Tag Archives: Seoul

Fun times: Seoul

18 Jan

I stumbled upon some guys playing djembe drums in Hongdae the last time I was in Seoul having my dreds re-twisted. After listening for a bit, I dropped 1,000 won in their tray and asked if I could sit in for a quick jam session. Big ups to Kickerjean for the video. Hopefully I won’t regret showing my face.


Kimchi Dreadlocks


Subway Nuisance

11 Jan

Riding the subway never fails to provide a little excitement and entertainment.Believe it or not I’ve actually started to enjoy the anticipation that comes right before I enter a subway car packed full of unsuspecting Koreans. I stroll in, take up a spot by the doors on the opposite side of the car and await the random looks of bewilderment and pointing that often accompany my unforeseen presence. I’ve read accounts of foreigners being quite annoyed at this, but I often find it amusing.

When I notice someone starring obsessively at me, I like to stare back with as little expression as possible. Do doubt, their probably wondering where I’m from (a lot of Koreans swear I’m from Jamaica) or if my hair is real, but there are things that I’m curious about as well, and the starring provides me with a good opportunity to relentlessly observe and ponder all the shit that continuously blows my mind about Koreans. For example:

Why, sir, do you have what looks remarkably like a woman’s Louis Vitton purse slung across your arm? Is a backpack or messenger bag not sufficient?

Excuse me miss, but it seems you have an addiction to applying pink lip gloss in 30 second intervals in addition to combing your bangs and starring into your pocket mirror.

You seem to have some flem stuck in your throat madam  and I respect your persistence in trying to hawk it up, but your method doesn’t seem to be working.

Now some of you might consider  this as rude or inconsiderate, but I think of it more as Korean cultural awareness. As I said before, it might be easier to allow the incessant staring annoy me,  but I’d rather use it as an opportunity to learn something.

That being said, there are times when I’m just not in the mood for subway nonsense and therefore would rather zone-out until I get where I’m going.

Once when making my way back from the Busan KTX station after a long weekend in Seoul and Daegu, an ajosshi decided to plopp down next to me on the subway. I hardly notice at first because I was enjoying watching Superbad on my ipod. Seconds later I notice the rank stench of soju and b.o. wafting around me, and as I look up and turn slowly to my right I am greeted by an old korean man smiling toothlessly in my face. He was so close I though he was leaning in to give me a kiss.

Startled, I jerk backwards, and before I am able to resume watching Superbad, he begins clapping his hands and happily yelling something at me in Korean, spewing out spit and soju stench with each word he spoke. Not wanting to cause more of a scene, I do the first thing that comes to mind: I point to my ipod and offer to let him watch Superbad with me. He lets out a loud “ahhhh, ok, ok, ok” then scoots closer for a better view. I look at the subway map and notice I’m still seven or eight stops from my apartment. I figure if I can keep him distracted until I reach my stop, I can make it home peacefully and return to breathing unsoiled air. Unfotunately, my friends, I’m not that lucky.

He begins speaking to me again, seeming to ask me an array of questions which I do not understand. This time I try to ignore him which only makes him lean in closer as to catch my attention. I glance across the subway and notice I now have a full crowd of onlookers, some who seem to feel sorry for my situation, others who look as if they’re curios as to what I’ll do next. I look down again and continue to ignore the toothless admirer which brings about more yelling and hand gestures, all while wafting more funk fumes.

With two more stops to go, I finally look over and tell him (in as calm a voice as possible) “You smell really really bad and it’s making me nauseous. Please stop talking to me.”

He clearly had no idea what I said, but it didn’t matter because after a quick pause smiled and yelled “American” and opened his arms as if to invite me in for a hug (which I decline).

I reach my stop, go home and proceed to cry myself to sleep. In a perfect world, me and the toothless fellow might have been friends.


Kimchi Dreadlocks

Seoul Round 2: Global Gathering 2010

12 Oct

Early last week I told myself that I would have a mellow weekend here in Busan. I figured I’d explore some unvisited parts of the city, snap some pics and do some self reflection on my time in Korea thus far. I make it all the way to Friday before completely tossing the idea to the curb.

An hour before I get off of work, while starring into the online black hole known as Facebook, I decide to again crash Seoul for the weekend and head to Global Gathering 2010–a 14-hour muti-stage, muti-DJ music festival set in Hangang Park on the Han river.After work, I make  a dash for my apartment, throw some shit in a backpack and head to the train station.

Now I’m a self proclaimed hip-hop head–I love the shit–but I was more than pleased to see the festival headliners included Fatboy Slim, Justice and international powerhouse DJ Armin Van Buuren. Hell, Fatboy Slim alone would’ve been enough lure me to Seoul.

Walking onto the festival grounds, I’m a bit underwhelmed at the size of the venue and begin to wonder if the show is going to be any good, but as the sun set I quickly realize what I’m in for.

They key to surviving at a long music festival is setting a reasonable pace to ensure you’re not passed the fuck out when the headliners hit the stage. You don’t want to be the person who can only comment about the first few acts because you decided to go for broke at the Jagermister tent, then passed out by the tour busses, hoping to score an autograph. Needless to say, eating and staying hydrated are a must if you plan to go the distance.

I stave off getting too juiced for as long as I can and cut loose right before Justice takes the stage. This is when the fun really starts. Several times during the DJ set I find myself on top of a friend’s shoulders in an attempt to hype up the crowd around me. Why? Fuck if I know. Techno moves the spirit.

Big ups to Jens for the photo.

Towards the end of Justice’s set another friend convinces me that we should try to make it towards the front front stage. We get about two rows away from the front before realizing it is not a place we want to be. There was no dancing just violent swaying in whatever direction the crowd moved. We barely manage to keep from being trampled to death. I look down at my friend and she has a look on her face that seems to say “I was wrong Jay, this is no place for a human being” I’m still not sure how we were able to make it out with no serious injuries.

Besides stellar sets by Justice and the aging Fatboy Slim, the highlight of the night was free beer. I had just been kicked out of VIP after hopping the fence and plopping down at at a reserved table (I didn’t matter really the view from VIP sucked and they didn’t even have free drinks) when I notice the beer tent just outside only has two people manning it with the entire stock of beer stacked behind them with no one keeping an eye on the stash. Instincts kick in and before you know it I’m crouched down behind the tent stuffing my backpack full of liquid gold. I manage to get somewhere in between 12 and 15 cans stuffed inside before the bag is completely filled and I have to abandon the rest. I then head back to the crowd to catch Armin Van Buuren’s set.

After all that hard work I end up goving most of my stash away and can hardly drink the ones I’ve kept.  At five in the morning I barely make it on the last shuttle back to Hongdae and probably piss off some of the other passengers with my drunken banter on Dave Chapelle and 3-6-Mafia.

By six 0’clock Sunday  evening I’m back in Busan trying to figure out if the festival was worth the trip. I put my I pod away and notice I still have two stolen beers at the bottom of my backpack. I can’t help but grin as I make my way to the subway station. The music was awesome, but nothing beats a free beer(s).


Kimchi Dreadlocks

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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