Monday, November 1, 2010

Yongsan, Namdaemun, & Dobongsan

(One of the temples on Dobongsan)

This weekend was something else. I would have never expected Saturday night to turn out the way it did in a million years.

To begin the weekend, JC and I decided to do some camera hunting in Yongsan. There is a massive electronics mart right by the subway station. We both had come prepared with information on our desired products. JC couldn't seem to find what he was looking for, but every single vendor had the camera I was seeking (Canon T1i). Each shop had a very different price they were quoting me for the camera kit. This price ranged anywhere from 700,000 - 970,000 won. Eventually, I found a mildly sketchy guy that took me behind his display and let me mess around with the camera I wanted to buy. We settled on a price of 650,000 won, which was better than anything I'd seen at any other store. I've never really been in a position where it was acceptable to haggle, but it really make the shopping experience completely different. I liked it. Right before leaving, we stopped by another electronics store that looked slightly more legitimate. I thought that this browsing location was going to turn out to be pretty pointless, but boy, was I wrong. I asked a few vendors for prices, and finally I came across one man that didn't just tell me a price. He pulled out his calculator to type in the price, like all of the shop merchants do, but instead of typing, he asked, "Best price?" I figured what the hell, and told him 600,000. He seemed very hesitant, but eventually said, "Okay! 600,000 won." I felt very accomplished at that moment, but I didn't actually have any money, so I plan to go back and make the purchase once I get paid.

While JC was contemplating his possible purchase, we took a step outside to find that there was a snowboard hill constructed on the sidewalk outside Yongsan Station. It was so random, but we sat down on the steps and watched snowboarders for at least an hour. It was very entertaining, even though 4 out of every 5 runs down the slope were pretty pathetic. I say this as though I am some sort of snowboard god or something; I'm not. There were just a number of disappointing attempts.

(Snowboard park at Yongsan)

After this, we decided to take the subway out to Namdaemun, because I had read about some grey market shops that sold canons extra cheap: illegally imported from Japan. We went searching for camera, which turned out to be considerably more expensive than my haggled canon in Yongsan, but found so much more. Who would have guessed that Namdaemun Market on a Saturday night could be so much fun? Not me. We learned that Koreans are baffled by white guys walking around with Mokguli (Korean rice wine). They just ask in a surprised voice, "Mokguli?!" This happened at least ten times. I was pretty hungry, so we settled in to a little street food vender and met these three great people: an older woman, and to men in their thirties. We sat down, drank, and talked with them for at least an hour and a half. They were feeding us all sorts of food and teaching us about Korean people and their "one heart." Apparently people from China and Japan have two hearts. They will be nice to your face and walk away saying that they don't like you, but in Korea, they have only one heart. The talk to you and if they like you, they really like you. When they walk away, they feel the same way they did before. Interesting point of view. I like it. Eventually, we made our way home, because I had to be up for a hike pretty early in the morning.

(JC at the entrance to Namdaemun Market)

(Refill on Mokguli)

(JC and our new friend, Ham)

(Myself and Do-ming)

The next morning started off a little rocky. Let's just say that I woke up way too late. I was supposed to meet up with Chelsea at Pyeongchon Station at 8:15. I didn't arrive until 8:45. Just to be safe, I still got off the subway and waited to make sure that she wasn't late like me. She wasn't. I got on the subways and was supposed to meet the SHITY group at 10:00am at Dobongsan Station. I arrived at 10:30ish and couldn't find Chelsea or the SHITY group. At this point, I had submitted to a solo hike. After purchasing a kimbap and two apples, I departed on my hike, alone. This turned out to be pretty nice, except for the fact that there were a billion people on the mountain yesterday. Because this trail is so close to Seoul, everybody goes out there.

(The first 1.5 hours was spent walking in a line like this.)

Shortly after this photo was taken, I happened to find Chelsea on the mountain. This was a pleasant surprise. I then had company for the remainder of the hike. Once we started really hiking up into the mountain, towards the peak, the crowds thinned out, and it was very fun. We actually ran into the SHITY hikers about an hour after our meet up. In the end, I saw everybody I was planning on seeing. SUCCESS! They also talked me into hiking next weekend. I think I'll be able to make it back for Mindy's, one of our Korean teacher's, wedding on Sunday. The hike took about 6 hours or so. I'm far less sore after this one. When we reached the base, we ordered up a big pan full of Kimchi Chigae and a bottle of mokguli: a well-deserved treat. After the meal, we headed home. This weekend was definitely one to remember. I feel like I've been making the most of things recently.

(Posing at the peak)

(Statues at one of the temples on the mountain)

(Victory Chigae)

(A video from the peak)

Yongsan Electronics Mart: Yongsan Station, Line 1 / Jungang. When you exit the subway, you will find yourself in a building housing a subway station, train station, and a mall. After walking up the subway stairs, walk away from the train station. Take your first right through the card scanners. You will find yourself in an area that is sort of outside and sort of inside, then turn right and walk all the way down to the HUGE glass windows. Turn right down a sketchy looking hallway, and about 20 meters down, you will find an even sketchier looking skywalk to crosses over a train yard into the Electronics Mart.

Namdaemun Market: Hoehyeon Station, Line 4

Dobongsan: Exit 1 Dobongsan Station, Line 1 / Line 7. After you exit, follow the side walk to a bridge that takes you out to the road. Cross the road and walk up the stairs; you will find yourself in a very busy area with lots of food and hiking shops. Simply follow the sea of people, and you will find yourself at the entrance to the hiking trails.

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