Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gu V: Damn Gu-ed! (And here the series ends with Seongbuk, Songpa, Yangcheon, Yeongdeungpo, and Yongsan)

For the rest of the Gu Project, check out part one (Dobang, Dongdaemun, Dongjak, Eunpyeong, Gangbuk), Gu Two - (Gangdong, Gangnam, Gangseo, Geumcheon, Guro), Gu 3 (Gwanak, Gwangjin, Jongno, Jung, Jungnang), and Gu IV: The re-re-re Gu-ining (Mapo, Nowon, Seocho, Seodaemun, Seongdong)


Seongbuk-gu


What’s the picture of?


Mia Road going up Mia Ridge, once the outer wall of Seoul. Though I took this picture several years ago, it’s now a sight I see every day.

Where is this gu?

North-central, between Nowon and Jongno.

What’s this gu best known for?

Becoming my home this month, of course. Also, there’s shopping, historical sites, restaurants, mountains, whatever. First and foremost, my house is here.

When did Jaehak first go there?

2008, on a walk.

How were epic walks involved?


My first real epic walk, from Nowon to Gireum ended in Seongbuk.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?


Of course! Come visit!

Is there a related blog post I could check out?

Here's one about a cool quirk of my Seongbuk apartment.  .


Songpa-gu


What’s the picture of?


Olympic Park.

Where is this gu?

Southeast.

What’s this gu best known for?


Songpa has a number of attractions clustered along its northern riverfront. Most famous among them are Olympic Park, the Jamsil shopping area, Lotte World theme park, and the sports complex that include’s Seoul’s primary baseball stadium and secondary soccer stadium. To the south of this, Songpa sprawls for several pointless miles and boasts nothing of any interest to anybody.

When did Jaehak first go there?

I went for a job interview in late 2006. Prior to this, I only thought of Songpa as Jamsil/Lotte World/stadiums. Turns out the interview was in the middle of nowhere, in an impossibly dull area a 15 minute walk for the worthless 8 Line and the inconvenient post-split 5 Line. I never thought of Songpa the same way again, nor did I entertain any future job offers from the area.

How were epic walks involved?

I did a mini-walk from Olympic Park to Jamsil, then later one from Jamsil to Gangnam station in a more respectable jaunt.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?

Actually, yes. If visiting Seoul between April and September, a baseball game is a must. Since Jamsil Stadium is the home field for two teams, there are games nearly every day. I also finally made it to Lotte World last month, and it was far more awesome than I expected.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?

Yep, the old baseball classic.


Yangcheon-gu





What’s the picture of?

The river walkway near Mokdong, the most well heeled and well known area of Yangcheon.

Where is this gu?

Pretty far west, south of the river.

What’s this gu best known for?


Mokdong. The area has a lot of English academies, probably the third most in town after Seocho and Nowon. Mokdong is also the home of the Nexen Heroes. The Heroes used to be in Suwon and were known as the Hyundai Unicorns. Now they’re the third team in Seoul. I’ve yet to meet anybody who cares about them. I’ve even had students with fathers who work for Nexen, and they still cheer for other teams.

When did Jaehak first go there?


I went to the hated Mokdong Immigration Office in October 2006. It sucked.

How were epic walks involved?


I walked from Guro through Yangcheon to Yeouido.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?


Only to go to the ballpark if an interesting away team is playing. Actually, I still need to do this. Yangcheon is far though...

Is there a related blog post I could check out?

No.



Yeongduengpo-gu





What’s the picture of?

Yeouido and farther-flung YDP, taken from the top of the 63 Building, one of Seoul’s most famous and most beautiful skyscrapers (though contrary to popular opinion, not the tallest - 2 different apartment buildings are taller).

Where is this gu?

South of the river, a bit west of center.

What’s this gu best known for?


Yeouido. This is a small island in the Han River. It’s known as the Manhattan of Seoul. Of course, Yeouido is Manhattan like Jeju is Hawaii, in that it isn’t at all. Yeouido does have a number of tall office buildings, all of which are dwarfed by the 63 Building. Yeouido is also the home of the Korean National Assembly, a Youtube favorite due to the occasional brawl that breaks out there. Out on mainland Yeongduengpo, most neighborhoods are pretty old and rundown. YDP Station is one of the larger train stations in Seoul, but all trains running through here terminate in the larger and more central Seoul and Yongsan stations. Near the station looms Times Square Mall. COEX in Gangnam is Seoul’s most famous mall, but Times Square is better in every possible way. Outside of this area, YDP is old, industrial, and filled with shops that only sell Korean branded snacks, drinks, and cigarettes, an unthinkable notion anywhere in Seoul outside of it’s crusty Southwest.

When did Jaehak first go there?

I went to the 63 Building in the fall of 2007 or so.

How were epic walks involved?

My resurrection walk from World Cup Stadium to Hongdae to Shinchon went to Yeouido before moving on to Yongsan. A few weeks later, I walked with a buddy from Banpo (Seocho) to Yeouido, then walked with another buddy from Guro to Yeouido the next day.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?

Yeouido is alright. There’s a bunch of touristy stuff inside the 63 Building. Times Square is worth a look, if only to check out Korea’s answer to the sprawling, palatial malls going up in Manila, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?


There are some YDP pics here.


Yongsan-gu




What’s the picture of?

