Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bars Don't Close Here

So much to talk about today, I'm not sure where to begin! So much has happened in the last 48 hours since I've written a blog. When I got home after work yesterday, I was tempted to write out a short quick blog before heading off, but time was my enemy and I had to run. So now that I'm actually sitting down, I'm not really sure what I had to write about yesterday. :(

So, I supposed we will start with last night. After work, I walked home and immediately started to pack a bag. I knew I was going to stay over at Tab's after we went out, so I put together some clothes and toiletries I would need. I used my shoulder strap bag, which would ultimately prove to be a bad decision, but alas, it's what I used. On the way to the bus, I realized I probably should have taken something easier to carry, but I don't really have anything so I just kept walking. I got on the bus, knocked into a few ajummas that gave me the stink eye, and headed to the subway. I felt like I was running late, so I hurried down to the trains. When I was waiting on my train, I realized I did not have my cell phone.

Analysis: was going to meet Tab, whom I would be with all night, and we had already determined where and when to meet at the subway. No problem not having cell phone. I decided to just stay my course, since going back to my apartment would be a 30 minute detour, and I was already running late.

I hopped my train and got to Euljiro station where I needed to get on another line. My route calculator on my iPad told me the train was leaving in 2 minutes, so I hurried to the platform. Just as I got there, the train was leaving. No big deal, I sat down and waited. Another train came along about 6 minutes later, and I boarded.

The whole time while I was waiting, and on the train as well, I was reading my book on my iPad and listening to music. This was a bad idea; while sitting at a station two stops into the train ride, I look up and realize my train was at a station in the wrong direction!! I jumped up and flew out the door, right as the doors were closing. When I finally figured out where to get on the same line going the opposite direction, I looked down and saw two sets of barriers between. Essentially, I had to "leave" the subway, and repay to go back in, only on the other side. Annoyed, I did what I had to do, since there was no real way to correct the situation without going back to where I should have been.

Once I finally got on the correct train, going in the correct direction, I had no seat and was packed like a sardine with my big shoulder bag knocking over anyone who got in my general vicinity (which, on a train packed like sardines, is everyone.) I was not popular on the train ride.

Finally we got to Tab's station, and I exit (along with about 200 other people on my car, and about 3,000 on the train itself) and follow the crowds toward the exit. Going down the escalator, I look up and see that the sign that says "Way Out" also says "Exits 8-12." I needed Exit 2. When I got to the bottom, I looked around until I found a little food stand, and asked where Exit 2 was. Thankfully they understood well enough to tell me how to get there. 10 minutes later and out of breathe from going up and down stairs, I had gotten a complete tour of Dangsan Station and finally found Tab waiting at the exit.

We headed out and caught a bus to her place, to drop off my duffle bag before heading to Hongdae for dinner, drinks, and dancing. The bus was crowded as well, and I was getting a headache. The whole trip over to her side of town was a headache, no wonder it was manifesting itself in my head. We finally got to her stop, and she warned me that her place was at the top of a hill. I said, oh, no big deal. And then I saw the hill. Granted, it wasn't that bad, but halfway up, it felt like the mountains that surround Seoul. Panting, out of breath, and sweating, we made it to her apartment. I took some Ibuprofen and we took a little breather. I met the little old lady that lives beneath her and watches out for her. Sweet old ajumma!

By the time we got to her place, it was around 10:20pm. I had gotten off work at 8:00. *Sigh...*

Waiting for a cab
We headed out and towards the bus stop to go to Hongdae. Tab decided that since we are so hungry, we should just take a cab to Hongdae. It wouldn't be more than $8 ($4 each), so I agreed. For about 15 minutes, every cab that passed was full, and the two that weren't were on the opposite side of the road. We finally flag one down and tell him "Hongdae!" and he nods and repeats "Hyundai." I look at Tab suspiciously, and she repeats "Hongdae! Hongik University!" And again, he smiles, nods, and says "Hyundai." Tab just shrugs and gets in, so I follow suit. I'm fairly suspicious about this, but Tab seems confident that we will get there.

On the way, Tab decides to throw every Korean word she knows at this guy, who laughs and starts singing Gangnam Style. If this isn't the song of my trip so far, I don't know what is. He even brings up the music video on his oversized smartphone, and we jam out as we cross the Han River. It was a fun ride, those first 5 minutes....

Then, the trouble began. You guessed it, Hyundai is NOT the same as Hongdae. At $12, cruising down the strip by the Han River, I go "Tab, when are we going to tell this guy that we are NOT going in the right direction?!" I'm getting quite annoyed, since this is money we are wasting. I think the guy caught my upset tone, and calls the free translation number that everyone in the service industry in Seoul has on speed dial. Tab yells into the phone "HONGDAE. HONGIK UNIVERSITY!" ... "yes, HONGDAE!" She hands the phone back, and the guy listens a moment, puts his phone down, and goes "... HONGDAE!" and slams his fist down on the wheel, and pushes the windows down in the car, like he needs some air to cool down. Damn! He went from impersonating Psy to being a grumpy old Korean taxi driver in 2 seconds flat!

