Thursday, May 14, 2009

Anthony in Korea, Day 23, Thursday, May 14, 2009

Today I went to Namsan Mountain, which is a huge mountain in the middle of downtown Seoul. Unlike the other mountains I visited, this one really is in an urban area. It’s hard to explain…the city of Seoul is so big that there is a mountain in the middle of it but when you’re on the mountain you’re still in the city. In fact, Namsan is not as rugged as the others I visited; it is more tourist-oriented, somewhat akin to visiting the Empire State Building in NYC. For example, although you can take a 30-minute walk up a steep trail to get to the top, there’s also a cable car that takes you up there. I’ve done my share of steep climbing these past few weeks, so I took the tram, even though I’m afraid of being in anything mechanical high up in the air [see video of me in cable car, as well as photos of view from the top of the mountain]. The view from Namsan is incredible. Since it is in the city rather than on the outskirts, the buildings of Seoul were that much closer and there was a true panorama since the huge observation area gave a 360 degree view.

At the top of Namsan there was a show with Korean actors putting on a display by doing some ancient fighting. It was interesting--and free. Also at the top I saw Seoul N Tower, which is a huge radio transmission tower built many years ago. For an additional 6 bucks I could have gone to the top of the tower but I decided not to. Instead I headed back to New Start Vegetarian Restaurant, the vegetarian buffet that I fell in love with on Monday. I won’t go on and on about how amazing the foods was. But I did want to mention that I tried tteokbokki again. For those of you who don’t recall, tteokbokki is the number one street food in Seoul. When I say number one, I mean it is sold (along side a few other common items) on every street in Seoul. Basically, it’s just a bunch of chewy rice patties, each the size of your thumb, mixed in a red, sweet-spicy sauce. Everyone here is crazy for it. I tried it a few weeks ago from a street vendor and thought it was okay. Part of the reason I was a bit turned off is that as I was eating it, the street vendor took some water from the vat of boiling fish fillets and dumped it in with the ttoekbokki, so it wasn’t vegetarian (the vendor also gave me, and the other customers, a cup of fish water to wash it all down with). Anyway, at the vegetarian restaurant tonight one of the options was ttoekbokki, only without the fish flavoring, and it was amazingly delicious [please see photo]. I mean, it was so good that I am probably going to try it on the street one more time, even though it is laced with fish juice.

After the restaurant, I went to another baseball game. I won’t go into the details since I already described last week’s game. But last week I saw the Doosan Bears play, on a Friday, and the crowd was about half the size of tonight’s. That’s because tonight the LG Twins played against the SK Knights, and apparently these two teams are involved in a pennant race. And in case you’re wondering what the heck ‘LG’ and ‘SK’ mean, those are two huge cell phone companies here in Korea. All baseball teams are actually clubs, and these clubs are owned by huge corporations. So the official name of the SK Knights, for example, is the SK Knight Baseball Club.


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