Thursday, February 12, 2009

Korean Impressions

I have not kept a daily journal on this trip to Seoul Korea like I did when I went to Russia. I have however collected my thoughts and reactions to what I have experienced here. I’ll cover as many as I can here:

Soju-This is a traditional Korean alcohol, that has a high alcohol content, somewhere in the 20%+ range. But it is smooth and goes great in a Hite or Max, 2 of the local beers in Seoul. I am bringing some home. The best part about it, it is SOOO cheap. A bottle costs less than $1USD. And no, that amount is not a typo nor is it missing a zero. Cheapest hang over I’ll ever get.

Heated toilet seats-this is something that the US should adopt. That’s right, sitting down to use the toilet and instead of being greeted by a freezing cold seat, there is a nicely warm but not too hot seat to rest your bum on. Makes me want to hang out in the bathroom for much longer than I should!

Fog-Out of the 13 days I was here, 12 of them were foggy and the one that wasn’t foggy was rainy. Pouring actually. I didn’t expect that.

Service-Service here is phenomenal. Everyone is very friendly and even if they cannot speak English, they will still attempt to help you.

Kimchi-Every meal has kimchi. That’s right, kimchi for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Kimchi is pickled cabbage I think. I’m not sure to tell you the truth but whatever it is it is pickled and then steeped in chili paste.

Coffee, Not Tea- I was expecting tea to be the drink of choice and I was excited because I am a lover of tea. Not so much. Coffee is on every corner and is the standard for the working crowd.

Meal Sides- As I said above, kimchi comes with every meal. Along with kimchi there are typically other sides, sometimes it is bean sprouts with chili sauce, sometimes it is radish with chili sauce. The constant is chili sauce. I had an interesting “kimchi” offering while I was here. I ordered pasta one night (yes, I ordered Italian in Korea) and as a side to go along with my olive oil and basil pasta I got bread and butter pickle slices. Strange combo.

Markets-The markets have everything from bottled ginseng, to dried fish, and any knick knack that you can think of. You could get lost at them for hours or find every random treasure that your heart desires.

Boxing Gloves on Motorcycles-Scooters and motorcycles are pretty common here and they all come affixed with gigantic gloves on the handlebars that resemble boxing gloves. I haven’t quite figured out what they are used for; warmth? Maybe. Protection? Maybe. To look tough? Maybe. They make me giggle every time I see them.

Reversing-Have you ever driven down a highway in the US and seen someone reversing down the shoulder of the road? Have you ever said to yourself what a dumbass, I hope they get hit? Well, I have found myself saying that when I see someone reversing down the shoulder as I’m driving 60 to 70 mph past them. I’ve also always found myself asking why one would ever put themselves at risk like that. Well, I’m not so proud to say that yesterday, while I was a PASSENGER in a car, a van actually, the driver missed the exit. Instead of proceeding to the next exit and turning around, what does he do? Pulls over to the shoulder and puts the van in reverse. Oh my God, one of my worst fears come true (and there wasn’t anything I could do).

Hazard Lights- Hazard lights are seldom used at home. Maybe you pop them on if you pull over into a fire zone to go grab a coffee or your dry cleaning just to let the next person know that you don’t plan to be there long. In my various rides around the greater Seoul area, I learned that hazards are used in another form here. When one slams on his/her brakes he/she subsequently turns on the hazard lights of the car to warn the cars behind him/her of the impending slow down and/or stop. I’ve never thought about using my hazards that way!

Mandu- And this is my own theory but so far has held true: when one wants to consume a mandu, which is sort of like a dumpling, the pinched mandu are savory and those that are smooth or unpinched are sweet-with bean paste in them. I couldn’t find a Korean to verify this theory for me but it held true for every mandu that I ate.

Juice-Aloe cures sunburns and is quite soothing. Did you know that it is a delicious juice too? I’m hooked and can’t wait to find some at home.