Sunday, April 14, 2013

Escape from Foreigner Land: strolling on the north east side

Rochelle and I planned on hiking the Seoul Fortress wall this weekend, and though we got close enough to get on path, we ended up taking a wrong turn and found ourselves somewhere in Seongbuk (성북). After determining we weren't quite dressed for the occasion (me more so than her), we elected to keep walking around. The weather was a clear and pleasant 64 degrees. We had nowhere pressing to go. The neighborhood we were in wasn't busy at all, so this was a plus. We hardly heard any noise from the road.

After a while I directed us back to the Hansung University Station (한성대입구 역) and showed Rochelle the Seongbuk Cheon (성북천) so we could take a walk along it. It's a smaller version of the better-known Cheongyecheon Stream (청계천) in central Seoul and it didn't have much traffic on it either. I found this refreshing because Seoul can get like one never ending mob of people. We had room to breathe and we took full advantage of it by walking for miles. We walked further than anticipated thanks to overshooting the Bomun Station (보문 역) and needing to double back. The trip didn't end there, for we got on the train and cruised up to Korea National University (고대). Why go there? We did want to buy a DVD or two to watch in the evening and figured we'd find some there. As it turned out, we didn't; we did see the prestigious university though. Its gate and manicured quad certainly looked impressive to us. We took a look and got back on the train.

We rode back into Itaewon because surely that area would have some movies we could play on our American computers. Again, no dice. We said "Oh well" to that idea and hit the Home Base grocery store to find the discovery of the weekend: black bean makgeolli. I'd been looking for the stuff ever since we'd drank it at Wang Dae Po on the east side and had had no luck finding it. I was overjoyed, not only had I located the stuff, it cost a mere 1500won for a 1.2 liter jug. It would make the perfect complement to the evening's dinner. 

Getting back felt good. My feet were tired and the crowds had worn on my nerves. Actually, I think it's more about having to dodge taxis and scooters in the Noksapyeong/Gyeongnidan area than the crowds. Stil, I did notice something--and this is why an otherwise normal Saturday story's getting posted--despite all the war fears, life goes on in Seoul. Everything's the same as it was last week, last month, last year. Foreigner Land's burger joints are still hopping, the families are still shopping, and couples are still strolling. 

Edit: I should note that tourism has taken a hit lately. The Joongang Daily wrote about it. 

Is this what the British meant by saying "Keep calm and carry on"? Or is this perhaps the Korean way? I wrote the bulk of this while riding home to Wasu. The lack of traffic made typing away possible. I always like leaving Seoul because I know the air'll be fresher when the bus rolls into Wasu. I can only handle so much of Seoul.

* Foreigner Land is my term for the area in and around Itaewon. I suppose it sounds elitist or ironic given that I'm a foreigner too, but as a country bumkin, it's strange as hell encountering foreigners I don't know now.

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