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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Well, I just got back from the river. I’m a bit rusty with my camera, especially shooting long-exposure shots, so these didn’t turn out nearly the way I wanted them to.

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Today was an interesting day. I got off work at 2:30, and my friend and I went exploring. First we went to Itaewon, then to Dongdaemun, and then Namdaemun.

Itaewon is known as the American part of Seoul. There is a US army base there that has been there for the past 50 years, since the Korean War ended.

I found it to be quite American, and I saw more blacks in one day than I have since I got here. If you take that as racist, that’s your own damn fault. It’s a simple observation. What if I had said I saw more Americans than I have since I got here? That’s what I thought.

Anyway, There were some neat shops, and I was offered a custom tailored suit on every corner I passed.

My friend and I happened upon a particular shanty which I found quite awesome. Here’s what we found:

Now, I’ve been in the market for some horrid English shirts since I got here. I find them absolutely fascinating. Some are artistic in their nonsense, while others are simply English cacophony plastered onto cheap cotton. This shirt was one of the artistic ones that I am absolutely thrilled about. I hope I can find a bunch of other shirts like this one.

Now on to Namdaemun.

Namdaemun is National Treasure No. 1 in Korea. It is a national landmark, and its name means literally “Great Southern Gate”. It was finsished in 1398.

Some asshole who was pissed off about apparently getting ripped off on a property deal decided to torch it in February of 2008.

Here are some before and after shots::

And here’s how it stands today:

Seeing this thing burning on TV moved me, since the thing was built in the 1300s. That’s not just a piece of Korean history, but a piece of human history. Who does this kind of thing?

Anyway, to be in the presence of such a magnificent structure was moving enough. After all, the damn Japs nearly destroyed it during their occupation of Korea.

More to come.

Adventured to a different part of town for dinner tonight. We went to Gangnam station and walked around to try to find this famous Viet restaurant. No go. So we settled for a curry place. I think that’s what it was called actually. A curry place. No wait, it was called A Curry Story. Weird.

Anyway, walking down the street after dinner, I spotted some doomed souls. No, not people, but squid. These poor things were in a tank, waiting for death. But these squid weren’t taking it sitting down. In a futile attempt to escape, they were ramming the sides of their tanks. But no, no escape was to be had. I could see the fear in their eyes.

Skippy there, the one in the middle on the left, was quite adament about escaping. However, a much more desolate and doomed existence awaited him outside that tank. If he did manage to get out, the hard, hot pavement would meet him. I felt bad for him. Poor guy. Just wants to get out, see the world, but he’s stuck there in that god-forsaken tank with his fellow inmates. The only way Skippy was getting out was to be torn apart, either alive or half alive, and served to a customer. Koreans often eat squid like my buddy Skippy the Squid, alive, still writhing on the plate. PETA can kiss my ass; I will try it before I leave this place.

Here was the situation on the way home:

Those of you who know me know that I am a germophobe, and a bit claustrophobic. Well, this was a horrifying combination of the two. I seriously had trouble lifting my camera up above the sea of jet black hair to take this picture, and even when I did, you can see my fellow passengers were none too pleased.

The first thing I do when I get home is wash my hands.

One more thing. Looks like the Seoul public transportation service runs Windows 2000:

Pics from tonight: Here.

Also, you can always view all my pics here.

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated.

Today, I went to the 63 Building. It’s friggin tall. We went to the aquarium and to a restaurant there. It was a great experience.

I am much more comfortable with the subway now, so I can safely get around town without worrying about getting lost in this huge city. The experience of being able to get anywhere without (much) help is a great feeling. I wish that Thorold, St. Catharines, Welland, Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, and Hamilton were all linked by subway like Seoul is. It’s just unbelievably convenient, and safe.

You can see the pictures I took from the top of the building, as well as the Sea World pics here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/mikeskoreanpics/63Building

This is a part of Seoul, south of the Han River. I’ve found the area in Google Maps. Here’s a link:

Dig

Sea World was amazing, although I felt bad for the fish. They seemed really cooped up in a small area. I’m pretty sure the otters were insane. They kept circling the same paths, mad with the constant flashing of cameras for 18 hours per day. I’d be a bit crazy myself.

