Thursday, March 20, 2008

3/22/08 First Hours in Korea

Tung, Clarence, and I stepped off the bus from the airport around 7pm on Thursday. Thus starts my time in Seoul, the capital city of Korea.

While I didn't get a good look at the airport due to all the rushing around, I had read earlier that it was pretty futuristic, and I managed to get a quick shot of a nice looking part.

Ooh, spaceshippy

Of course, going to a new country, we had to exchange our currency into Korean won. One dollar equals about 1,000 won, and the highest bill's denomination is 10,000 won. So when the three of us exchanged our money together, we got a couple fat stacks of cash, some of them still bearing the official wrap thing from the bank. I was having fun with the weight of all the paper in my pocket, and I played around with it a bit once we found the hotel.

By the time we found our hotel and got settled, it was pretty late in the night, so we had a limited number of entertainment options for our first night in Korea. We wandered a bit with the help of a map and some half-baked directions from the hotel's front desk.

One of the best parts of being someplace new is that you can be completely lost in the middle of nowhere and its still tons of fun. The newness of everything is awesome.

Eventually we found the Dongdaemun gate, with the huge Dongdaemun market close by. Despite probably being at least 10 o'clock already, it was still well populated with buyers and sellers alike. It was an interesting clash of cultures. There were four or five tall malls, decked out in flashing lights and filled to the brim with clothing of all types. Between the malls on both sides of the streets, then, was packed with little tables and tents offering the usual street market stuff. There was lots of clothes of questionable quality sporting counterfeit labels, interesting little food stalls, and piles of copied CDs and DVDs. I don't think I bought anything, but the time was definitely worth it.

Dongdaemun Gate

Clarence and Tung examining the merchandise

A small but well decorated storefront.

Along the way we had our first meal. Despite our total lack of language ability and complete lostness, we did pretty well. We picked a place that was well populated and stepped in.

Mmm, fried chicken

The meal started how they since often have, with a bowl or two of free little snacks. This time we got some kind of crunchy and light-tasting pickled vegetable and a bowl of crispy rice puffs. They are superior to the Japanese variety in three ways. They always taste good, they are free, and if we finish a bowl another quickly replaces it.

The chicken was sweet and spicy. It was a refreshing change, as there doesn't seem to be much spicy food available where I live.

The beer was way cheaper than in Japan and came in comically large amounts.

Online gaming is huge in Korea, and its presence is obvious. Internet cafes advertising games are a common sight from the street.

As further evidence of the massive popularity of online gaming, at multiple points throughout the day we have been able to view a TV channel that follows competitive Starcraft(a PC game released in 1998) games play by play. A shout out to my friend Sam, who somehow already new that this channel was available.


  1. Anonymous10:09 PM

    You are rich!! in korea. I dont know if all that money is going to be enough to buy me presents... I just wanted to say that those pictures are great!
    Other thing...there is a fried chicken place called ¨KOKORIKO¨here in Colombia. Remember the place you ate with plastic gloves..well.. that was KOKORIKO. Im wondering if they copied that from us... eheh

  2. Anonymous4:24 PM

    John, it's been a while since we've been in communication but all that is about to change. I just got word that I am heading to Yokohama for a conference June 20 to 27. I expect to see you!
    email me at