Hooray for fun day trips to Seoul! Saturday found me on the 1.5 hour subway ride to Seoul with some pals from church.

There's some debate in these parts about the best way up to the city. We went the slowest, but cheapest (2,500 won), way on the subway. The alternative is a $6-8 hour-long train or bus ride, or the oh-so-posh $12 and only 20 minute KTX train ride. I don't usually mind the subway on the way up because you can always get a seat, everyone's usually pretty chatty on the way, and I feel pretty decent only spending about two bucks on my ticket. I'd probably opt for the latter two on the way down, though, since the subway's usually packed on the way home and by that time you're tuckered out anyway and just want to sink into your warm bed.

My first stop was Yongsan market, electronics mecca! I had this bold idea to finally buy a new lens for my camera, but when faced with the plethora of choices and the daunting proposition of battling hundreds of sellers to get the best price, I decided the time had not yet come. But Jackie volunteered to haggle with the sellers for me when I was ready to buy because she "loves bargaining with other people's money."

After Yongsan, we all met back up at Itaewon, an area of shops near the U.S. military base, mostly catered to English speakers. There were an almost absurd number of foreigners there, i.e. I could say "excuse me" and people actually understood and moved! For lunch, we went to Ali Baba's, for some middle Eastern fare. The place was big on atmosphere, but not so big on portions. Small, but delicious. Then we moseyed on over to What the Book, a sweet little shop that has used and new English books. We hit up an overcrowded Starbucks before we all went our separate ways.

Jo and I left the others to go to Nagwon Musical Instrument Arcade, a huge building jam-packed with instrument sellers. I was on a mission to find a harmonica, a shaker, and a slide. I had meant to look at mandolin prices, too, but I completely forgot. But success in all other areas. Blues, here we come!

After drooling over all those beautiful instruments, we rolled on up to Daehangno, a bustling university area of town, to brew up a little live jazz. Mipa met up with us and we found the perfect little place: dark, smoky, low-ceilinged with hanging lamps. They started off with a sax, drums, bass trio. They did standards and some fusion stuff, pretty nice. The next group was an unconventional combo: drums, piano, keyboard, sax, and two apparently classically trained strings, a violin, and a cello, who acted as the bass. Both strings were percussive too, tapping and drumming on their instruments. The sax player rocked out and the pianist sang sometimes. Altogether, it was some stellar music.

So, with my harmonica in pocket, a bossa tune reverberating in my head, and an all around contented feeling, we splurged and took the KTX back to Choenan. Ah, good times.


Jesse said...

Speaking of mandolins, we're going to hear Nickel Creek at the Cascade next week. Boojah! Miss you!

Carbar28 said...

Well, the crazier the picture of Betsy, the more fun it is to share with everyone on my blog! I noticed the not so flattering one of me staring at my Starbucks cup!