Tag Archives: subway

Let’s shop ‘Folk Style’ in Seoul.

Once upon a time the Seoul Folk Flea Market (서울풍물시장) vendors set up shop around the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul, Korea. Now they return each day to well-manicured squares of space within a recently built warehouse location. Some merchants refer to the market as The Ant Market due to its many moves over the years. Thankfully, a friend who is always in the know dragged me to the market a few weeks ago. I am very glad she did.

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The vendors hope to keep the culture of the traditional market alive and the newest location is well-organized with maps and signs leading shoppers through a maze of small shops selling everything from Buddha figurines and wooden masks to designer handbags and musical instruments. With only enough time to discover the first floor of the massive market, I found great Korean souvenirs, a vintage pair of Ray Bans and a slouchy black leather bag. I will be back soon to tackle the second floor.

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Have you visited the Seoul Folk Flea Market? What great finds did you come across?

Sinseol-dong Station (Line 1 or 2 Exit 9), Closed every 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 10:00am-7:00pm

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Go ride a bike.

 

“When I see an adult on a bicycle I do not despair for the future of the human race.” -H.G. Wells

I’m sorry, I cheated on a previous blog post. I recommended a bike ride along the Han River in Seoul as a fabulous Spring activity if you are living in Korea, yet my feet hadn’t connected with pedals in almost a year. In an attempt to redeem myself, I along with two friends, ventured into Seoul this past Sunday and were successful in renting bikes and having a grand and glorious day. We saw kites, kid cars, bball players, swan boats, speed walkers, unicyclers, tandem bikers, gardeners, and dancing toddlers to name a few. Everyone was out on the river this weekend and you should have been too.

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I know there are many places along the river to rent bikes, but I recommend starting your day at the Ttukseom Resort Seoul Subway Station (Line 7). It is conveniently located right on the water and you can spot the rental shop as soon as you walk out of the station. I paid 3,000 won for the first hour (less than $3.00) and I left my ID with the rental shop. When I returned more than three hours later I paid a bit more for the extra time and collected my ID. The process was easy and foreigner friendly.

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 Biking along the Han River was one of the best things I have done this Spring. Please enjoy my pictures and video included below and if you’ve rented bikes at a different location I would love to hear about your experience.

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It’s your party, but please learn to hike first.

With about 70% of the Korean peninsula covered with mountains, the hiking culture dominates the the Land of Kimchi. I went for a short hike up Mt. Dobongsan near my home a few weeks ago. I have a ways to go if I want to start calling myself a “hiker”, but here are my thoughts thus far…

Hiking in Korea is reminiscent of attending an epic college party.

It is imperative that you…

pre-game. (Who wants some morning makgeolli?)

dress to impress.

(Leave your sweats at home and make sure your gear is from this season.)

show up at the right time with drinks to share.

(Koreans hike early in the morning and are generous with their drinks.)

move at the right pace.

(You don’t want to rush ahead and fall and be ‘that guy’ that your friends have to take care of, but you also don’t want to fall behind and miss the fun.)

conserve enough energy so that you can make an appearance at the after party.

(Fact: Korean bbq tastes 100x better after a hike.)

at least attempt to conceal your grin on your way home on the subway while jealous onlookers admire your post-outing glow.

(“Yeah, I just hiked for 5 amazing hours and it’s only 12pm. What have you done today?”)

See you on the mountain…unless I was at a party the night before…and in that case I will be sleeping instead.

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My Date with PSY: soju chugging, shirtless dancing + some singing

photo credit

I almost missed my date with PSY, but I have a long subway ride and my love of Twitter to thank for getting me up front and personal with the man who brought Gangnam Style (722,762,395 views as of 11/15) to the world.

Five days on an island will leave you feeling disconnected. Although armed with a smart phone and tablet, I spent a long and blissfully detached getaway on Jeju this fall. I snapped a few pictures with my phone and did read a bit using my tablet, but for the most part I managed to stay away from the black hole that is the internet.

