(merkit hukassa)

Adventures in Korea

Tag Archives: pic or didn’t happen

BIG SHOW… and yeah the school started too

The orientation day at Ajou held in just as many PowerPoint presentations as I expected. Quite a many that is. But the information was useful and very down to earth and the lunch buffet was overwhelming and huge. Lots of vegetarian choices too! The OIA staff seems really nice and helpful and the AGA members are hard working folk. I figured out my course schedule and I have Fridays off! Yay!

Awsome lunch is awesome.
Spot the Finns

Then the main course – BIG SHOW 2011, first one of the three Big Bang concerts. Korean pop – K-pop for short – is a huge thing all over Asia, as well as among freaks particular music diggers all around the world. Big Bang has been one of the most popular groups for years – if not the most popular. It was also my first contact with K-pop so I didn’t think twice when Ryo mentioned Puu had and extra ticket (I didn’t even know it was possible to get the tickets, but Puu’s amazing). Here’s a shining example of their music (with Seagways and a tank) – GD&TOP’s 뻑이가요.

There is a straight bus from Ajou to where I was aiming, but I was too stupid to find it… and I was running late so I just took the route I knew. A long route. And crowded. And sweaty. Quite a lot of staring occurred too. But I got there on time, finally, and managed to spot Puu’s amazing pink hair in midst of thousands of screaming tiny fans. After hours of waiting we finally got to our standing area, which was pretty well located – we managed to see the guys up close, really close.
Big Bang

Every Big Bang fan.
Every Big Bang fan.

The show was big business. Thousands of screaming fans holding up their crown-shaped light sticks and chanting fan chants to every song, laser show, fireworks, Seagways, pink tank, hilarious parody fan service version (which might have been a bit gay) of popular drama Secret Garden, confetti and the amazing charisma those guys ooze. Even my hardened iceberg of a heart fluttered, and not just a little. Oh I just admit it, I was totally into it, in my moderate Finnish way. Not as much as those little ones though, they were a bit scary, but luckily so small that I could hold my place if I wanted. Nothing compared to moshpits of huge drunk neo-nazis back in Finland.

The taxi ride from Olympic Park to Hongdae was scary, but Puu said it was actually pretty good compared to average. IT WAS FREAKING SCARY. I calmed down when I got food. Really spicy tofu soup and those good side dishes they offer at BBQ places. That place’s gotta be my favorite, the staff was lovely. And I almost cried when I got back to the hostel and saw a group of good people I met last week. I was so happy to see them again and it felt like coming home. And I was only away for one night.

So I guess this is the honeymoon period of culture shock? I’ll give you pictures when I get back to dorms tomorrow.

PS. Wives, I would have bought some fan stuff for you but they sold it out hours before I got there.

PPS. For some reason everything I’ve done so far has been a bit gay… and this was supposed to be a conservative country! Or is it just me?

Noraebang and free dinners

I got real home made tteokbokki  – there’s an awesome lady staying at the hostel and she makes delicious food! Tteokbokki is a sort of Korean pasta stew. There is strange, but delicious rice pasta, chili sauce, onions, spring onions and fish cake in it. (I gave my fish cakes away and tried to ignore the possibility of fish sauce in the broth.) The taste was rich and a bit hot. I was afraid it would be more spicy, but it wasn’t too bad.

I tasted Hongdae nightlife yesterday with my new-made friends from the hostel. Of course I didn’t bring my camera, who would want to take pictures of awesome margarita bongs and crazy fashion, smoke bubbles and shabby karaoke rooms?

Hongdae is, I was told, the mecca for cool kids and freaky fashion. The Americans knew how things roll here and lead us through the masses of party people. We started our night in Margarita Splash, which was a funky and colorful little store that served drinks in bong like huge bottles (15000 won). Too bad I didn’t take a picture, but I stole this from Soul Food blog.

margarita splash

Continuing to Cuccoon Noraebang – a karaoke room – to sing and to try some local alcohol beverages was a great idea. Makgeolli was pretty good, it’s milk colored rice beer and it tastes just like kotikalja but goes into your head. Soju is pretty much Koskenkorva, but made of rice. Weak vodka. The local beers, maekju, are mostly lagers and brewed from rice, so they have no bitter aftertaste and the flavor is rather weak. Easy to drink though. Maybe too easy (is what I have been thinking all day). We finalized the tour with this really funky upstairs bar with sisha and soap bubbles. (Noraebang 15000 won/hour, Sisha 18000 won, local draft beer 4000 won)

EDIT: went there next day to take a picture. A crappy picture.

gr8

Today has been almost useless, but we went to see a movie (9000 won / person) with Luce at Lotte Cinema (right next to Hongik Station). The movie, 127 hours, was based on a true story of a trekker who got stuck in a canyon and spent 127 hours trying to collect his guts to cut off his hand and escape. In which he finally succeeded. The camera work was awesome, but the speakers at the theater were really loud. Next time I will bring my earplugs.