One of Yongsan’s many low-rise hillside neighborhoods, dwarfed by the Grand Hyatt.

Where is this gu?

North of the river, due south of Namsan and Downtown.

What’s this gu best known for?


Being awesome. We’ve saved the best for last here, just a quirk of the alphabet. Yongsan has it all. Seoul’s Embassy Row is in Hannam. Yongsan is secretly the richest gu in town, the hills around the Hyatt house the homes of ambassadors and international businessmen. A ten minute walk from there sits Haebangchon (HBC), the most affordable neighborhood in central Seoul. The three best museums in Seoul (The Korean National Museum, the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, the War Memorial of Korea) are all here. Seoul’s second largest train station, Yongsan Station, is predictably here. Yongsan Station is capped by a large mall with a rooftop mini golf course, the only one I’ve seen in Korea. Also attached to the station is the country’s largest electronics market. Any conceivable electronic device is available here, along with a knock off version. Yongsan Garrison is here too, and not surprisingly so are Seoul’s best black market food shops for those who can’t get on base. Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to mention Itaewon. The ‘Twon is, despite the claims of Hongdae and Gangnam loyalists, the best nightlife spot in the country. Whether you are looking for a sports bar, an ultralounge, a trendy club, a conversational pub, a dive, a Turkish hookah, or a Russian hooker, Itaewon has it going. When it comes to high-quality, authentic international cuisine, Itaewon is likely the best place to hit up anywhere between Hong Kong and San Francisco. Some foreigners here shy away - it’s too much like America. Horseshit. I’ve been everywhere in America, and no place is anything like Itaewon.

When did Jaehak first go there?

My second night in Korea, after my first full day.

How were epic walks involved?

For the sake of Itaewon restaurants, an awful lot of them begin or end here. In 2006, I walked from Seocho to Itaewon. More recently, I made the 13 mile slog from Nowon to Itaewon.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?

Unquestionably. Even if you want to keep it 100% local food and drink wise, Yongsan has cultural attractions that aren’t to be missed on any itinerary.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?


No shortage. I’ll go with this Polly's gem.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

FB World

Check out this craziness-



I found it at this blog.

This photo, as noted by the blog, uses 10 million people, or under 2% of FB's total customer base. However, it seems to do enough to re-affirm several stereotypes and observations I've had about the world. In the world according to this picture:


South Korea is an island. Makes sense to me. If it were a peninsula like the locals say, than I could take a bus or train to China. I can't. Of course, this doesn't matter because outside of Hong Kong and Shanghai...

China doesn't exist. That's a lot of missing tea. It's also interesting that...

Russia, nyet, the entire Soviet Union doesn't exist
. Maybe Reagan's plan to outlaw them actually worked.

Other interesting notes that easily jibe with my world view:

The United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia are clearly the shining lights of civilization on this planet
. Latin America, India, Eastern Australia, and New Zealand appear to be the only other inhabitable lands.

Socially, Korea lags far behind developing places like Indonesia, Turkey, and the Philippines
. Yo, I don't make the data, I only examine it. Then again, I've never heard of a Turk or a Filipino fearing a fan. Of course, this is all internet based, so Cy-World (and the rest of the silly pop-up based flash graphics Internet Explorer 97 universe of the Korean internet) could be at fault.

Africa and the Middle East
- meh, that's a another blog's job.

And, of course, my personal favorite:


Canada really is the Horizontal Chile. I've said it for years.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bracket Takes it All (and Bundang trip)

Here we go again. If you look at last year's post or at 2009's, you can see that no other college basketball source does a worse job than this running gag. Amazingly, I am 0-8 in picking Final Four teams over the last few years. I'd have to go back to 2008's post when...

Wait a minute. I didn't write a proper "Bracket Takes" in 2008. I mostly wrote about my trip to Daejeon. And in 2008, if I remember correctly, something happened in basketball that year...



Oh yeah, that whole thing. 75-68. Maybe it's best if I don't talk hoops for the time being. Instead, I'll discuss my most recent Korean out-of-town trip.

Over the weekend, I went to the exciting wonderland of Seongnam City, specifically its Bundang district. Bundang is the Korean suburban ideal. There are parks and streams and new looking buildings and pedestrian plazas. Of course, these buildings contain the same hofs and noraebangs and convenience stores and restaurants and cell phone stores and rub-and-tugs and apartments and banks as every other nook and cranny of the country, but the architecture is slightly less soul crushing.

Bundang is also the home of Traveler's Bar and Grill, to whom I will give a shout-out for serving a delicious burger, maybe the best in Korea. Their wings and fries are good too. Really, the only weakness in Travelers' game is their ranch dressing, which tastes less like ranch dressing and more like tartar sauce that had spent a week and a half exposed to the Algerian sun. Upgrade to even a passable ranch, like Wishbone or Kraft, and Traveler's becomes the total package.

Eleswhere, there's Lost Angel. It's lamish dance club where one can have the exciting experience of being repeatedly cockblocked by Korean dudes, who are really the best in the business in that regard. Add in the club's winning 80-20 dude-chick ratio, and you've got a recipe for a really stupid night.


Anyhoo, as I did in the Daejeon post, I should at least make a final prediction in this year's tournament. I pick Kansas to win it all, of course, and they will beat, say, Florida and UCONN to do it. Mark it down. After going 0-8 since 08, I'm due. Rock Chalk.
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