We arrived back in Seoul on a Wednesday evening with the Jeju travel group and from there I still had to venture further north to my city of Uijeongbu. I sat squished next to my vacation companions on the subway with little left to say to each other after five days of bonding. I took this time to catch up on my Twitter obsession and scrolled aimlessly through a few days worth of updates. All of a sudden I was bombarded with a blast of tweets about a free show Psy was promising his Seoul fans if he made it to #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. I had to piece together the news, but I gathered that there would be a free concert in Seoul that following night and that Psy might be shirtless at some point during the event. Less than 24 hours later I was on the same subway heading back into the city to finally meet the man who had recently, in the eyes of my family and friends, made my move to Korea an impressive one.

My friends and I decided to play it safe and we made our way into Seoul around 4pm for a 10pm concert start time. As we climbed the stairs to the Seoul City Hall subway exit we realized that the early arrival game-plan was not exclusively ours. The Seoul municipal government closed off streets around the exit and security and safety officials were already directing fans of all ages as they clamored to find the right sitting spot to wait out the early evening. We managed to find a small patch of grass to claim for the next few hours and the atmosphere continued to intensify as time ticked by.

At first I was impressed with the patient and orderly Koreans who sat quietly waiting for the right time to stand and enjoy the show, but then things got hectic. The section we were sitting in got closed off because too many people were trying to walk through the seated audience members. My friend who had gone in search of food was told she couldn’t rejoin us. Older Koreans who had been waiting for hours grew tired and had to be carried out of the crowd. I even witnessed one older gentleman faint in the middle of arguing with a security guard. One moment I was on the phone telling my detained friend to duck under the security tape and make a run for it and the next moment the Korean crowd simultaneously decided to stand up and rush the stage. Picnics were trampled as little children were scooped up. My other friend grabbed my arm as we were pushed forward and my constrained friend used the instant of confusion to dart into the moving crowd. A few minutes later we found ourselves smack dab in front of Psy’s stage. My lost friend found us and we all stood in silence admiring our close proximity to greatness.

It was only after the fact that I learned of the crowd’s staggering statistics. More than 80,000 people came out to see Psy perform for two hours. Psy was very humble on stage and there was more than one moment where he seemed to stop and just stare at the crowd in disbelief. He laughed and told us, “I did not get here because I was worthy of it. I’m here because of all of you. I’m just a fat man with two kids.” The Seoul concert was an elaborate thank you to Psy’s Korean fans, who supported him before the horse dance was a phenomenon.  I admit, I did not know many of Psy’s other songs, although all were dance-worthy, but I was most curious to watch Psy perform, and boy did he. The crowd loved him and he took many opportunities to thank them for their continued support. He ran back and forth along a long stage that extended into the audience, only stopped dancing at one point to chug an entire bottle of soju, graced us with two versions of Gangnam Style and went shirtless at the end of the show, as promised. I went from watching the video (with no volume) on my iPad back in July, to being a few inches from the front row security guards with my surprised waegook face plastered all over the big screens. Oh, did I forget to mention that? Yeah, that happened. I love life.

photo credit

Check out the girl with the yellow ears at :43-:45.

some of my own pictures
5pm arrival for a 10pm concert start
The security men were all business.
smokey stage after surprising stage fireworks
dance moves for hours
a tad ecstatic
looking right at me
Do you know the lyrics?
Psy must have missed drinking soju during his US media tour.
no shirt, as promised

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Seoul Subway Line 9!

Seoul Subway Challenge: Line 9

Line 9 still needs some work on its smile, but speaking as someone who didn’t get braces until the end of high school, I am going to give the 2009 addition to the Seoul Subway a break and appreciate the quirky half smirk that is a work in progress. Line 9 went live in July of 2009 and is the first privately run subway line in Korea run by Veolia Transport, a French company. Also called ‘The Golden Line’, Line 9 snakes from Gaehwa Station and Gimpo Airport along the south side of the Han River toward Sinnonhyeon Station in Gangnam to form a half smile. A full smile should be completed in the near future with plans for further station stops at the Sports Complex Station and later at Oryun Station.

