Vast Visions

a year abroad in south korea

Seoul Search II: Eat, Don’t Sleep, Rave, Repeat

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This is pretty overdue, but the past few times I’ve been in Seoul, I’ve been to some amazing concerts and places. So take a deep breath and get ready for a trip, because it’s about to get surreal up in here.

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The first concert I went to in Seoul was last November, and it was an incredible few hours packed with some of Korea’s most current rappers. E-Sens, San E, Bumkey, Swings, and Geeks were some highlights of the show, and it was my first time ever hearing them. My friend, being a huge fan of Korean Rap, recommended the concert to me,  and it was one of those “Hey, why not?” moments that I am so glad I took advantage of. (Honestly, I haven’t regretted one of those moments yet.)

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It was such a crazy clash of cultures – here we have some Korean rappers, swagged out, donning snapbacks and chains, manipulating their language into something you’d hear straight off the decks in NYC. Everyone in the audience bobbed their hands and heads to the flow, and let me tell you, these guys KILLED. Even though I couldn’t understand the language, somehow it didn’t matter. You FELT it – the precision, the timing, the tenacious bob and weave of every verse, till you were so into it you found yourself shouting “OHHHHHH!” with the crowd after a killer passage. I knew the language of music was universal, but this experience truly stunned me.

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We stayed in Gangnam, because who wants to say that they went all the way to Korea and didn’t see Gangnam? My father had a good laugh about it, at least. Although Gangnam is characterized throughout Korea as a wealthy area, my friend and I found a reasonably priced hostel with this beautiful view of the city at night. It was a great weekend trip that ended with some Forever 21 shopping and a tonkatsu lunch (as you all know by now, katsu is my favorite :3)CAM00219…I’m just going to leave this here, in all it’s glistening tonkatsu-ey glory.

And then there was SENSATION.CAM00276

It was a spectacle of an event that I arrived to in style. On the last day of November, I took a party bus from Daegu, and on the way made a few good friends to rave the night away with. After a 5 hour ride, we were let loose into “Wonderland.”

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The theme for this event was “Wicked Wonderland” and it was complete with free beers, pulsing green wristbands, and erotic dancers in strange, strange getups.

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What’s going on now? Are those butterfly wings being inflated across the space? WHAT??

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Visuals for the event were A+. Music was meh. Pretty much standard house music. And another thing – remember those awesome friends that I made on the bus? Well, the caveat to these “all white” dress code events is that YOU LOSE PEOPLE. Turn around for a second and…gone. Not that it mattered too much though, it was still a lot of fun to dance around and randomly bump into other people from Daegu, exchange the arbitrary “WTH are you doing here??” and keep raving away.

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Something seems a tad overwrought here…upside down bulbous ukelele? Radioactive green garlic to keep the Twilight tweens away?

Anyway, I ended up standing/dancing for the length of the concert. I didn’t sit down for 8 hours. The chairs were constantly occupied by girls who thought it was a good idea to wear “kill heels” to an all night dance event. Thankfully, I wore flats, but they slowly got destroyed as the night wore on. The next morning, as we endured the trip back down to Daegu at 5:00 am, I’m pretty sure that my ankles were at 30% functionality as a result of the night’s shenanigans. But I survived!

And here’s the deets of trip #3 to Seoul that I took on the last weekend of 2013, a spontaneous road trip during December’s last leg that was fast, fun, and an absolute blur of a good time:CAM00346

Well, well. Would you look at that view?! That’s from Seoul Tower, where I got some great shots of Korea’s largest city. I thought Central Park in NYC was a unique natural respite in the middle of the city, but the rolling hills and thick forestry in the midst of Korea’s capital are beyond compare.

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The windows at the top of the Seoul tower had various cities and distances on them, spanning every direction. Big ups to NYC~

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Still keeping up with me? Next up, a lovely little teahouse in Insadong, the artsy district of Korea:

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The white little fruit/nut thing on the plate (top right) was surprisingly tough, and when I tried to stab mine with the dessert fork, it…flew into the netherworld. Whoops. The tea that I had was apricot flavored, and it had a very strong fruit flavor, a lot more like hot juice than tea. I’m certainly not going to complain though, tea is always hella good.

Another great highlight of this trip was Castle Praha in Hongdae:

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It’s styled very much like an old world castle (Czech?), complete with some full-flavored beers on tap and wiener schnitzel. No I’m not kidding, I ordered it and it was delicious ;D They also know how to do a good pour on the beers – the perfectly crested foam on top of my Weizen was heaven on Earth.

And then…we partied our hearts out until the next morning. I have no photographic proof of this, which probably attests to the level of cray that it was. Fast forward to hangover morning, 10 am:

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There it was, right in the middle of Seoul: a homely respite that made me feel like I was in old school Korea. The traditional house-styled restaurant, complete with a courtyard opening up to the cold, clear sky, offered us as much of a spiritual cleanse as a culinary one.CAM00374CHICKEN. SOUP. FOR THE SEOULLLLL~~ (sorry not sorry)

We each got a whole chicken, stuffed with white rice and a split chestnut in the very center, steaming in a savory broth. Beautifully simple and filling.

After a restful morning and a visit to a jimjilbang (sauna, shower, spa etc.), we headed home, heads still spinning from the whirlwind weekend that was Seoul.CAM00380For those who were keeping track at home, that was two months and three trips to Seoul! Whew! What a way to wrap up the year!

After being in Korea for four months, I feel like the time has been going so fast. I’m fully immersed in this new lifestyle, and I’m busy nearly every weekend. Trips to Seoul, trips to Busan, downtown shopping sprees and that new restaurant that I always wanted to eat at. It’s a life full to the brim, and I am still drinking it all in.

[Edit: This frenetic lifestyle eventually leads me to a slight existential crisis, as you’ll see in my next post, but life’s not all roses and inflatable butterfly wings, right? Keeping it real with you all in “Together, Alone,” a reflection on how I’ve been keepin’ on so far in the ROK.]

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Author: Natasha

26, student of law but still a dreamer. currently living in chicago.

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