Sunday, November 27, 2011

Shopping, Itaewon... and Football? Oct 15-16 & 22-23

The weather was slowly starting to get colder so we decided to set this weekend for shopping.  We left all our winter clothes (jackets, boots, gloves) in Canada figuring we would have a lot of time to buy some once we got here.  Plus, we would also like to hike before winter, so we needed to gear up!

We decided to check out the outlet stores which are located fairly close to our place.  They have everything from Nike, Adidas and Reebok to Columbia, North Face and Mountain HardWear.  The fact that they are so close is also amazing!  But we fast discovered that if we wanted to shop here, we would have to part ways with a lot of our hard-earned cash.  The winter jackets in this part of town ranged anywhere from 400,000KRW to over 700,000KRW (That's about between $350 and $700).  And who said Korea was cheap.  After checking out most of the shops, we decided that we would definitely have to look for a more budget-friendly place to shop in the future.  On top of that, all the sizes were pretty small.  It's not a problem for tiny little Jen, but for BIG Jason, it's an issue.  When shopping, I have to look for XL and XXL because anything smaller just doesn't fit me in Korea (I'm a Canadian Large).  So, all I got during our all-day shopping spree was a pair of hiking shoes from North Face (cause I'm a brand name whore).  Jen also got a few things but overall, we weren't able to scratch many things off our list.  We decided to set next weekend as a shopping weekend in Seoul to hopefully find better prices.

The only good thing that came out of our day was a lunch stopover at VIPS, an all-you can eat buffet place.  While extremely pricey, the meal was amazing and left both Jen and I completely stuffed for the rest of the day.  I highly recommend it for people who are starved and looking for an American-style meal and who are willing to drop over $60 for it!

Even the weather didn't want to cooperate with us as we got stuck in the biggest storm since we got here... without our umbrellas or jackets.  Needless to say, when we got home drenched, cold and almost empty handed, we were a little apprehensive about our first real shopping experience.  So we made sure that next weekend, we would hit up the best shopping spots in Seoul.  First thing I did Monday morning when I got to school was ask my co-teachers where the hotspots were.  They were pretty unanimous in saying that Myeon Dong is THE place to shop in Seoul.  So of course, that's NOT where we went.  Instead, we decided to hit up Itaewon, the "foreigner district" in Seoul where some of our friends said we could get lucky and find what we were looking for (Not to mention that they actually had "big sizes" advertised everywhere).  This would definitely be the place to shop for me!
View of Seoul from IS@K
During the week, I planned our trip by booking a hostel in Itaewon and figuring out how to get there.  Friday after school, we left our humble abode for the modest dwelling of IS@K guesthouse - I Stay @ Korea (You can find it here).  When we finally emerged from the depths of the subway station, we were immediately met with an atmosphere of excitement.  Itaewon was a happening place after dark!  And there were foreigners (white people) EVERYWHERE!!!  First thing first though, so we had to find our hostel.  After a short walk and missing it the first time, we finally arrived at IS@K guesthouse a little past 8pm.  We were pleasantly surprised about the condition and the cleanliness of the place so our weekend was definitely off to a good start.  After shooting the shit with the owner for a little bit, we were off for dinner and some drinks to wind down after a long week.

The menu @ RMT
On the way to IS@K, we had passed by a pub called Rocky Mountain Tavern so we decided to check it out.  The place was pretty packed and an NHL game was playing on the two large screen TVs.  Yes, this would do!  We sat down at the bar since all the booths were already taken and asked for the menu.  Just like Traveler's and Gecko's, it was filled with our favourites from home.  As usual, Jen opted for the chicken tenders and I had a burger.  We also started filling up on "eau de vie", to start-up the fun and carry us through the night.  It wasn't long until we made some friends, the first of which was a drunken old Korean man who had the hots for Jen.  As I was chatting with a few military fellas from the States and Korea (politically charged conversation of course), Jen was being "swept off her feet" by this drunk Korean guy.  First, he read her palm to reveal to her that she would have a short life.  Then, when the rose-lady came in, he asked my permission to buy her a rose, to which I graciously accepted.  All of a sudden, drunk old Korea guy asked the bartender to play Eye of the Tiger and danced all by himself in the middle of the place while onlookers stared and silently made fun of him.  The fact that he was there by himself was a little sad so we felt sorry for him, but by the end of the night, Jen was a little more than fed up of having this old-drunk playing with her hand and hair.  So when he left, she was relieved.  At some point, we also decided it was time to go.  We had a big day of shopping ahead of us.  But, before heading back to the hostel, we decided to make a quick stop at McDonald's to scratch Jen's itch for fast food.
Korea and America's best line of defense drinking with a plump Canadian
Wow, I just realized this blog makes it seem as though I like shopping.  In fact, that's not true at all.  I despise it and get quite cranky when I have to go shopping for a long time.  I like to go in and out, get what I want and be done with it.  But unfortunately, I am one of those "can't decide what I want" shoppers, which makes the process all the more frustrating.  I always hope to find what I want in the first store but it never works out that way.

