Two Savages in Southeast Asia

Oppa Gangnam Style

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Psy’s op op op op
It all seems so clear from here
Oppa Gangnam style

We had a delicious breakfast of pastries and saw Taejin off to work (more like he saw us off to the city, but..). We decided to start our day with a rousing hike up Namsan, which we unfortunately couldn’t do yesterday. About 20 minutes into it, we started questioning our choice to go to Jeju for a hiking vacation… it’s hot here, and hiking with the packs can only be hotter. But, too late now!

The view from the top of Namsan is beautiful, with still-extant ancient fortifications framing scenes of the modern skyline. A few chain-link structures sit covered in love locks (a couple writes their names on a padlock, then locks it to the chains and keeps the key). Seoul tower stretches up into the sky, but we don’t pay to go up since it’s pretty hazy anyway.

On the way back down, we stopped at a spot we noticed on the way up: the cartoon art museum. We happened to be visiting during their annual Seoul International Cartoon Arts Festival (SICAF), so we got tickets to join in the fun! Several locations around the area are participating with various events and exhibitions. The first one we stopped into was a series of mechanical animations built by a Korean Canadian fellow, who was tickled pink that we came to hear from him. He snapped some photos with us and gave us his business card.

The exhibits became stranger as we continued, with one featuring a crew of costumed employees, one of whom was in a mocap suit, acting out a battle between giant armor suits (mecha). We had no idea what they were yelling at each other, except when they talked about their mecha, called “Prototype”. We thoroughly enjoyed the strangeness of this experience.

There was a hall of Gundam art and one of Canadian cartoons (some of which are very weird, look up “The Cat Came Back” if you have the chance), and a coffee shop was showing a live action version of a popular Korean web comic. Eventually we decided that we’d had enough comics for the day, so we set out to stroll along a river Taejin had recommended. It was a lovely walk, although quite hot, with nice bridges and well-kept paths.

Eventually came the day’s main event, where we took the subway through rush hour traffic and met Taejin at Gangnam station. We take in the vast consumerism of the place, with malls built everyplace that they’ll fit, including, Taejin informs us, places that used to house historic bakeries that were torn down for the purpose of malling. People stride around with their perfect plastic surgery faces and bodies, and we felt very much like we understood Gangnam Style. We used one of the media poles located along the street to send a strange photo of ourselves to our parents.

For dinner, we got Korean fried chicken. This is totally different from American fried chicken, as it has no horrifying greasy coating or weird salty crunch. It’s just delicious. We failed to down all the chicken we bought, but we packed it into a box and grabbed a bottle of rice alcohol (750mL for just 1,200won; about $1!) for later.

Just on top of Gangnam station is a bright display which reads GANGNAM STYLE, which bears the silhouettes of two dancers. Taejin told us that Psy himself used to be on this sculpture, but he apparently sued the city over it as he no longer appears. We got into the appropriate poses and had some kind passerby take Gangnam photos of us.

Taejin, like all good Koreans, gets daily exercise, and we accompanied him on his run this evening. We ran about 5k to a dessert cafe street, during which we paused to taste milk (why the guy was giving milk samples at 11pm on Friday night along a river, I’ll never know). We ordered a trio of delicious juices, coconut, passionfruit, and watermelon. We got a cab back to his house for just about $4, which is an amazing price to pay for a cab all the way across town.

To finish the night, we ate some fried tofu and cucumber and washed it down with the cheap rice alcohol. I can attest that the alcohol isn’t very good, but Taejin says there are better sorts to be found in Korea. Maybe we’ll get some on Jeju.