Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Palace, a Buddhist temple & making new Korean friends all in a day

Friday night ended up being a late one, or early depending on how you look at it. We didn't leave the bar until 7:00am but it only felt like about 2:00am, we danced until the sun came up at Norea Bar in Sinchon. The problem with living in Anyang is that you have to take the subway home (or pay for a taxi) which is about a 45 minute ride and it's closed from around midnight to 5:00am. We call it resourceful, but instead of spending our money on a taxi we just stay out until the subway opens back up in the morning and forego the few extra hours of sleep.
Even though I only got 1 1/2 hours of sleep I didn't want to waste my entire Saturday sleeping so I dragged myself out of bed and headed back into Seoul for what would turn into quite an adventurous day. First I headed to Changdeokgung Palace and got there just in time for the English tour. It was my first time going to a palace in Seoul and it turned out to be a good lesson in Korean culture and history. Afterwards I went on a search for a Buddhist temple that was supposed to have a class in English on Sunday evenings. I finally found it but the English class is actually at a different temple on the island of Kanghwa about 60km west of Seoul. Maybe next Sunday...
It's now about 6:30pm and I decide to head to the Gangnam spa to relax and recover from Friday night. On my way there I stop off at Apkujeoung on whim for a bite to eat and to check it out, I had heard it was a fun place for the younger university crowd. I was wandering around trying to decide what I wanted to eat when I heard a Korean guy behind me trying to get my attention. I figured that I dropped something but he came up and asked me where I was from (in perfect English). I told him Kansas and he couldn't believe it because he actually went to KU for a summer! What are the chances? A Korean guy I randomly meet actually went to the same University as me! His name is TKoo and he works for an MBA consulting firm in Apkujeoung. We started talking and ended up meeting up with his colleague, Jamie. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant and then headed to a very posh bar called 'The Strip'. They ordered a very good bottle of Chilean red wine and a cheese and fruit tray. In Korea good cheese is either impossible to find or you have to go to a specialty store and pay outrageous amounts for it, so I considered myself lucky. In the back of the bar was a blackjack table, a roulette table and some other table with ex-professional card dealers standing by. It's illegal for Koreans (but not foreigners) to gamble in Korea so the tables were just for fun, but you could win prizes and drinks. I had a great time talking with TKoo and Jamie, they were actually the first Koreans I've met that spoke English perfectly. It was really interesting being able to converse with Koreans at a deeper level than surface conversation on account of the absence of the language barrier. I had the best night and am very happy to have met such wonderful, funny Korean friends within only a couple weeks of moving here. TKoo drove me back to Boemgye and we're all planning on hanging out in Apkujeoung again soon.