More to come. I have another thing to talk about altogether in the upcoming post.

Today, I went to Gyeongbukgung, which is an old palace which was built in 1396. At that time, the capital wasn’t in Seoul, but in Gaeseong. Once Gyeongbukgung was finished, the capital was relocated to Seoul, which at that time was known as Hanseong.

I was taken aback by its beauty. I was with my friend Young Ha, and oddly enough, she hadn’t seen this palace before either. She’s very busy with her studies, and I finally managed to pull her away from her books.

This was a truly moving experience, to see an 800 year old palace, and be able to walk on the same grounds as the king and queen of the Joseon Dynasty.

You can see pictures here.

… And I look like Tom Cruise.

Today I set out to find the cheapest cell phone that uses pretty-paid cards.

Not a tough thing, you’d think. After all, Seoul is one of the most wired cities in the world.

It all started when I met these two cute high school girls on the corner of a street which I was told would have prepaid handu-porns, or hand phones, more commonly known as cell phones.

I found nothing but these girls. I walked up to them and asked where I can get a pre-paid cell phone. I swear they thought I was Partick Swayze or something. Giggling in their flip-flops (nice) they explained in perfect English that I need to go to Kim’s Club.

Now, in Canada, we have a place called Sam’s Club, so when I heard about Kim’s Club, I was laughing pretty hard.

Anyway, a cheap cab ride later, I was at Kim’s Club. Now, this Kim guy seems to have a LOT more friends than ol’ Sam back home. This place was HUGE.

I went directly to the information desk and asked for a hand phone. Again I was met with giggles and wide eyes. They called this nice guy named Kim to come help me. Apparently he is their English specialist.

Kim and I went upstairs to talk to the girl at the SK Tel booth. A pretty lady in her mid-to-late-20’s showed very little interest in my plight until I shanked out my iPhone. Then, I was a different story.

“Ohh!! iPorn! So good!”

But they didn’t have prepaid phones. The minimum contract was 2 years. We left.

Then, Kim and I went underground. Literally. We went into a subway station the size of the Skydome to look for this place that started with a T. This BEAUTIFUL girl in her early 30s came to help us. My god. She was wearing a short skirt and top. Her clothes bore the logo of the phone company she worked for. I barely kept my composure.

As Kim rattled on about my situation to another lady, I walked up to this pretty woman and showed her my iPhone. Again, it was snatched from my hand and closely examined, like any art fanatic would a Picasso. As she slid her fingers over the soft curves of my electronic phallus, my mind began to wander… but that’s another post in itself.

Again, no plepayhanduporn.

So again we walked through this gargantuan complex, until I told my new friend Kim that it was okay, I would just find one another day. On the walk back to Kim’s Club, he told me about how he loves basketball, and how he plays a few nights a week. He was really enthusiastic about it. He also told me that I look like Tom Cruise, and that I’m very handsome. As long as I don’t act like Tom Cruise, I’m ok with that.

So, I decided that since I was in this gigantic department store, and that the prices were reasonable, I would find some stuff for my apartment. I picked up bathroom cleaning supplies, some grapes, some cereal, some chopsticks and a few other things. I’d like to show you all something that absolutely blew my mind:

Those of you who aren’t familiar with the Korean monetary system, 5000 won is about $5 Canadian. That’s right. Those are individually packed apples, for $5 each.

I didn’t buy one.

Once I had a big box full of groceries, including 6 absolutely massive bottles of water, I headed outside, praying to Allah that the tape wouldn’t give out at the bottom of the box. But it turned out that the tape wasn’t going to be my biggest problem. I had to catch a cab. It was like there were absolutely no free cabs, anywhere. This one cab driver drove up, dropped someone off, and said he was finished for the day and drove off, but I’m pretty sure I saw his light go back on. Maybe he just doesn’t like “Americans”.

Speaking of prejudice, someone yelled something out of a bus to me, something in Korean, but all I could understand was “$#@$F%TGFDSF AMERICAAAAAAA”. Fools. I should wear a Canadian shirt around town I guess.

