Seoul’s Itaewan is the absolute best place to satisfy a traveler’s longing for culinary diversity.
When I first heard of Itaewan it was just a little place in Seoul where all the foreigners went to pretend they weren’t in Korea. It was sorta a seedy place that the government was slowly gentrifying by taking down the traditional hanok houses in the area and paving over crooked, old-fashioned cobblestone alleyways and back roads. Supposedly the crime rate was higher in Itaewan than other places in Seoul and Korea as a whole. I never had any issues.
People from all over the world go to Itaewan to find clothes and shoes in their sizes, food to their home tastes, and to communicate through their common language: English.
But last weekend I hit the jackpot of Itaewan. Just one street parallel to Itaewan’s main drag, right behind the iconic Hamilton Hotel, is a traveler’s food hiatus. The street is completely lined with restaurants, all boasting a different kind of world cuisine.
Of course the first thing I did was go for the Thai food at Buddha’s Belly. Tom yum plus some fried rice served in the shape of a silly face. Then it was Tomatillo’s, where you can score some pretty decent tacos and some very decent margaritas. We scored three for the price of two thanks to some promo going on. There was French food, TexMex galore, Italian, western comfort foods, Egyptian, Moroccan, Brazilian, and Turkish. There was a beautiful pastry shop with miniature pies in the window, including a perfectly whipped-up lemon meringue, banana cream, and strawberry rhubarb. So, go have a food fest. We certainly did.
Also, there’s a love motel in Sinchon called Daisy and it is located at the end of the long string of love motels right outside the Sinchon subway exit, behind the small police station. Daisy is easily the cheapest of the love motels in that area, at around 50,000 KRW a night on weekends and holidays. The elevator is laughably small. Chris and I had to back up into it with our backpacks on. There are also no frills or fancies in this one. You get the basics: big fat TV on the wall, toothpaste, robes, water bottles, and juice in the fridge. But don’t expect the sheets to be super clean.
For a more luxurious and centrally located stay, we splurged on the Motel D’oro our second night. It’s right in the heart of Itaewan, just behind the Meat Packing building and Los Amigos restaurant. It’ll run about 80,000 KRW a night on weekends, which is relatively cheap for Itaewan. You’ll get the fancy little bag of toiletries and industrial looking condoms, along with some beverages (Coke in tiny cans) and a pretty massive bed with a great sound system you can plug your iPhone into.
Side note: Investing in a plastic sheet is actually the best thing you can do if you plan on taking advantage of Korea’s love motel bargains. As awesome and quirky and generally affordable as they are, they’re not usually known for their cleanliness. Even in some of the nicer motels, I’ve found stains and pubic hair in the sheets. Recommendation: bring your plastic sheet and maybe a blanket and set up your own bed on top of the bed provided.
In other events, this is Chris’ last week in Korea and while I’m busy trying not to mourn his looming departure, I’m also trying to finish up my personal statements for the UCB J-school, which I have allowed to completely envelope my every energy molecule because I’ve slowly realized, over the course of this year, just how much this dream means to me and just how possible it is to achieve.
Of course, the dream of journaling my life away won’t stop if I can’t get in to J-school. That’s the beauty of journalism, there is plenty of room and opportunity to make it on your own. But in today’s climate, J-school really does seem like a better and faster route to becoming the expert I wanna become. The truth is that you have to learn how to be a journalist on the job, but the advantage of the super awesome program I’m applying for is that I can continue to do all of that but with the support and cushion of academia. Mistakes are inevitable and I think it’s better to make my mistakes in an academic setting then out there working as a freelancer, where they could cost me my job and reputation.
I was reading recently about how the Knight foundation, which funds a crap ton of stuff in journalism, like J-school programs, will eventually stop funding J-schools that do not adopt the teaching hospital model. I think this completely makes sense because there is no way you can learn journalism by sitting in a lecture hall, yet learning on the job in the so-called real world can have damaging consequences that threaten your career before it even begins. Creating a setting where students can have the best of both academia and hands-on job experience is ideal. Every academic program should be set up this way.
But in any event, I always wanted to become a professor in my later life, so getting a masters will help push me in that direction when I’m ready to go there.
But first, I must conquer the world.