We had a rather… eventful night last night so we had a late start to the morning. I had some bread and coffee, freshened up and then we all trod up the hill to the Kukkiwon building to register our club members for the Hanmadang. They asked for ID, confirmed club registration and then handed us an assortment of complimentary t-shirts, participation medals, ID cards for the tournament participants and lanyards to hold said cards.
Following that, a couple of my masters and I tried going to the administrator’s office to help me get my instructor’s certificate. I had attended The 23rd Foreign Instructors Training Course in 2011 but at the time, did not have my 4th dan (4th black belt level) so could not receive the instructor’s certificate despite completing the course. This time around, I just need to pay a 50 USD fee and they’ll give me my instructor card. Unfortunately the relevant administrator was away from his desk on a break and we couldn’t wait around for him so that will have to be done next week after the tournament probably.
Onto lunch at a nearby shop!!! I ordered some delicious bibimbap (비빔밥 / mixed rice) with a side of tofu.
In the afternoon, we all went to “Chinatown.” Chinatown in South Korea isn’t really the same as elsewhere. In most other cities around the world, it’s often a pretty old part of the city that was settled by Chinese merchants decades and decades ago. The Chinatown that is close to Seoul however, was mostly built fairly recently. Some of it was settled in the 1880s and there was a strong Chinese element for the next few decades until it gradually withered away due to apparent political pressures.
It’s located in Incheon – a neighboring city, so getting there for us entailed a lengthy trip on the local metro train.
The entrance to Chinatown is just across the street from Incheon Station. There’s also a train monument that you can take your picture in front of. I suppose it’s got some sort of special significance but I’m not sure what. Another thing I found pretty neat was the bicycle tire pump next to the public bicycle stand. I think that’s a really thoughtful feature.
Onwards into Chinatown, there were a lot of fancy new buildings dressed in traditional Chinese style edifices. Aside from all the Chinese restaurants and shops, you can find various kinds of street snacks as well as different types of ice cream. There was even a Turkish ice cream vendor playing tricks on customers before actually finally serving the ice cream.
Once you get to the other end of Chinatown, the surroundings kind of turn into Fairytale Village. This is a few streets where all the buildings are styled after various environments from fairytales. There was even a parking garage painted to look like Noah’s Ark. The thing that really stood out about Fairytale Village was the constant sight of people taking selfies all over the place. The whole area is tailor-made for selfies.
After a couple hours of walking around, taking photos and trying some snacks, we saw storm clouds rolling in and made a mad dash back to the metro station to make our long journey back to Gangnam. One curious thing I spotted in one of the stations was a storage unit full of gas masks. It’s nice to know the metro stations in Seoul are well prepared in the event of… some sort of potential unfortunate incident.
Once we got to Gangnam station, everyone was hungry for some chicken so I used Google to find a nearby restaurant called Hanbang Samgyetang 한방삼계탕, which serves samgyetang (삼계탕) – a kind of a ginseng soup with chicken and rice that’s really popular in summer. This restaurant features contemporary table and chairs dining as well as more traditional Korean dining where the table is lower to the floor and you need to sit on a cushion while you eat. I actually prefer eating that way sometimes but I suppose it’s not for everybody.
The food was absolutely delicious. If you want to try this place, the address is Gangnam-gu Yeoksam-dong 831-18.
One important thing to note about navigating around Korea using your smart phone is that Google Maps only half works in South Korea now. It will tell you where YOU are in the form of that little blue dot with a tiny arrow attached indicating what direction you’re pointed towards AND if you search for an address, it’ll usually be able to locate it. What it can’t do in South Korea is detailed turn-by-turn directions. There are homegrown South Korean apps that can do that but they’re all in Korean.
After an eventful day, we all trudged on over to a little supermarket, picked up a few bags of groceries and by the time we got back to our house, we were hungry enough for a late night snack of French toast and fried squid. Tomorrow Hanmadang starts. Good night!