Tag Archives: Itaewon

Celebrating Chuseok in Seoul

26 Sep

My apologies friends for not posting in a while. I took off to Seoul for a week in honor of the Korean holiday Chuseok. I hesitate to say it’s the Korean version of Thanksgiving, but that’s probably the western holiday it most resembles. Koreans head back to their hometowns to be with family and exchange gifts. There’s also seems to be a lot of free cultural events that happen in and around major cities (all temples and museums were free during my stay, for example, and there were many cultural performances going on all around the city). At any rate, my school gave me the whole week off so tossed some clothes in a bag and made a dash for the capital.

My thoughts on Seoul? Madness.

For all of you that don’t know, Seoul–a city of over 12 million people–is one of the most populated cities in the world. I don’t know how you teachers who opt for Seoul do it. I’m not saying I don’t like the place, but I’ll be damed if I ever had to live there for a year. Hell, I’m pretty sure spending just five days there shaved a good four years off my life expectancy. Here’s a few highlights:

The district of Itaewon might as well be called foreignerville. It has got to be one of the only places in Korea where you will see more foreigners than actual Koreans walking down the street. On one of the first there, we decide to to venture into a pub to meet up with some other teachers from Busan, and the only Koreans in the joint were the bartenders and one of our group leaders from orientation. At one point, as I’m trying to enjoy some overpriced bourbon, a drunk white girl stumbles over to me and offers to make out with me for five seconds if I give her a cigarette. I contemplate dumping my drink on her before I remember how much I payed for it. Instead, I toss her a cigarette and nudge her to the side hoping that she will stumble in front of a dart being thrown by one of her British cronies.

Later, we manage to find a hip-hop club (finally) and I’m again disappointed by what I find. I don’t  mean to lecture, but if you are a gang member back in your home country, don’t bring that shit to Korea. It pissed me off to see people throwing up gang signs amongst others who were simply there to have a good time. You fuckers are the reason hip-hop gets a bad rep overseas. Enough said.

I guess you have to take the good with the bad. Yeah there’s far too many westerners in Itaewon, but the area also has some great restaurants AND I found a hair shop that could tighten up my kimchi dreadlocks. For any of my readers who are in Korea (or are coming in the future) with dreadlocks or any other natural hair style, drop a few lines in the comment section and I’ll pass along the info on how to find the place.

You want to go out in Seoul? Go to Hongdae (Hongik University area). Every month there is a club night where 15,000 won gets you into a bunch of participating venues. On one of our last nights in Seoul, we go and bounce from bar to bar (the problem with going out in a big group) in search of the crazy party scene that everyone talks so much about, and we  finally settle into club called Cocoon. Now there are plenty of clubs in Busan, but I’m quite sure none of them can match the magnitude and shear pandemonium of Cocoon. Multi-leveled, two bars, a massive stage and enough laser lights to trigger a seizure at any moment, Cocoon is a place where you need to be prepared for a long night. You think you’ve only been there for an hour until you step outside for some air and realize the sun is about to rise. It is here that I decide to test what I now call “The dreadlock factor.”

Club Cocoon

Basically the dreadlock factor is what I employ in Korea when I either need an ego boost (which I would argue we all need from time to time) or I want to take the party to the next level. Heres how its done:

Step 1:
Head to the stage or the dance floor.

Step 2:
Remove your hair tie letting your dreads fall.

Step 3:
Shake the hell out of your dreads while dancing. Headbanging is accepted.

Step 4:
Brace yourself to be damn near attacked by a drove of Korean clubbers looking to join in on the fun. For whatever reason, they love it.

My advice about “the dreadlock factor?” Use it wisely and be careful. I did it in club Ghetto in Busan and almost didn’t make it out alive. A friend of mine had to pull me out of the crowd when my dreads were almost ripped right from my scalp, scary shit indeed. The result was comparable when I did it in Cocoon, but I managed to scurry behind some friends dancing on the stage, thus avoiding any serious injuries.

The Sights
Besides the partying, there are is also some good sight seeing to be had in Seoul. I’m reluctant to place a “must see” stamp on anything because the truth is I’m not hard to please. A few markets, a couple of temples and a museum and I’m happy. We pretty much walked everywhere around the city and managed to hit most of the popular sights whilst munching on street food. While the elaborate  Gyeongbokgung Palace is beautiful, and the areas along the Cheong-gye-cheon stream are good places to people watch, I probably enjoyed hiking up to N Seoul Tower the most. In the observatory up top we caught views of  the entire city at sunset, right as everything lit up. I won’t go on and on about how to get there and how much it cost (there are plenty of K-blogs that do just that), but I will say that when you make it to the top, there’s a corn dog stand that shouldn’t be missed. Like I said, I’m not hard to please.

Seoul treated me well and I will be back to further explore, but Busan is still the better city in my opinion. After all, I didn’t see one beach in Seoul.


Kimchi Dreadlocks

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