merrily marching on...
03.01.2010 - 03.31.2010
March highlights (truly, March was one big highlight of my year thus far)
- My pal Emily made the wonderful decision to spend two weeks touring Seoul--and she made it just in time to celebrate my birthday. With only a couple weekends to see the city by daylight, I dragged her along for a walking tour of the city center. We began at Gyeongbokgung Palace, where I saw my first "changing of the guards" in all its pomp and circumstance. One of my favorite features was a feature that illustrated the zodiac with stone statues, located just outside the palace walls. This area definitely warranted further exploration: nearby is a folk museum and Korea's presidential Blue House. From there, with my guidebook in hand, we roughly navigated the various shopping districts and made our way nearly to the iconic North Seoul Tower. Unfortunately, due to time issues, we left that height unconquered.
- I celebrated my birthday with a Mexican food dinner at Pancho's, a somewhat over-priced but spacious and generally accommodating space. I was so pleased to see most of the friends I have made here, all in one place. Afterward, we danced the night away in several gay bars. My Korean coworker was shocked by the number of Korean men crowding the space and I have to say that these bars are one attraction that does actually recommend Itaewon (besides the restaurants and bookstore, little does). The crowds were friendly, there was a giant man who was part bouncer/part dancing queen, and some of the clubs even played some of the best dance music I've heard in Seoul (as the night wore on, there was more and more K-Pop).
- The next day, Maggie, Emily and I toured a few of the outer-lying neighborhoods--and my favorites. In Apgujang, a ritzy and increasingly popular location south of the Han River, we enjoyed gourmet crepes in a very French-inspired cafe. This restaurant had been somewhat elusive as we had tried several times since I have been here to dine with larger groups. It was rewarding--creatively decorated with clever menus and pleasant music. It was one of the more unique dining experiences I've had here and I felt I saw another facet of Seoul. All of the other diners were Korean and yet, it struck me how much Seoul must be changing to become an Arts & Culture hub and may soon see a more international crowd in these common spaces. And yet, methinks it's still off the beaten path. The evening was spent on my favorite street in Hongdae before heading to watch a Japanese film at Godard Theater. My pal Sarah also attended with several friends/coworkers and when we decided to have a post-movie brew, I was delighted to find a second LP bar next door. The bespectacled barkeep spent her time on a computer behind a desk and kept sweet rock and roll playing.
- For Emily's second weekend in Korea, we took the KTX train to the southern portion of the peninsula, Busan. Emily calculated that at one point in our 3 hour train ride, we were traveling around 190 mph. Weeee! We arrived in Busan quite late at night and very tired. We looked for a "love motel," trying to keep in mind that we should avoid "Texas St."--"a small commercial district opposite Busan station that's home for shifty people, Russians, hostess bars and the occasional street hold up" (Lonely Planet). And still, we ended up right in the middle of it. After looking at one tiny room and with some helpful directions from a passerby, we wandered out of there and into a guidebook recommendation, Seoul Hotel. Next day, we hiked around Beomeosa Temple and ate pajeon , Korean seafood "pizza" after. We spent the evening at Vesta Spa, a sort of upscale jimjilbang. It was rather small but the view of the sea and the outdoor hot tub were certainly memorable. Emily slept for 14 hours...I slept for considerably less due to extremely high temperatures and then a women's room filled to the max with a great deal of noise and traffic. Ah well. Waking up to spa again lessened the effects of sleep deprivation.
- The rest of Emily's trip was filled with nights out eating at my favorite restaurants here, celebrating St. Patrick's day with a homemade Backgammon board and card games. It was completely refreshing to have one of my best pals from home visit & revived some of my touring around Seoul goals. Speaking of which...
April promises to be another fast-paced month. I've joined an Ultimate Frisbee league here, KUPA and if all works out, will play my first tournament near Busan, in Ulsan this coming weekend. The following weekend, my friends and I (and 150 other folks), will enjoy a bike tour of cherry blossoms near Gyeongju (also near Busan!). To top off the month, I've decided to get my TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate as it's likely I'll teach another year. It requires a two-day course in Daegu, though it's also based online. I'm excited for it and I do think it's about time I learned a little more about how to do my job.