Seoul searching

Seoul is huge, like freaking huge. Ten million strong. It’s only my second visit (I’m not counting the two times I spent on a shuttle bus between the train station and airport), but I spent more energy moving around the city this time. It’s massive. It’s not just that it’s spread out—which it is—but it’s also vertical, much like Busan. This means that there are enormous throngs of people almost everywhere you go. Definitely not a place for a misanthrope.

When I arrived at the station, I took a cab to Insadong, where I know places to stay are cheap and plentiful. As touristy as it is, I love this neighborhood. Artisans, cooks, fortune tellers, gadget inventors, and sales people of every kind spread out their offerings out on the street. People swarm the road to eat and buy things. It’s one of the few places in Korea where you see tourists—not just foreigners, but genuine tourists.

The restaurants here are awesome. I decided to spurge on an expensive Indian/Korean fusion chicken thing with red pepper sauce. The woman said it was spicy, but I wish she’d thrown some adverbs in with that adjective, like violently, shockingly spicy. Seriously, this was sweat-inducing, ear-popping heat I was consuming. It was damned tasty though.

The next day I met up with my good friend who recently moved here. We taxied over to Myong-dong for the festival. I wanted to see the Korean experimental shorts starting at 3:30. We arrived just in time to score two of the last three tickets available for the show. The screening was great. There were some really nice pieces in a huge variety of styles.

Afterward, we went to Hongdae to have dinner. We got out of a taxi at Hongik University and wandered aimlessly through the many shops, bars, and restaurants. We eventually decided on a dwaejigogi-gui place that specialized in, well, pork face. They use the meat from the pig’s face. It was good, much more mellow and not as salty as the typical pork meat you get.

From there we went bar hopping. Here’s the Old & New Bar, complete with Elvis statue:

And the delectable Sowoo restaurant (no, we didn’t go there). Yum, cattle guts:

The next morning I woke up, hung over, and headed over to Korea University to meet up for lunch. I got a quick tour of one small area of of the campus. This was a real university, with a rich history, a vast landscape, and ancient buildings nestled in between more modern glass ones. Trees blanketed the pathways and courtyard. It was a very green, very beautiful atmosphere. Here are a couple of shots:

After lunch we spent some time chatting some more then went to a room where we could both get some work done. Around 4:30 I decided to head off to the train station. I got there and managed to move my departure time up two hours. By 5:50 pm I was screaming south toward Busan at 300 kph.


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