Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 4: A Large Day

The first Saturday morning of my family's visit to Korea dawned bright and early, and we looked forward to a busy day out and about exploring the sites of Seoul. We hopped on the newly opened Subway Line 9 that leads directly from my apartment in the boonies of Seoul, straight to just about everything important near the centre of the city. (Ah, the benefits of living close to the airport!)

Having little-to-no experience with subways, my parents were particularly impressed by the journey to our initial destination, and thus the day started off on a good foot, even before we had officially done anything. Its so easy to forget that the whole world doesn't have the convenience of using the subway, when you practically live on top of a subway station, and use it yourself twice a week. I am decided going to miss Seoul's public transportation when I arrive back in Newfoundland.

We arrived at our destination, a discount shopping district called Idae without fuss. The pictures don't really do it justice, but it is just streets upon streets of incredibly cheep, quality suspect, clothing, bags and accessories.

This stores entire stock was 10,000 KRW a pair, taxes included!

Every thing in this area is of course contingent on if you can fit into "Korean" sizes, which are of course much smaller than what the average North American would consider normal to be. As a reference for those who know me, I'm at the very top of acceptably large. I can buy shirts at most stores without a problem, and pants at half to 3/4 of those stores.

These particular pants are 'one-size'.. in this case meaning about a size 3.

Mom and Dad mostly watched and took pictures, while Ricki and I wandered around salivating over shoes, handbags and accessories for a good chunk of the afternoon. As it was around noon when we arrived, Idae had still be relatively deserted, which ended up being a good coincidence as my family was still overwhelmed by the number of people that we saw. They couldn't believe their eyes as the afternoon wore on and more and more people crowded themselves into the streets.

Next stop for the day was a complete turn around from the pedestrian charms of Idea's market area. We hopped back on the subway, and headed to one of Seoul's most ritzy areas, Gangnam.

There is some pretty stunning architecture lining the streets of the Gangnam area, which provided quite the contrast for my family when compared with the low, crowded and not so well kept stalls when we had been shopping in Idae. The prices and quality of merchandise was also reflected in this change, going from 5000KRW no name shoes in the early afternoon to $5000 Jimmy Choo's in just a 30 minute subway ride. Yikes!

Although we did do a little shopping, (Not Chez Jimmy!) it wasn't the main focus of the latter part of our day. Instead we came to Gangnam to experience the worlds greatest and most natural pedicure... Dr. Fish!

While the pedicure-like qualities of having one's feet eaten by tiny fish are pretty great in and of themselves, the most amazing part of the experience was obviously the facial expressions! Knowing what to expect myself, I calmly put my feet in the water and pretended it was no big deal... little did they know! Here are the results!

Ricki's and my mother's obviously being the most excellent!

My mom even managed to make some cool Korea friends over in the pool with the small fish. She's a Korean-friend-making-machine!

To commemorate the occasion, we had out picture taken at a camera that was on the side of the street specifically for that purpose. Those Koreans, they think of everything!

The rest of the evening was, in true vacation style, not what I had expected. I had done a famous job up until this point of neglecting to remember what my first in-country experiences had been like, and this evening was to be no different. I had been very excited to introduce my family to my favourite Korean dish, a spicy chicken stew called Jjimdalk, of course not remembering how low my tolerance was for spicy food when I had first arrived in Korea myself.

Here is a picture of the delicious, foreigner-offending beast.

*sigh* I think I'm in love...

My family tolerated the food for my benefit -- it was much too spicy for their Newfoundland palates, but were completely fascinated with the process of getting to the restaurant, which I of course was breezing right through, as I considered it just transit. Silly me!

It really is amazing how you can completely immerse yourself in another culture, and find it normal... completely forgetting how different your own is until someone helps you to realize it.

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