He turns around and starts yelling at us in Korean. Okay, maybe not yelling, but we both knew we were getting a talking-to! He starts pronouncing Hongdae with a nice hawking sound at the beginning, and then making us repeat it. Then saying "Hyundai!" with an emphasized "huuuun" at the beginning. Apparently we were getting the talk, and Korean lessons. I repeated him to appease him, and Tab just kept giggling nervously.

We finally made it, and the guy only charged us $20 ($10 each), rather than about $25 on the meter. Well, I didn't even expect that much, so we were grateful. He left us smiling, but I knew he was glad to be rid of us. Since we took a cab, my directions to the burger place I had researched were useless, as they directed us from the subway station. We looked around, and asked a group of girls behind us where it was. They had no idea, asked some other girls, and we got pointed down the alleyway behind us.

Menu at Burger B in Hongdae
We crossed the street, and low-and-behold, there was Burger B... right there. We could not get over what great timing the taxi had to decide to boot us out at that exact spot (we hadn't told him anywhere specifically in that area...). By now, its around midnight. We order burgers, fries, and drinks and sit at this awesome bar overlooking the street and all the interesting people in it. We talked and waited for our food, got asked to take photos with some weird men from who-knows-where (not Korea, but not American either!) We laughed and made weird faces when they took the photos, and then tried to ignore them hitting on us from their table in another language.

The food was absolutely delicious. I ordered the BBQ Burger and fries (pictured left). I was so ravenous by the time the food came, I took a bite before I remembered to take a photo. You can see the view we had in the background. It was just fun to sit at a bar overlooking the street and hill below. Tab ordered a cheeseburger. We both enjoyed our burgers immensely, sitting in silence for about 10 minutes just soaking up the goodness. We chatted for a little while longer, trying to decide what to do and where to go for the night. Since we had spent much more than expected on the cab (Tab kept insisting it was like paying for a scenic view of the river), we decided to just stick around Hongdae. She's gone out in the area before, so I trusted her judgement and we headed out.

The great thing about Korea, or just about anywhere besides Houston, is that bars don't close. Actually, in Korea, many places besides bars don't even post closing times. Online, I've literally seen "Open: 9am Close: when the last person leaves" well... that's specific!

We walked around for a while before deciding to hit up a bar she'd been to before called Zen Bar. We went in and it was anything but "zen." It was raging! We navigated our way around the throngs of dancing Koreans and expats alike, and hit the bar. Tab had had a beer at the restaurant, but I had stuck to coke (both for financial and energizing reasons). We decided to start things off with a bang, and had a little shot. I won't say what, gotta keep my reputation classy. But, the liquor was so cheap! This did not lead to overconsumption, FYI. But it was great prices! We both got a beer and started doing some rounds.

I realized going out with one other person, to a place where you know nobody, and run a 0.0001% risk of running into anyone you know, is kind of awkward! We just danced with each other for a bit, and circled the bar aimlessly. At one point, a girl surrounded by Korean guys dancing on her grabbed my arm and mouthed "Help me!" I pulled her out of the crowd, and she looked a little freaked out. Well, maybe it was a mistake to help her, because the void she created needed to be filled and it seemed I was the closest thing. I got grabbed and pulled in; I tried to get Tab's hand, but we were separated. (Don't freak out, here, people. It wasn't that creepy, just weird as heck.) These guys were dancing on me, and one even tried to take my beer. I snatched it back and smacked his hand away. Finally, I ejected myself from the crowd and met Tab on the other side of the bar. What craziness!

American guy dancing on Tab
We kept a low profile for a while, just dancing and sipping our beers. Apparently, we looked good enough because some Korean guys came over to talk to us. It was pretty awkward since only one of them spoke decent enough English to make conversation, and even that conversation wasn't the best. We hung out with them for a bit, though, just dancing in a little circle; being with other people is better than being awkward on the side of the room. At one point, a short Asian guy with two beers in his hands came by and, I'm not sure how, started talking to Tab. He was extremely outgoing and loud; he was American.

Koreans at the bar
Long story short, apparently this guy, who was not hitting on us at all, intimidated the Korean guys we had been standing with, and they told him to back off. It was a super awkward situation, made only slightly better by the lubricating factor (alcohol). I gave Tab the lets-get-out-of-here-eye and we "went to the bathroom" aka snuck out the other exit. Finally out in the fresh(er) air, I realized how smokey it was in the bar. We sat down by another club entrance, which looked pretty awesome. We decided to try our luck there, but when we realized there was a $15 cover, and gave her the heck-no sign and we left. We sat in some plastic chairs by a closed convenience store, with about 20 other drunk people. Some were falling over, and no one seemed to care. Thus is Korean nightlife!

Trash everywhere in the streets. Weirdly, no Asians in this photo... hmmm....
Tab said there was a cool park in the area, so after a little break, we set off to find the park. Somehow, on the way there, we ran into the short American guy from the bar. Good thing he was too drunk to remember we ditched him! He had a friend with him this time, who did not seem very drunk. He also kept looking at me, and I decided to play the drunk card. I was feeling good, to be sure. But I kicked it up a notch (thanks to my mad drama-skillz), and he thought I was quite past the point of inebriation. They said they would show us where the park was, so we followed them. I whispered to Tab that I was not that drunk, and she said she didn't think so.

