry, accessories, etc. etc.
When Monica and I walked around the jewelry portion my eyes hurt from staring at all of the sparkle! I ended up finding these beautiful jeweled earrings that were $35- they literally looked like something you could find at Saks Fifth Avenue. The woman agreed to throw in these little teal and gold $10 studs for free “because I’m so pretty” so I went for it. Now I just have to find an opportunity to wear them!
After wandering around the shopping center for a while, we decided to head back. On our way to the subway we passed a stage with random people dancing. They were all doing the same dance but it didn’t seem coordinated. We eventually realized that it was a public dance version of karaoke and the dancers were performing the dances that popular Korean artists perform at every concert. It was really intense! Both guys and girls would stand along the back of the stage and whoever knew the song would come up and dance.
There was a huge crowd watching and we were all very entertained. There was one boy band song that all of the guys came forward to dance to, and after a minute or so we noticed a middle aged woman dancing crazily in the corner- basically having a seizure. It was hilarious because basically everyone in the crowd couldn’t take their eyes off her! She was definitely the star of that performance.
On the way back to the metro we stopped and got some street food. Pancakes filled with some nutella-esque substance with chopped nuts. It was really good, but also very messy and I somehow managed to get some all over everything- my hands, my scarf, my coat… It came off easily in the sink when I got back home. Getting home was my first experience taking a subway by myself speaking no Korean! Monica told me where to go and what to do but it was still a minor accomplishment.
Finding my hostel, however, was a major failure. Apparently I missed the turnoff to my own personal hill of death and I was wandering around random alleys completely lost. I eventually pulled out my handy-dandy business card with a map on the back and approached a random girl about my age. She spoke absolutely no English (or at least she didn’t speak any to me) but she personally led me back to my hostel and insisted on walking me right up to the house, even when I tried to tell her I was on the right street and knew where I was going. Korean Myeongdong girl, if you ever read this, which you won’t because you don’t speak English- Thank you. I know I told you thank you in Korean 500 times because that was one of two words that I know, but I’m going to say it in English.. on my blog.
When I went back to the hostel I brought my computer to the common room because the wifi didn’t exactly make it to my room. A man and a woman (who I later found out were Japanese), were watching this really intense show in Korean on tv. I tried to focus on my emails but I got so wrapped up in all the drama!! It was about a bunch of teenagers at this high school for the arts and one of them was famous but another guy was mad because he was a better musician and they got in a fight and the main character girl was in love with the famous guy- DRAMA! I talked to Monica about it the next day and she told me it was the Korean version of Hannah Montana. In my personal opinion the show is waaaaay better than Hannah Montana and I want to watch it with English subtitles.