Last September, we were part of a mass exodus of Houston Asians to Taiwan for our friends’ wedding. Philip and I had scored insanely cheap tickets to Taipei, with the only drawback/perk being a 10 hour layover in Incheon airport in Korea. I was actually looking forward to it, as it meant that we could hop into Seoul and eat and drink our way through the city before heading back to catch our flight in the morning.
We had already indulged in some Korean food during our first layover, but it wasn’t enough. I WANTED MOAR.
We twisted the arm of our friend from college, Jason, who had been living in Seoul for the last couple of years to meet us and show us around. We arrived at about 10 pm Saturday night, and found a baggage check station where we paid about ten dollars to have them hold our bags while we were gone. By the time we got outside, the last buses had already pulled out, but we managed to run after one that was going into the city. We were the only ones on the bus and Philip attempted to dazzle our driver with his limited knowledge of Korean, commenting that it was “chuwo” or cold. He was not impressed.
We were dropped off in seemingly middle of nowhere where taxis were sparse. Long story short, after finally grabbing a taxi, and making our way through a series of subway tunnels plastered with transformations of grotesquely shaped chins magically excised into dainty ones, we found our friends Jason and Judy.
We were hungry and tired at this point, so our first order of business was to locate some Korean barbecue. Jason pointed us toward a place with outdoor seating, where we promptly ordered soju, marinated chicken, and pork belly.
After we had our fill, Jason took us to Dongdaemun, where we did some late night shopping. By late night shopping, I mean it was 3 am in the morning, but almost everything was still open. Seoul definitely gives NYC a run for their title of “City That Never Sleeps”. Need an emergency face mask at 4 am for that unruly pimple? No problem. I was able to go into skin care stores like Tony Moly (home of the best fruit-shaped lotions) and Nature’s Republic get some shopping done.
The clothing vendors and souvenir vendors were also open, which was great since I had to pick up a sweater or jacket because I failed to pack for the colder weather in Korea. Despite there being no shoppers in the entire building, the vendor would not budge on the price of a sweater (30 bucks! I could get the same for like 3 in Silk Street Market in Beijing. Just saying…). We even walked away threateningly and sent Jason over to charm the lady as we casually pretend-browsed other stores, all while stealing glances over to check his progress. We must have overestimated the power of Jason’s Korean charm because he came back empty handed. I’m sure my shivering arms and clattering teeth were not a convincing bargaining tool either.
Finally, my only request to Jason was to find me some gamja tang, a pork bone soup. When I visited Korea with my friend Rutit in 2010, our friend Heather took us to some delicious food spots. One of them was a place that specialized in this scrumptious soup, and its hearty broth was forever engrained in the memories of my tastebuds.
And with that, our six hours were up and it was time to go back to airport and zonk out until our flight.