We got to the park, and decided to be Korean and get some "mart beers" from the convenience store across the street. Inside, there was a line (which I strictly enforced to the pushy Koreans behind us), and  Tab decided it was a great time to bust out with her extensive knowledge of Gangnam Style. She starts singing and we start dancing. The Koreans are laughing at us, but who cares. We walk outside, and as fate would have it, Gangnam Style is playing. Tab and I immediately start the dance. Within the 3minutes of the song, we had gotten about 10 people to dance with us in the middle of the street. We had cars stopped. It was pure awesomeness.

found this art on a building, for Michael :)
After it was over, we couldn't stop laughing for about 5 minutes. We managed to make our way into the park, still being tailed by the American guys. We sit down to drink our mart beers (I opted for mart wine), and about 10 minutes later, we hear loud music from behind us. I look over and see a crowd in a circle. Tab and I immediately jump up and rush over. And, of course, for the 3rd time in about 20 minutes, Gangnam Style is playing. As soon as it comes on, Tab and I jump in the middle of the circle and start dancing. I actually have a video of this (some guy behind me offered to video when he saw I was videoing just Tab), but I'm too embarrassed to post it. Plus, it's blurry... you guys don't want to see that... (hehe!)

After Gangnam Style, we sat down in the circle and watched. There was a black guy who spoke fluent Korean who break danced, a Korean guy with muscles who danced soooo well (and acted a little light in the loafers, but I don't think he was), a Russian girl who did Katy Perry dances, and other really talented people. By the time we left, I felt like maybe we shouldn't have partaken in the Gangnam Style dance because maybe we weren't really good enough! Haha! But it was so much fun, we didn't really care. :) We can blame it on being foreigners, like we do for everything else.

After a while, we decided to head out. We had finally ditched all the creepers, and decided that if we made it 45 more min, we could get some food then get the first subway back to Tab's place. It was about 3:45am. We headed into a coffee shop and sipped some water. As soon as we reached that point, I realized I could not make it much longer. We decided not to wait it out, just to get a cab. We walked out on the street and asked a cab to take us to Mokdong (Tab's neighborhood), he waved "no" to us. Okay, we tried another. Another "no". The third cab told us yes, but for $25. We knew the cab should only be $8, so we said heck no. Another 3 cabs all wanted between 20 and 25. We said no to all of them, and I was ready to give up and wait on the subway. Tab asked one last taxi, and he said yes. Tab made him put the address from her card into the GPS, so there was no excuse for taking the "long way." We got there in 6,300W (~$6). Awesome! We got in, and immediately hit the sack.


This morning, we woke up around noon. I was fairly impressed we did not sleep any later, having gone to bed around 5:00am. We got up and decided to get some pizza from Costco. We made our way there and ate lunch. Then we headed to Itaewon to help me get some things from my friends on base. Unforunately, this is where my phone being MIA hurt me. I wasn't able to communicate effective with them, and that was 100% my fault this weekend! I wasn't really frustrated, since it was my fault. We decided to get some Turkish ice cream we saw last time we were in Itaewon, and I'd read about this week.

Apparently, tons of Turks have moved to Korea in the past decade and have since brought a lot of their food and culture into Seoul. Specifically, their taffy-like ice cream has been a hit. They usually put on a show when getting you your order. We went to a low-key place tucked away behind other shops, so we didn't get as much entertainment. The guys getting us the ice cream did play around a little, but nothing compared to what I've read about (which basically consists of getting the entire tub of ice cream on a long pole and stringing it out and doing little tricks with it while getting your portion.)

it was like a hybrid of ice cream and taffy
I enjoyed my cone of Turkish Ice Cream!
Well, after we ate our ice creams, we said goodbye and headed back to our respective neighborhoods. I did pretty well on the subways, managing to read and figure out when and where to change trains without getting lost. When I headed for the bus to head to my apartment, there were at least 50 people waiting. I just kept reading my book and waited. I got on the first bus that came, and headed down the road. 

And suddenly, my bus turns. This is not correct. I live directly down the main road. Uh oh... I get off at the first stop on the side road, and realize I am quite far from my apartment and now have no bus. I decided to just start walking in the general direction I know my apartment to be. I ended up walking about 10-15 blocks. It was annoying at first, but it was such a beautiful day I couldn't be upset for more than 5 minutes. I got home around 6pm, and flaked out on the bed for a good 15 minutes before doing anything else.

Now, I've got my window open, been working on the blog/photos for about 4 hours, and I deserve a movie night. :) Tomorrow, I am heading to church in Itaewon with Tab and then to get my things from Itaewon. :) We are expected to get a typhoon Sunday night or Monday, and it looks pretty fierce on the radar. I'm not sure how this will turn out, since the last one was such a disappointing show. Work on Monday will be interesting... But for now, I'm enjoying my weekend!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you are having so much fun!!! Wish I was there with you!


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