Lotte Cinema

Notions:

  • There doesn’t seem to be any legislation controlling the opening/closing times, so you could probably greet the sunrise happily drunk.
  • You can walk with your drink on the streets
  • There seems to be no legislation controlling the amount of alcohol bars are allowed to serve per customer. I got mine with some eight or ten shots of booze.
  • They also sell drinks to-go. In plastic zip lock bags even.
  • The red light sign in the taxis indicates they’re free. That doesn’t mean they’ll take you on if you are going somewhere near.
  • The traffic is crazy.
  • The fashion is crazy too.
  • You can smoke in bars. Sometimes they have smoking cubicles, but usually not. You can also smoke on the streets, which wasn’t always allowed in Japan.
  • Korean students can have a massive drinking party at the hostel and it can dissolve in seconds. They even wash the dishes.

If Oulu was Seoul, the airport would be in Hailuoto

AHEM! Where to start? This is going to be a long post – so much has happened in these couple of days.

I went on my excessive farewelling tour around Finland. On Monday I went to pick up my 500,000 wons and had an ISIC card made for me (12 €, Kilroy) – just in case I want to get the Korea rail pass. Helsinki in winter is violently boring and slippery.

The journey itself was very non-dramatic, so I tried to concentrate on details and feelings… but to tell about it would bore you and me to death so here’s an outline of my boring two-part series of flights.

I checked myself in on-line the night before, so all I had to do in Helsinki-Vantaa was to walk through security check, wait and queue. Amsterdam from air looked interesting and the airport was way too huge. I saw an amazing frequent flier passport checking thing, where you just inserted your personal card and proceeded through a series of serious cyber gates by fingerprint or iris scanning. The other gates were organized poorly and the Chinese were unable to comprehend.

KLM used ridiculously big boeing-something. They entertained us with a funny remote control – phone – entertainment system. I was amazed when I got the vegetarian meal I had ordered. Usually I end up starving. Not perfect though, I think I asked for vegan food but got ovo-lacto. Still better than nothing. Flight was for 10,5 hours which was enough to get frustrated on stewardesses who kept pestering us every hour. I did sleep a bit but not too well. Against my nature, I actually chatted with the lady next to me. What the heck, that lady was a gorgeous Japanese girl, who wouldn’t have?

Then I got to Seoul.

First impressions:

  • The scenery in general reminds me a tad too much of Hailuoto. With mountains. The airport is on an island.
  • The airport has a nice shuttle-train, whee!
  • I was tired, hated myself and people were staring.
  • I didn’t realize I need to fill in another landing card for immigrations, in addition to that hard-questions-on-a-tiny-piece-of-paper given me by the flight attendants. Even the Chinese grandmas knew better. (You can find the papers on the little desks at the immigration gates, don’t forget!) After that I just walked through immigrations and customs (where I handed in the other little piece paper) and out of the airport.
  • Or not exactly –  the train station is in the airport. Just follow the Airport Train -signs downstairs and through the hall.
  • There are no policemen in Helsinki-Vantaa airport. In Incheon (horribly young) policemen wield assault rifles. In Amsterdam the only weird thing was that all the shop clerk girls seemed to cover their heads with a scarf and be feminists.
  • Buying a train ticket is surprisingly easy when a nice young info-girl does it for you. A ticket from Incheon to Hongik University was a bit over 4000 won. The train was clean, and at that time rather empty, with announcements in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. They also had very clear announcements for transfer hubs. More about trains when I know more.
  • Simple getting-there instructions can be made complicated.
  • People like to talk. Which is nice.
  • TOP is nothing. NOTHING. Compared to the guys that walk on Seoul streets. Or more like, the star style doesn’t really differ that much from the common people style – Seoul people at a glans seem really stylish. I, on the other hand, feel colorful. Were blue jeans a mistake=!=!!=????

I’m staying at Hongdae Guesthouse 2.0 Yellow Submarine, a couple of minutes walk from Hangik University station. The getting there instructions were hard to understand, so I did as advised and dropped by at the first Hongdae Guesthouse. The hostel owner Mary is a charming person: talkative and cute. I sat there for a while talking with her and the part timers and guests and then with Mary’s good instructions and a map I found my way to the second guesthouse. The price for two nights is 34200 won – thats 25 euros. Nice people, if a bit weird. The house is really warm, thanks to floor heating, and now they all think I’m some sort of arctic specialty as I walk around wearing a wife-beater.

So, from now on I have made detailed plans: gonna sleep pretty soon. Tomorrow I will do something. After that I’ll do something else.

PS. No hope for veganism at least for weeks. People were apologetic when I told them I don’t eat seafood. That seems to be the issue. I think I’ll stick with bakeries until I figure something sustainable. Oh, and the fried rice (don’t worry, it’s veggies) had fish in it :D

PPS. No pictures, suckers. I didn’t feel like it.

Farewell party

We had my farewell party yesterday, combined with my new flat mates’ house warming party.  Thanks, all you who participated. Too bad I couldn’t talk with you all as much as I wanted. Leave me your address in the comments or email/facebook it, and I’ll send you all the weird and questionable postcards I can find.

I would post some pictures from the party, but for some reason there appears to be Kim Jong-il in every single one, shadowing my bright future in S.Korea. And posting pictures of him would be, if not entirely inappropriate, at least tasteless. Right? I’ll post some on /b/.

Also, as we played spin the bottle last night, I was dared to tag a set phrase in five different locations around S.Korea, and as the code of netizens says: “Pic, or didn’t happen.” I’ll hide the evidence somewhere here and there.