I began my exploration of Line 9 close to its most eastern point. I was hungry after a long ride down from my home in Uijeongbu and I figured the Express Bus Terminal would stimulate my taste buds and sense of adventure on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Seoul…

Express Bus Terminal

At the Express Bus Terminal I did not venture outside as I did with the remainder of my Line 9 stops. There was no need to leave. There was plenty to see within steps of the subway exit. The Express Bus Terminal Station is under the Seoul Express Bus Terminal (aka Gangnam Bus Terminal) and it is not where you go to escape the hustle and bustle of Seoul. The terminal is full of people on the move. People are busy and moving fast in the Express Bus Terminal. They are in a rush to snatch up the latest designer pieces at Shinsegae, eat at the ‘Prestige Food Empire’ (Who knew we had ‘Premium Food Courts’ in this world?), check into the exclusive Marriott Hotel or depart for/arrive from another swanky city in Korea. After mindlessly wandering the maze of floors in the terminal my friends and I decided to eat at KFC before venturing to our next stop on Line 9. Believe it or not, this was my first time eating at a KFC. *shock* I don’t know, the ‘Prestige Food Empire’ just freaked me out. And I had promised my friends a travel-worthy lunch for accompanying me on my Seoul Subway Challenge adventure. And they like KFC.

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Line 9 leaves no room for travel confusion. The elaborate digital screens in each car display the upcoming station information along with a birds-eye view map showing the immediate neighborhood at each location. At Dongjak Station we simply scoured the map and chose a spot to explore and its corresponding numbered exit. Seoul National Cemetery was desolate except for a lone woman wandering the aisles of graves chanting some sort of prayer or song. We walked among the uniform grave stones of hundreds of Korean Veterans. The late President Kim Dae-Jung was interred here in 2009. We soon found ourselves in a lush pathway leading to a bridge over a small river teeming with brightly colored fish. With no KFC leftovers to spare, my friend searched her bag and found a package of crackers to feed the fish. Watching fish jump and splash for bits of old peanut butter crackers: It really is the little things in life…

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A few stops after our friendly fish feeding experience we found ourselves in the midst of a bloody and lively seafood massacre. We followed small signs illustrated with fish designs along a subway track  overpass toward the obvious smell of fresh fish. The Noryangin Fisheries Market is Seoul’s largest marine products market with over 66,000 square meters of small shops, auction spaces and restaurants. If it swims you will find it here and usually at a much cheaper price than you would at a supermarket. The 24-hour market is full of an intense sense of urgency. With many of the 700+ small shops selling the same products, they are competitive and will stop at nothing to gain the attention of shoppers meandering up and down the market aisles. As I stopped to snap a few pictures of live octopus, shrimp, giant crab, oysters and flounder, some shopkeepers were full of pride and posed for my camera while others frowned and quickly ushered me away because they saw my photography as a distraction and a missed selling opportunity.

Yeouido

After the crowded fish market it was nice to breathe some fresh air upon exiting the station at Yeouido. We walked a few blocks to the Cultural Event Plaza where a sign at the park entrance encourages people to “rest or talk with friends”. We did just that and also snacked on some cotton candy a friendly man was selling from the back of his motorcycle. Children giggled as they ran about in the open space, older couples walked briskly along the shaded bike path and young professionals played basketball in  collared shirts, ties and dress pants (Sunday?).

Dangsan

Dangsan was a perfect last stop for our expedition. A narrow bridge outside the station exit led us over the busy street to the Han River where we spotted a strategically placed 7-11. I can’t think of a better way to spend a late Sunday afternoon: enjoying a cold beer sitting beside the river and watching boats pass by. As I finished my beer I felt my phone buzz from my pocket. A message from my father back in the US surprised me. “Are you prepared for the TYPHOON!?” it read. I laughed and put my phone away. Korea continues to surprise me each day as I attempt to teach and survive typhoons, but at least I can rely on the Seoul Subway for convenient and dependable transportation.

Which line gets you around Seoul? Take a look:

Line 1

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Line 3

Line 4

Line 5

Line 6

Line 7

Line 8

Thanks to Waegook Tom for making this happen!

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Hummus Heaven at High Street Market

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“You look like you could use an almond milk coffee smoothie with real mint chocolate bits,” the man behind the counter caught me off-guard as I stood at the entrance of the store wide-eyed and drooling. “I can make it for you now and you can enjoy it while you shop.” I nodded, unable to verbalize my gratitude. “Did he just read my mind?” I thought. Maybe he did, or maybe he just saw me for the sucker that I am, regardless, the drink was beyond amazing and I couldn’t help but make a few annoying slurping sounds with my straw as I managed to enjoy each bit of the almond milk deliciousness as I browsed all that High Street Market had to offer.

