Fridays Korean Class (July 22nd, 2016) was a little different than usual as we were having a field trip for our Speaking and Listening Korean Class. Our teacher took my class 나무반 on a bus to the Tongin Market (통인시장) for a bit of a cultural excursion and a nice lunch! Before we actually went around the market, we had a tour guide show us around the area. It was kind of hard to pay attention as it was super super hot outside and everyone was complaining about the heat and how hungry we were. What I did get out of the little tour was a lot of nice pictures of some small Korean neighborhoods (a break from all the Korean apartment buildings I usually see) with some traditional houses scattered around for good measure. We were also shown this very famous, old tree but I really don’t remember the significance behind it… I should have written it down. Oops XD
Our tourguide was a really nice man though. He spoke English very well and he tried to make the tour as interesting as he could for us by making lots of funny dad type jokes. Looking back on it, I kinda feel bad for him because once we passed the market, he totally lost everyone’s attention span to the smell of the delicious Korean food. Overall, the tour was a really nice experience and I really enjoyed hearing our tour guide talk about all the houses and their different styles.
Eventually it was time to visit the Tongin Market (통인시장). Something cool about the market is that it has this pretty cool payment system. You can buy most of the food from the market with normal Won (Korean Currency) but you can also trade in money for these old school coins and trade them in to certain market stalls to get food for lunch. Basically you pay a certain amount of money and you are given a stack of coins and a lunch tray. You walk around the market trading in coins for food and you get to pick and choose what you want your tray to contain. There are a lot of different types of Korean food like ddeokbokki (떡볶이), Japchae (잡채), and even popular Korean candy from the 80s and 90s.
For an amount of coins equal to 5,000 Won, (A little bit less than five American Dollars) I was able to get so much food for lunch. In the top left corner of the lunch tray, I bought 마약김밥 (Drug Kimbap. It gets its name from how addictively tasty it is). I also had a Pork steamed dumpling. I didn’t use my coins to buy this, Jodi and Tucker shared with me after I saw them at the stall. They had such a big order so they gave me one and it was definitely the best part of my lunch tray if I am being honest 🙂 At the top right corner of my lunch tray I bought some sweet brown sugar/cinnamon chicken that came with some rice cakes as well. Then on the bottom left I had a Korean potato pancake (감자전 – basically a hash brown!) and another type of Ddeokbokki (떡볶이) which is rice cakes with red chilli pepper paste. Tongin Market is known for its Ddeokbokki. The rice cakes I had are a little bit different than the most common ones you see at street venders as it is more dry and crumbly than soft and liquidy. I think that is what makes it even spicier!~ And then finally in the lower right corner, I ordered Japchae which was really good but I tried the Japchae my friends Ariel got (from another stall) and it was much better.
After a nice, filling lunch at the Tongin Market, I had to head off to my Korean cooking club. What turned out great for me was that the Tongin Market was right around the Gyeongbokgung subway station which is the exit we usually meet at for the club. All this time I have been going to Cooking Club, I have been passing this really cool market. It kinda makes me think about all these hidden Korean gems that I pass by on a daily basis. There are a limitless amount of experiences to have and things to see in Seoul!
At cooking club we made Bibimbap which was very fun seeing that it was the very first Korean food I had ever eaten so it holds a special place in my heart!
Funny Moment at Korean Cooking Club (한국 요리 동아리)
So I didn’t eat my bibimbap because I had eaten so much at the market so I ended up asking our chefs at the Food and Culture academy for a little take out container. I wanted to put all the Bibimbap back in the container but still making sure that it looked aesthetically pleasing. I was surrounded by Joy, JT and Jodi and I was all like “I know, the rice is kinda dirty from all the vegetables so I will flip the rice over so the bottom will make the top completely white.” I proceed to carry out my idea by flipping over the rice only to be greeted with more dirty rice from juices at the bottom and the realization that the rice didn’t have to look clean since it would be covered by veggies and meat anyways. JT began to relish in my stupidity and declared “Emma, You think you are smart but you are not.” JT was being all sassy to me that day because I was roasting Jodi earlier during the class. He asked me if I liked Jodi and I explained to him that really close American friends are friendly mean to their friends using things like sarcasm. We were both joking though. He didn’t believe me since he lived in Michigan for 7 years and said he never saw that. But because I informed him on the friends matter, he turned into a savage towards me and I would never hear the end of it.
I later showed him how pretty my lunch box turned out and he goes “I do not care where you put it!” in a mixed British, Korean, and American accent.
After Korean Cooking Club, I made my way to Myeongdong and met up with Sofia at the subway station. The plan for Friday night was to visit Namsan Tower (남산 타워 also known as N Seoul Tower – N 서울타워) which I had been waiting a while to visit.
So to get to the cable cars to take you up to Namsan Tower, you have to walk up a huge hill and when it is hot outside… that hill is treacherous. Sofia and I laughed so much in order to distract ourselves from the pain our feet were going through. It was way worse than the hill I have to walk up to get to our university for Korean classes. Eventually we made it and bought our tickets for the cable car and we had to wait in this super long line from the ticket booth up a few flights of stairs. While we were waiting in line on the stairs. Sofia and I shared some Korean candy popular in the 80s. We were just chatting about school and stuff when this Korean boy (around 10 years old) above us dropped his phone down the flight of stairs. I tried not to laugh… but it was hilarious. Luckily, the phone didn’t crack. Everyone in line clapped once the boy showed everyone that it was okay XD
Sofia and I walked around the bottom of the tower which had many cute places to take photos (most were geared towards couples) and water sprinklers for the summer. At the entrance of the bottom of the tower there are gift and souvenir shops where you can buy Namsan Tower Merch. I ended up buying some really cute stickers for my scrapbook and these cute themed magnets for some gifts for my family back home. To get up into the tower you have to buy a ticket that costs $10 and after paying for the cable car ticket which cost around $8.50, Sofia and I felt that we really didn’t need to go up. What we really wanted to do was visit it, take pictures, and look at all the locks.
The coolest thing about the tower, well at least in my opinion, is the fact that there is a section near the bottom that you can buy a lock (with your significant other or just friends/family) and lock it onto this fence area made for the locks. It is so cute and Sofia and I looked through all the locks for ones we could understand and ones in English to see what the tourists wrote about their experience at Namsan Tower. We ended up not buying a lock since they are kinda expensive. It is best to come in a larger group because then you can all split the price of one lock. But at least the pictures were free!~
We left the tower a bit earlier than we needed to so we could walk around Myeongdong and get some street food before going home before curfew. It was a very fun day and very action-packed. I did so much and went to many different parts of Seoul on this day. There were some moments where I was very tired, but overall everything was worth it. No amount of sleep deprivation, heat, or sore feet can get me down in Seoul, South Korea!
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed~ 안녕~
- 엠마 (Emma)