And that was my Kim’s Club adventure. Moar to come.

Coming to Seoul, I knew that there would be some awesome Engrish moments. You know what I mean. Going to a country where their language is so far removed from English, there are bound to be some hilarious translations.

Here are some really good ones I’ve written down on my iPhone while walking the streets. Keep in mind that these are shirts, not billboards or signs. Each new line is a new phrase on a shirt:

===============================================================

Please do not borrow the

Dream of Lucifer

Dear God! How con’t never you are on TV?

GET YOUR GUARD UP

Another brick in the wall

A loud outcry from lost souls

Bronzzie by itch

Institute of creative arts broadway bound

Large chance in life

Please with the happy

Super star money color

Don’t the sound stop sounding

Mocking bird wish me luck

ALL MY LIFE

Life is like alive

I hope so

Flying saucers for everybody

New York you’re bringing me down I love you

THIS IS A REALLY HARD

It’s myself the camera love

Coon Tokyo made

What’s a time is it now

Cannabis Ventura (with a picture of a pot leaf)

We’re not in the same league

I’m a tosser for design united

For your pleasure

The wall by which you are knocking it might possibly be a door

For happiness nostalgic Liverpool

Crooked mouth but nobody
notices because they are staring at your glasses

Yes!! We are the man!! Ready??
We get 58 cents for each bottle
sold

Humming bird can’t you sing?

===============================================================

I’ve also posted some good ones to my photo page:

http://picasaweb.google.com/mikeskoreanpics/Engrish

You may have to look closely at a few of those pictures, but it’s a guaranteed good laugh.

More to come.

Here I am at Hägen Dasz with my old friend Ivy. We just had some food and now we are having ice cream. Delicious.

I’m at a small restaurant in Seoul watching the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing and I am absolutely taken aback by the amazing display that they have put on. It brings a tear to my eye.

China, as much as I hate you for torturing your own people, you’ve won my heart tonight.

Steph, I’m so proud for you, as I know you are right now.

More to come.

Tonight I met up with a couple of kids I met my second night here. They are both 19, a little Korean couple.

It happened purely by chance.

I was sitting at an intersection where I had met this guy and his girlfriend before, as well as a couple of little high school girls (nothing perverted, they’re too innocent). I was sitting there for a couple of hours, and I had 3 of these vodka drinks over the span of 2 hours or so, and I was reading my Hunter S. Thompson book.

Anyway, Charlie (or Charles, as I call him) showed up with his girlfriend on a little Vespa clone. He let me drive it! Don’t worry, I wasn’t drunk. I drove it though a few back roads. I left my camera as collateral, because I knew that he was a little nervous. Hell, I thought they’d run with it, since his girlfriend seems to love photography almost as much as I do. A fair trade, I say.

I turn the key. The smell of carborated exhaust fills the air, and adrenaline surges from my kidneys. I didn’t top 20km/h, because of the tiny streets here, but I swear the best way to see this place is by scooter.

Weaving among traffic, I was able to see a lot of the area that I hadn’t before, and I had only been driving for 5 minutes tops. I knew Charlie was worried that I was going to either steal it, or bung it up. I did neither.

I drove around a bit, and came back to where he was, to see his face a little nervous. I laughed. I explained to him my experience with these things in Cuba. We talked for a while, and all of a sudden his girlfriend pulls her hair off of her head and starts brushing it. She had cut it off one night after drinking 7 bottles of soju, which is a popular type of alcohol based on rice.

Driving along those narrow streets had a sort of romance about it that you would only dream or read about. $1000 he said. $1000 for that kind of freedom and ability to go wherever you wanted. No wonder every Korean has one. If I was more of an idiot than I already am, I would consider getting one, cops be damned.

And so, I told him I had to leave (9:30) and he offered to let me boot around town once more. How could I resist? I drove around the block a bit, and parked it where I was before. Looks like I’ve got Charlie’s trust now. I might ask him to boot me off to Itaewon (technology capital of Seoul) or Yeocksam, where my friend lives.

2 posts on one day… nat bead.