Korea Part 5: Kings, Cops and Foreign Beers


I woke up all messed up in the mid-afternoon, asking god (which I don’t believe in) to help me out of that misery. It was 2 PM, and I already felt I’m not gonna see too much of Seoul that day. I haven’t even figured out what I’m going to eat for lunch because finding a non-meat meal in South Korea is just impossible.

After a couple of hours of regenerating in the shower, I was able to find a Korean fast food restaurant called 미미네 (Miminae), that served non-meat meals, just around the corner. It was a cozy place with small tables faced to walls, which I later found out was quite common in Seoul. I’ve ordered a bowl of 떡볶이 (tteokbokki), fried shrimps and can of Japanese beer called Asahi for 12 300 KRW. For those who might not know, tteokbokki is a chilli sauce with rice and fish cakes inside. I’ve tasted a rice cake before in Taiwan, so I was familiar with its sticky, chewy flavour.

I was just about to leave the place, but I didn’t see the crystal clear glass doors, so I smacked my head right into it. Thanks god for those wall faced tables, so nobody, except stuff and people standing outside not paying too much attention, could see what happened. I got myself a tea in 7-Eleven because the Japanese beer didn’t help much with my hangover and headed to Hongik station to wander around.

I knew I was going to see 경복궁 (Gyengbokgung Palace), but that was all I have planned for that day. I got off at some random station as I still couldn’t think clearly because of the alcohol. I had no idea what was happening, but after a couple of hundred meters, I was standing right in front of Seoul Museum of history, which I wanted to see the next day. What a coincidence. I went inside as I would probably never find it the other day.

Museum was packed with young people, even couples, which were all enjoying the exhibition. I’m not sure if a museum is what I would consider a perfect date, but at least they don’t drink themselves to death as me!? Anyway, I spent more than an hour there, learning about Korean history.

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My sense of navigation wasn’t working that day, so I walked the opposite direction than intended and ended up right next to 경희궁 (Gyeonghuigung Palace). I’ve never heard of the place before, and judging by the lack of people there, neither did anyone else. I made some quick photos as the exterior was nice and walked to 광화문광장 (Gwanghwamun Square) couple of hundred meters away.

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I could already see some statue from the distance, which I later found out was Admiral Yi Sunsin. I took a crappy picture of it because it was quite dark after rain and moved to another statue of King Sejong. I didn’t feel very safe around the area because there were a lot of cops everywhere for no apparent reason, so I took another quick photo and was back on my way. While looking over my shoulder to see if costumed thugs (with no guns to my surprise) aren’t following me, I realized there’s an entrance under the statue. There was quite an extensive exhibition hall called "The Story of King Sejong". Being an anarchist, I hate statists of any kind, but I must admit that King Sejong seemed like a smart guy, that invented Hangeul (Korean alphabet) and was responsible for many other great achievements in fields of science, culture, art, etc.

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After hours spent learning about Korean history, I’ve finally reached Gyeongbokgung palace. The main gate was closed, so I went to the side entrance. There were no tourists, which is quite unusual in Asia for one of the most popular tourist attractions, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I walked in, and I got to another closed gate. I couldn’t see any visible signs or instructions so I thought it’d be a great idea to go downstairs. There was some kind of underground entrance nearby that I thought could get me to another side of the gate. Just a parking lot… All ashamed of myself I went back to at least took some pictures of the sunset over the closed palace.

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It was getting dark very quickly, so I was going to find City Hall station to get back to Hongdae. I saw a massive "ice cream statue" in the distance instead. It was a square where 청계천(Cheonggyecheon) - Seoul’s "river park" - was streaming from a lovely waterfall. Even though the place was right in the middle of busy downtown, it was quiet and peaceful, and I could easily spend hours sitting by the river bank or walking along the stream.

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I remembered there was a night market called 광장시장 (Gwangjang market) around the area. I didn’t eat for many hours, so I went there to get some traditional Korean food. Too bad nobody could speak English, and none of the food looked like it didn’t contain any meat. At least I could get some lemonade with Sprite (just a sprite with two slices of lemon) from a stand. I got back to Cheonggyecheon to enjoy my quite expensive 3 500 KRW drink next to the river. It was long, and I was getting exhausted from all the walking, so I decided to find a green metro line to Hongdae. Before I was able to find a subway station, I’ve stumbled upon some business/entertainment district I’ve never heard of. I found out on the Foursquare that I was standing next to 동대문역사문화공원 (Dongdaemun history & culture park), but it was already dark which iPhone camera can’t handle at all, so all tired, I just sat on the bench for more than half an hour gaining some strength.

The nearest station was right next to the park, so I thought I’m not gonna walk too far. Bullshit. I missed the departure terminal in 동대문역사문화공원역 (Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station), ended up walking to 을지로4가역 (Euljiro 4-ga station) through an underground shopping "centre", that I felt like was spread under the whole Seoul area. Finally, I somehow got to the train and was on my way to Hongik Station. It was only my second day living in Hongdae, and I wasn’t yet very familiar with the largest subway station I saw in my life. Obviously, I exited at the wrong exit and got lost. No worries, I still had my iPhone with me in case something went wrong. I continued my way along the dark alley praying there will be some vegetarian place to at least have some soup. I’ve found something much better - an English cafe packed with foreign beers.

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The owner of the cafe called "Under the Bridge" was a nice Australian guy that invited me over to a table full of girls. They happened to have a language cafe at the time, so we were chatting in English, while I was slowly doing what I know the best. Getting drunk. I mean tasting all the nice beers to see if the quality matches with what we have in Europe.

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