I spy Nutella!

High Street Market is located in Itaewon in Seoul and had been on my list of places to visit for a few months now. According to the store’s website, The idea of High Street Market was conceived in late 2010 when a few foreign guys doing local import business decided to create a place where people could find the foods they missed back home, all under one roof.

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I knew I would most likely go shopping crazy when I visited, so I had to time my visit when I could manage to carry a few heavy bags from the store directly to the subway and home with no interruptions. I easily convinced my friend to accompany me for the trek into Seoul one Saturday, and I awoke the morning of our shopping trip itching to get my hands on a few precious foreign food items I have been craving: almond milk (duh, it’s awesome!) and hummus (the main staple of my diet at home).

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The store is easy to find, you take the Seoul Subway Line 6 to the Itaewon Station and use Exit 2. At Exit 2 you simply walk about 5 minutes until you see the IP Boutique Hotel on your left and High Street Market is right next to it on the 2nd floor. The address is 2F, 737-24, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea. High Street Market is also all about staying connected, you can find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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I managed to find what I was looking for and more. Two equally amazing varieties of hummus were being sampled along with crispy baguettes at the deli counter and two kinds of almond milk were for sale. There was some serious mind reading going on! I also found, among others, cooking spray, ingredients to make my own hummus, cookies for my students and fellow teachers, ranch dressing, Nutella!, Nature Valley breakfast bars and some locally made vegan treats from a Seoul favorite, Alien’s Day Out. The staff were extremely friendly and spoke English and they gladly recommended products and answered my foodie questions. High Street Market is known for their fabulous selections of meats, cheeses, breads, wines and beer, but they also have a comfortable corner of the store that serves as a cozy cafe sitting area. I could go on, but I am getting hungry…get yourself to High Street Market and I apologize in advance for buying all the hummus (I think I managed to snag 5 tubs!).

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Jason Mraz: showing me up with his Korean skills

 

Jason Mraz was in Korea for about a week and he knows way more Korean than me. Watching him make small talk with the Korean audience between songs at last month’s Rainbow Island Festival on Nami Island (Namiseom) was just the motivation I needed to kick my butt into gear and learn Korean.

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I have always loved live music, most of my paychecks in Boston went directly to paying for concert tickets and I am okay with that. I was thrilled to learn that Jason Mraz would be in Korea for a show in Busan and also headlining the Rainbow Island Festival about 1 hour from Seoul. I impulsively purchased tickets and luckily found a friend who was a fan of the man who sings ‘The Remedy’ and ‘I’m Yours’. Koreans love Jason. It is difficult to sit in any coffee shop in Korea for 20 minutes and not be serenaded by one of his romantic ballads. I even scored some ‘cool teacher’ points when I mentioned the concert to a few of my students.

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My friend and I were excited to see Jason perform but we were unsure of what to expect from the Rainbow Island experience. We headed to Nami Island early on Saturday morning by subway. I gave us plenty of travel time to account for mistakes along the way, but the transportation, as always, was simple and fool proof. The subway from Seoul took us right to the station closest to the island and then a five minute taxi ride brought us to the water’s edge where we claimed our concert tickets and were promptly ushered onto a ferry. Sometimes Koreans really impress me with their organization skills. Within minutes we were on-island each with a colorfully illustrated island map that also conveniently served as a fan. Oh Korea, you’re always thinking of everything.

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The music festival was incredible. My friend and I arrived on island in the early afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we explored the island, ate delicious food, listened to live music playing on numerous stages and collected as many festival freebies as we could: temporary tattoos, backpacks that turn into sitting mats, Vitamin waters, organic face moisturizer samples, a sound amplifier for smart phones and more! The festival booths were all interactive and provided much entertainment. Jason came on the main stage at 8pm and the Koreans went wild – they love him! It was a perfect summer night and he sang old and new songs and I was surprised that the crowd knew every song he performed. His band was fantastic and he sounded amazing live. He played for over two hours and the show was worth the hassle of waiting in line for the ferry to take us back to the mainland and the walk back to the subway station where we realized the train to Seoul was done for the night..but that’s another story for another time. Come back soon Jason…you can help me practice my Korean!

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