Our plan for the day was simple, spend the morning in Itaewon and if we don't find anything, travel to Myeon Dong in the afternoon to try our luck there.  We left the hostel at 10am only to realize that most shops were still not open.  In Korea, many shops stay open really late (10-11pm, sometimes later depending where you are) but the downfall to that is they also open late.  On the main strip, some stores were starting to open up shop but the whole place looked a lot different than it did at night, with only a few people on the street (most were probably still nursing a hangover).  Our first stop was therefore at a Paris Baguette for some breakfast while the strip came slowly to life.  By 11am, the place had steady traffic and the shops were up and running for the day.  Itaewon was now open for business!
A street vendor taking a nap

Things on our list included winter jackets and winter gear as well as Halloween costume ideas. (If you already read our Halloween post, then you know that we didn't really find anything here.)  Since this was our first time here and we didn't really know where anything was, we decided to go down one side of the strip first, then come back on the other side, hopefully finding everything we needed on the way.  The first side was an utter failure as we didn't scratch anything off our list.  On the contrary we added something as Jen decided she needed a new pair of shoes (which she ended finding on the other side anyway).  On our way back, street vendors were starting to fill the sidewalk with a wide range of merchandise.  We bought some flashy $10 hats, which were the cheapest we had seen.  Then, by chance, we stumbled into a shop filled with trendy-ish winter jackets.  The owner really wanted to make a sale so he was very helpful.  Of course, there were no prices on anything so when we asked how much, it seemed as though he was making up prices out of thin air.  However, he would then cut that in half and say "sale price".  We both found decent jackets at this place and the price was right.  225,000KRW later (about $200) we both walked out with our new purchases and were pretty satisfied with the whole experience.  We went to drop off everything at the hostel and decided to go for lunch before continuing our quest to find Jen a Halloween costume.  So we made our way to International Food Street where they have specialty restaurants from around the world and ate at a small Italian Bistro where Jen had pasta and I had a delicious salad.
Cute restaurant on International Food Street
After lunch, I was pretty tired and annoyed with shopping so I was getting cranky.  That is, until I remembered that there was an English Bookstore nearby (It's called What the Book).  I looked it up on my smartphone and it popped up just a few minutes walk from where we were.  We decided to check it out. It has a pretty extensive selection with a lot of used books at reduced prices.  We spent the better part of an hour just browsing and looking for something worth reading.  Jen bought a few self-help/inspirational books along with Animal Farm (random, I know) and I walked out with Dante's Inferno and the Lonely Planet's Korean phrasebook.  At this point, we were both spent so we opted to go back to the hostel to rest up before going out for dinner and bar-hopping in Itaewon (in Jen-terms - take a nap).  It was well worth it!

Once rested and ready to go, we had another awesome night of eating and bar hopping until the wee hours of the night.   We started on International Food Street, eating at a nice pub (I forget the name) where I found Erdinger, a German wheat beer - my new love!!!  After a few drinks, we transferred to B1, a Korean club that had been recommended by the hostel owner.  Surprisingly, there were no other foreigners here.  We stayed for a few drinks and decided to try our luck elsewhere.  We ended up at Bungalow.  The ambiance was nice but the service was absolutely terrible so we only stayed for one drink before going to Sam Ryan's, an Irish pub, still in Itaewon.  This place was absolutely packed with foreigners.  (So that's where they all were hiding!)  This place is really big and can accommodate quite a few ppl.  We stayed for a couple of drinks before calling it a night and heading back to the hostel.  Of course, on the way, we stopped for some Quiznos.  The next morning, we woke up early, packed and left in order to make it home on time so I could catch the Leafs game!!! Go Leafs Go!!!
B1 Nightclub is kickin' in Itaewon!

Bungalow had a nice ambiance!

Sam Ryan's had a lot of foreigners!
Later in the week, when I realized that my nice new winter jacket was too warm for the beautiful Korea Fall weather, I decided to look for a Fall jacket at the local E-Mart, which also houses the Big Ten Sports store on the second floor.  We had visited this store on a few times but, as with everything in our neighborhood, we thought it was kind of pricey.  On this particular occasion, I found a jacket I really liked but it was 120,000KRW.  Considering I got my winter jacket for less than that, I wasn't ready to dish out that much cash for a windbreaker.  So I decided to wait and mull it over while shopping in the E-Mart.  But my irrational mind got the best of me and I went back to Big Ten to splurge and buy the jacket.  However, as I was walking to get it, I noticed the exact same jacket on the sale rack for 90,000KRW... but it was one size smaller, which unfortunately didn't fit me.  I grabbed it anyway to try to show the cashier the discrepancy.  After a first failed attempt at trying to explain that they were the same jacket but different prices (I still can't speak Korea), I got a lucky break.  The lady took both jackets and went to another cashier to deliberate.  When she returned, she gestured that they would give it to me for the sale price.  I was ecstatic cause I was ready to pay the full amount!  Then, when I was ready to check out, she punched the jacket in for 50,000KRW.  I don't know what happened; whether she meant to or not but I felt like the lady in this IKEA commercial -"start the car" So all this to say I got a wicked deal on my second jacket as well.  Now that's what I call smart shopping!!

And finally, (I don't really know why I decided to work football into this post) but this weekend (Oct 23) was the inaugural game for the three team BFFF (Bundang Flag Football Federation).  While our team wasn't playing, we still got together to practice and meet each other since we all joined up separately.  It was a warm afternoon and we had a lot of fun and we decided to call our team the Weigook Warriors.  We played our first game against  Dirty Sanchez the next weekend and came out on top 47-14.  Next, we played Punt, Pass & Queef and were able to squeeze out another W with a score of 16-8, which assured our spot in the league final.  Another victory against Dirty Sanchez (20-19) a week later had us go undefeated in the regular season. This coming weekend (Dec 4), we play the championship game against PPQ.  More than just sports, the BFFF was a great outlet to meet new people from our area while getting some physical activity.  I've gained quite a bit of weight since getting here in August, so getting some gridiron was a good start to slowly getting back in shape.  Wish us luck in the final, when we attempt to stay undefeated without our star QB who had to go back to America for a couple of weeks!

Alley cat beer... tastes like cat piss! (actually it's pretty good)

RMT AC filled with Canadian bumper stickers

Ontario plate @ RMT

Same view from IS@K in the daytime

Erdinger... my new love. (Don't worry, I drank the rest after this picture)

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