Tuesday, August 3, 2010

War Memorial Of Korea and Shopping In Itaewon

Two weekends ago we made a Sunday trip to Seoul to explore and try to get some ideas for Christmas gifts. To get to Seoul from our train station you can:

  • take the slow train, takes about an hour  
  • take the slow train to the KTX line, over all takes maybe 40-45 minutes 
  • take the subway and do 3 transfers, this takes about an hour and a half

We bought our tickets for the slow train, even getting lucky enough to get seats.

With tickets in hand we headed to the food court to grab lunch. Now with just about everything in Korea food courts here are a little different from at home; for instance this one is made up of six different restaurants and you go to one place in the center to order. Once you order you are given numbers and told to watch the screens and wait for your numbers to pop up. To me this just seemed so cool because you can get different things from different places and just order and pay once . Ryan’s food popped up after few minutes, being smart he order shrimp fried rice and Asians are pros at this, sadly I ordered spicy rice pasta noodles with cheese (not the official Korean name for them) so mine took about 10 minutes longer than Ryan’s. Sadly these amazing noodles came out of the kitchen in a boiling hot bowl, and with about 7 minutes or so till our train left things didn’t look as good as my noodles smelled. Ryan knowing that I have yet to mastered the skill of eating hot pasta without scolding the top of my mouth on cheese grabbed his plate and started fishing them out for me so that they could cool. I dug in crossing my fingers in hopes of speed eating pasta without getting it all over myself. For once I was lucky I got away burn and stain free!

After dinning and dashing we had a nice relaxing ride to Seoul enjoying views of the rice field and country side. Once in Seoul we jumped off the train grabbed some Marble Slab ice cream to help take place of the pasta that was left behind and then started out in the direction of the War Memorial. On our walk we found a nice little woman selling DVD’s at the amazing price of 5 for 10,000 Won. So we picked 5 out and I would have to say that we are lucky that 4 out of 5 work, however out of all the ones not to work the one Ryan was really looking forward to seeing is the one that didn’t work. Sadly we were in Seoul again this weekend and our DVD woman was not open, however we have faith because her stand is still there.

Anyways we were now off to see the War Memorial with shopping to follow. I must say that off the bat Seoul didn’t look like I thought it would, things were a little more spread out and not as flashy as I had pictured, however I was still hopeful for the day to come. Before we left we checked the weather because all it did the day before was rain and www.weather.com told us that it would be about 85 degrees with a 90% chance of rain, I am still not to sure why we felt the need to head out with those odds; however I am glad we did because it turned out to a great day full of sun and just a little sweat. After a short 30 minute walk we were there and sadly at first I was not to happy about it and I am not even sure why, maybe I was still just grumpy that Ryan wouldn’t let me get a puppy, maybe I was just a little hot, maybe I was just being a grump.

However once inside I started to get more excited about it, now granted I was not as “into it” as Ryan was but I was warming up to it. They are celebrating 60 years since the end of the Korean War and have changed some of the exhibits to show more of what goes on at the DMZ and how it has all changed over the years, we hope to get a chance to spend more time there and find out more about the exhibit later. Anyways it was full of all kinds of old army stuff like old trucks, guns, big bullets, grenades, memorials to the soldiers of the war, even a mock up of an old castle, some old wood ships just to name a few things and then outside was helicopters, air plains, mines that were put in the water and some even still remain, more memorials, tanks, one even had sound and moved to mimic what I guess it would of looked/sounded like, missiles, and other war things. Now for some reason I can’t tell you what half the stuff is however I have always loved to look at it and go up in it when allowed. Just to think about what it would of been like to even what it has to be like today.

I took some pictures of some of the stuff we got to see and will try to get the captions as close as I can to right from either memory or handout. See the next blog.

Ok so to the shopping part! We jumped in a taxi to head to Itaewon to do some shopping, only to get looked at funny by the taxi driver and dropped off not even 5 minutes away. Ooops

The first place we went was to the robe store where Ryan found the traditional Korean robes he got for our moms and his grandma last Christmas. These things are hand made, hand embroider, and just so amazing. We then bounced around some random side alleys finding cool little shops full of what looked like vintage cloths and even a few purse and shoe sales. As always I was happy to find a 10,000 Won bag, that is about 8 USD, kick starting me on 10,000 Won hunt. For some reason I like to try to find odd things for under 10,000 Won to the point where I make a game of it and possible drive Ryan insane.

