Does the sound of pork crackling over coal tickle your fancy? How about the chance to buy the latest fashions at rock-bottom prices? Ever wish you could get totally plastered out in public and not have to worry about being arrested? If so, I’ve got just the place for you.
There are a lot of reasons to end up in East Asia. Maybe you’re visiting Tokyo because you’ve heard about all the amazing things there, like the Giant Robot Show in Kabukicho or the crazily-dressed girls in Harajuku. Or perhaps you’re in Beijing or Shanghai on business. Whatever the case, you’d be doing yourself a favor to allocate a few extra vacation days for a weekend in Seoul, South Korea. Here are the top 4 reasons why.
I lived in Seoul for nearly two years and while Korean food is not something you learn to love eating everyday, it is a cuisine well-suited to a weekend feeding frenzy. Do you like bacon? Of course you do. What kind of sick f**k doesn’t like bacon? Then you need to try samgyeopsal. When people say: “Let’s get Korean BBQ,” this is what they mean. Picture a giant, thick-cut piece of bacon grilled slowly over glowing charcoal then cut into little pieces by scissors. That’s right; Koreans use f**king scissors to cut their meat. How manly is that s**t?
But that’s not everything. You should learn to appreciate kimchi because it’s everywhere and it’s delicious… like sauerkraut, but Asian and better. Of course, the old Korean lady serving will inevitably insult you by assuming it’s too spicy for you, but wave her off and enjoy it anyway, because you’ll find no better kimchi than in its origin country.
Finally (and this is one of the world’s best-kept secrets), South Korea boasts the best friend chicken I’ve ever eaten. Seriously, this is a Southern boy telling you this: go to a chain called Kyochon, and you won’t regret it.
I could go on, but I’ll leave you with a few other recommendations: bulgogi, kimchi jigae (stew), mandu (dumplings), and my personal favorite jjimdak, a steamed chicken dish with glass noodles in a thick savory sauce.
South Korea is home to the largest shopping mall in the world: The Shinsegae Centum City with 3.1 million square feet of shopping space. Unfortunately that mall is in Busan, which is about a 4-hour-drive south of Seoul. However, you can head on over to Namdaemun for high-end shopping and great eats, or take the super-efficient and easy-to-navigate subway to the similarly named Dongdaemun, which houses tons of malls with inexpensive fashions from local designers as well as a night market, selling knock-off products on the cheap. The best part: the night market stays open until midnight, so you can shop until you’ve got no more money left.
Drinking and Night Life
Korean culture is a drinking culture. It’s very rare to see any Korean, man or woman, sit down to a meal and not have an alcoholic beverage of some kind. Usually, this beverage is either beer or soju, a sort of low-proof rice liquor. Sometimes it’s both of these mixed together, known as “somaek,” a mixure of the words soju and maegju. This is a silent but deadly concoction, known for sneaking up on you and landing your dick in the dirt before you can say “kimchi.” As you can probably tell, Koreans do not shy away from hearty drinking. In fact, Korea is known for its salary men littered all over the streets after a night of too much drinking from an insistent boss. See some pictures I took below.
Regardless of whether you act like one or not, any adult should be allowed to drink out in public, and in Korea, you can (America has something to learn here).
Which brings me to the nightlife. Imagine walking into a bar, asking for five shots, and the bar tender informs you that your bill totals to $7. You would probably assume he didn’t hear you. “No, FIVE shots.” The bartender nods in agreement: “…That’ll be $7, please.” You’re perplexed. What universe have you dropped into where a shot comes out to just a little over a buck? You have dropped into Korea, my friend. Enjoy it and rejoice. You can actually afford to get drunk without going into serious debt… that is, as long as you avoid the big night clubs like Octogon (which you should definitely go to at least once).
This one is pretty straightforward. Korea has the fastest internet in the world. It averages out at 24 mbps, which is double what we have in the US. And that’s their Wi-Fi. If you purchase a cell phone plan in South Korea, you can get unlimited data, and when I say “unlimited,” I mean unlimited. You don’t get throttled after some arbitrary usage like you do in the States. Even though I had Wi-Fi in my apartment, I was blowing through 100 gigs of data a month, largely because I wouldn’t bother attaching to my Wi-Fi (which was everywhere). Why waste my battery when my data plan is faster anyway? What did this insane plan cost me? About $45 a month, which included the monthly payments on my iPhone.
So… what does one take away from these facts? If you are in East Asia for any reasons, take a few extra days and head to Seoul. You won’t regret it.