This weekend (April 11-13) Steve and I went to Seoul. Friday I stayed in the Gangnam area at the “Dynasty Hotel”. It was a nice place and was close to a lot of bars and clubs. We tried going to a restaurant, Pasha (a Turkish buffet) that was one of the “Top Ten Best Restaurants in the World” (I don’t think that was real), but it was closed for the night. Then we went to a bar next door called “Oktoberfest” and had several beers. We met up with a Belgium guy we had met before and who is supposedly a model in Korea (which is turning out to seem more and more legitimate). After we had finished our beers we went to several clubs where the Belgium guy got us free VIP access (not even sure what that was supposed to do because it didn’t seem like we got any perks except getting in for free, which is good enough for me!) and we were waved in without a word. We then spent the rest of the night hanging out with other “models” (I swear they’re just teenagers who are pretending to be models) and dancing and drinking. We ended the night at Club Vanguard, a newer club in Seoul. It had the usual loud, techno music, and flashing lights. They were also handing out giant, light up glow stick things that were fun for the 5 minutes you had it before the battery died and they became hazards on the ground for people to slip on. I’ve also never noticed this phenomenon, but randomly throughout the night someone or thing would just throw a bunch of napkins off the balcony that overlooks the dance floor. Yeah, it looks cool when the napkins are floating down and the crazy lights are hitting them, but once you get on the dance floor it’s nearly impossible to keep the damn things from sticking to your shoes and looking like you’ve got a wad of toilet paper trailing behind you. Maybe it’s a half-assed attempt at wiping up all the spilled drinks?
The next day, Saturday, we went to Olympic Park, a park built to host the 1988 Summer Olympics. The park itself was beautiful, big, and full of people. It was a beautiful day out with weather in the high 60s, no sun, but no breeze either so I couldn’t complain. Steve and I rented a four wheel bike to ride around the park (only \15,000 for 1 hour–that’s $15)!!!! It was a blast because we kept going down hills as fast as we could and taking it down dirt trails that I’m pretty it was not meant to be going down. We did get some laughs from Koreans who probably thought we were crazy, but who cares? After riding the bike for an hour (and getting a workout from it too) we sat on a bench for nearly 2 hours drinking and having snacks and people watching.
After the park we went to Itaewon (the area in Seoul closest to the Army Base Yongsan) via subway to check in to the “jjimjilbang” (jim-jill-bong) we would be staying in for the night. A jjimjilbang is a korean spa type thing where you can either go for just a day or spend the night. It’s also pretty cheap. We stayed at “Itaewon Land” which is a much lower level class spa and slightly creepy. The room had a mattress and hot water though…granted this hot water was in the “spa” area which is basically a large locker room where you shower naked with a bunch of old “ajummas” (grandmas) and their granddaughters. They also have hot tubs, but there’s no chlorine in them, only “mineral” water…..yeah, but minerals from what I wonder… There’s (obviously) a men’s and a women’s locker room—I mean spa–but interestingly enough the women’s locker room had fountains in the shape of penises…I asked if Steve and his friend Jon if the men’s had those as well, and of course they didn’t. I can’t decide if the fountains were trying to be ironic or if it was some sort of penis envy complex going on in there. Either way, not the most comfortable experience I’ve had since being in Korea, but also not the most uncomfortable.
We went out to eat in Itaewon at a place simply called “Russian Restaurant” and the food. was. FABULOUS! A tad bit expensive (but everything is expensive in Itaewon), but still delicious and unique. Then we walked around for a bit and watched the different people. There were a surprisingly large amount of Turkish, Egyptian, Arabian, and Easter European restaurants After walking we went to the bar “Sin Bin” which had a shuffle board. We played and made friends with some guys who also wanted to play. Had a few beers there and talked to some people (you forget what a luxury it is to be able to meet people at bars who can speak the same language as you and who actually WANT to talk to you). It was a great time! After that we headed to the “Rocky Mountain Tavern” which was right next to our “jjimjilbang” and had one more beer before Steve and Jon had curfew. I was designated the official drunk food runner (since I’m the only one who didn’t have a 1am curfew) and got us all some good old American cooking–KFC, ahh…
On Sunday we were a little slow to get moving and wandered around the Itaewon area. We ate at a buffet called “Marakech”, with delicious food and even better coffee (it woke me right up). We walked and tried to find a rooftop bar for some time only to realize Seoul doesn’t really do that so we settled for a patio that served nice cold beer. Did I mention it was 75 and sunny? Such a beautiful day. Then we walked from Itaewon to the Han River to walk down the bike paths they had there. We found a grassy, park area and sat and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon before we headed back to Songtan. Overall, an extremely successful weekend!