After visiting the War Memorial of Korea, I was starving, but the thing about everywhere in South Korea is that there are tons of places to eat. It’ds an overload of options and so many times during my stay here, I had a near impossible time choosing. This time, I had help. I hadn’t walked too far from the memorial when I ventured past a restaurant with Korean writing on it, as usual, but what was unusual was it read “Since 1981.” I took it as a sign because I too am since 1981.
I walked in, took a seat and ordered the fish stew. There were only two lunch options. I figured the fish would be the most adventurous. I was accurate. I also ordered my first bottle of soju, which, unbeknown to me, had a 19 percent alcohol content. Pretty strong stuff.
The guy next to me asked if it was my first time to have soju (no, I hadn’t taken a swig and made a face). I said it was and he complimented the drink. The bottle came with a small glass and I told him that I wouldn’t finish it, so I told him to have some. The waitress brought an extra shot glass and we toasted each other. He toasted to my trip and I toasted to South Korea. He left and I finished my fish stew.
Now the fish stew was quite good, even though it did have fish intestine. Hey! That’s why I’m traveling to another country. To get the culture. I did taste the intestine. It wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t gobble it up either. I had a few more bites and then left it alone. There were plenty of bones in the fish that I had to work through. Overall, however, it was good.
THE SEOUL TOWER DEATH MARCH
After fish stew, I went back toward the apartment area. I decided to view Seoul from the Tower, since it was too late in the day to visit Daejeon. This walk reminded me a lot of the sideview mirrors on cars where it says “Objects are closer than they appear.” The only difference was the object wasn’t nearly as close as it appeared.
As I mentioned in a prior post, I had to rent a cell phone. The downside about this phone (an iPhone 5) is that once the power hit about 40 percent, it went dark. Like ghost dark. Like zero dark thirty. But not like dark knight rises, because that would insinuate that the phone was doing all right for itself. But it wasn’t.
I began to follow the path laid out for me by the phone. It began a long and arduous journey. I went up countless streets only to find dead ends or miscalculations with the map system. I finally decided to take what appeared to be a main path, but that ended up going nearly straight up. Like a 90 degree angle.
I began to ware quickly. My legs were dying because of these steep hills. And hills. Good Lord, the hills of Korea!
I took a wrong turn that I thought would lead me very close to the Tower. I had to assume this because the phone was dead. Well, that path led me nowhere. In fact, it led me down to the original path I had been on, but now there was no way I could reach it. At this point, I was tired and ticked off at myself, this stupid phone, and the cruelty of these hills.
I waited to hail a cab, but I was so out in the middle of “no cab’s land”, that I couldn’t get one. Finally, after much ado, a cab pulled up. I got in and said, “Seoul Tower.” I would have pointed to it, but there were structures in the way. The old man asked, “Tower?” I was getting nowhere. In frustration, I said, “Seoul Station,” meaning just take me back home. I had given up.
We drove a little ways and the Tower came into view. I pointed at it and said, “Tower.” The old man responded, “Oh. Cable car.” Now how in the world is he going to say “cable car” but not understand “Seoul Tower”? I figured he would still take me to Seoul Station, but no, he was kind enough to abide by my initial request.
We pulled up to Seoul Tower, or Cable Car, depending your translation. I got out and looked at the line, which was ridiculously long. But I had worked this hard to arrive there, so I went with it. The line took an hour. In that line, the “cable car” situation made sense as I overheard a couple talking in Korean and then say “cable car.” I guess it doesn’t translate.
We got in the cable car. We went all the way up to the Tower and got out. I was really excited to get some good photos, despite the fact that it was now nighttime and those were not the type of photos I initially wanted. There were various restaurants and coffee places on the base of the tower, which was great for bringing a significant other. And that’s just what everyone had done, save myself.
I realized quickly that my photo op would be subpar because I would actually have to pay a lot more to go all the way up the Tower. That was frustrating, so I said forget it and took photos from where I was. Highway robbery, if you ask me. I did get a coffee and walked around. Looked through the gift shops, of which there was nothing worth buying.
THE WAY BACK DOWN
After about an hour, I decided to jet. I got back on the cable car and went back to ground level. I walked over to a cab driver and asked how much it would be to Seoul Station. I walked away from that offering. It was too much.
I decided I would do what got me here: walk. I began walking toward the general location of Seoul Station. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t too long before I arrived to a subway station that was close to that particular station. When I went down I was blown away at how bright it was and that there were shops everywhere. I traversed the area and decided not to go home just yet. There were a ton of people going up and down the exit of the subway station, so I figured I would follow their lead. I am glad I did. I followed that lead several times.
I was in the middle of the Myeongdong Underground Shopping Center. It also was above ground. There were countless stores along this open area of streets. People filled every section of the streets, along with vendors selling all kinds of treats, including fried shrimp, fried octopus, egg bread, cotton candy, fish cake, yaki noodles, bulgogi, and more. It was amazing and I had a real blast.
To a very small, miniscule even, extent, I was happy about going to the Tower and deciding to walk it back. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience the Myeongdong Shopping area.
Next up is my Sunday in Busan. I met up with Sang Lee again and we had a great time. Can’t wait to tell you all about it.