Once back on one of the side streets (yes side ally and side street are different) we did a little shopping just popping in and out of random stores till we landed in a good one full of backpacks for backpackers and found one just like Ryan has been looking for, and it just so happen to be our lucky day because the guy liked the fact that we are here teaching English so he made us a deal, or so he said.

Ryan’s new backpack was great to hold the things we had already bought but made it more of a pain to try to talk people down on things because we went from just looking like tourist because we are white to basically screaming “HEY WE ARE TOURIST RIP US OFF” because of the hug bag we now had.

Once back on the main street with less seedy shops we were able to get some ideas for gifts for family and even a few things we may be interested in bringing back for ourselves. For instance Ryan has been looking for a traditional Korean style box, not big but not small and not flashy but not dull, yea sounds easy enough to find right? Well sadly the bag seemed to be all the luck he would have because most of the shops we found with boxes were antique stores. I have been looking for a tea set or a set of Korean china to bring back and had some luck in a really cool shop where the guy told us he made everything by hand, however sadly this man was not Korean he was Indian making it very hard for me to buy “Hand Made Korean” anything from him. I also have been looking for a quilt but sadly found none that day.

We wondered down to check out the new Taco Bell they just built only to be shocked by the line that was way out the door and down the street. See bellow:

Yes those purple people are at the end of the line. So as you can guess we skipped on Taco Bell.

We wondered around a little more popping into a mall like area to check on prices for a few things we had seen out on the streets. Sadly most of the stores we went in including the mall like area everyone wanted to ask about Rolex's. Now so far in Itaewon I have seen some amazing and I mean amazing knock off’s of just about everything, I mean you can buy fake polo with fake tags on the street for 10,000 Won, you can buy fake Guess, Gucci, Coach anything you want however these are all legal from what I have gathered but the fact that everyone waits till you are in their store to pull out a baggie full of watches and ask about a Rolex makes me think that Rolex’s are a big no no. We were even standing in the middle of what was like a department store when the woman behind the counter moved around the displays to pull up a bag of watches and start showing them to us as we tried politely tell her no thanks and walk away. Ryan shaking his head for he already owns a real Rolex.

As we reached the end of shopping area we turned to head back and found a cute jewelry shop where I got a few very unique things. My favorite being a bunny ring that is hard to explain now that I think about it so maybe I will get some pictures up later. However one thing I do have a picture of is what I might have to say is someone being a little too patriotic, and yes that is a Korean so I am not to sure about this patriotic choice to wear an American flag.

Sadly this is still nothing, I really do need to keep my camera on me 24-7.
After a few more shops we came across a Mexican restaurant that was not half bad. However fair warning I would stay around from Margaritas in Korea unless you see a Mexican or white person making them. They tried hard though at the restaurant to make it look and feel as much like Mexico as they could, even doing chips and salsa before you meal.

After dinner we started to make our back to the subway to catch the train. Along the way I had to stop in a few more shoe and purse places. In one of them Ryan was lucky enough to find his “Pimp” shoe only to find out that they didn’t have his size. Sadly the picture below doesn’t even get close to showing how amazing they really were.

Sadly after the finding of the “Pimp” shoes our night was pretty dull. We hoped a few subways to get back to Seoul Station, caught a train out and headed home. We were not lucky enough to get seats but we were lucky enough to squeeze in behind the last row of seats so we could at least enjoy the AC. One of the men in the seats spoke some English so he spent a good bit of the ride talking to Ryan about just everything and anything just trying to practice his English, sadly we figure that is what most random people who want to talk to us are doing.

Anyways once back we jumped on the last bus out, most buses stop running at 11 here, and headed to our apartment. And that was our day!


Anonymous said...

Hi Megan, sounds like you two had a great day. The pics of the museum are really cool. I also dig the pimp shoes - Bummer they didn't have Ryan's size. Sounds like you guys are pros at the trains and transport. Keep searching for those under 10,000 Won deals. Take Care.

Chastity said...

I haven't ridden the train yet here. I will when we go on our big vacation. Doesn't seem to difficult. Although, I always worry about public transportation being late. Your food court experience is interesting. It sounds more convenient! I think Jacob told me the restaurants in England are the same way. I wanna go to England one day. Do they have like discount shopping stores around where you live ? They don't have those here.