Monday, 31 December 2012

Eating Local In Seoul

Forget fancy dining on a weeknight after a hard day's work. All you want to do is pop out of your office, duck down an alley full of eateries and follow your nose to a tasty meal. Not a problem in the main business district of Seoul.

The signs and restaurants beckon. And if a sign isn't enough, you can check out the food being prepared, all in glorious 3D (special glasses not required).

Pick your fish from the lineup and on the grill it goes. We love the soda can lamp illuminating the action.

Many restaurants leave the heavy, hot cooking to out in front of their establishments, right on the alley. Grilling fish and giant pots boiling. A sight to see and definitely an invitation to smell.

Sometimes you can't get past the visual. Huge hunks of meat are no detriment to the hungry Korean.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Seoul Street Food

Seoul has a nice dichotomy of modern office towers right next to blocks of street food. Imagine New York with many more food carts and portable chairs and tables spilling down the sidewalks. What's to eat?

Step right up and take a look. Or maybe take a step back - bacon-wrapped hot dogs, already slathered.

There's fancy stuff, too. Remember, presentation matters.

This woman is getting ready for the dinner rush, complete with portable seating. And don't forget the night's entertainment, tuning up and ready to play.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Delights Are In The Seoul Details

It pays to be observant while walking the streets. Buildings, people, establishments may look the same and blur together, but little details will always find their way to be seen. Around Seoul, several little things shined through.

Hello penguins. Hanging out at a coffee shop.

More animal art, a corporate whale in front of a high-rise office building and a couple of lonely pigs outside an art gallery in the Samcheongdong neighborhood.

A creative way to construct a boundary fence at a gas station. Can you dig it? Sorry...

A happy hydrant. Even the visually-challenged can take a few decent photos in Seoul. You just need to know where to look. Who knew it was straight down?

Manly cones. We like that the cap can be worn backwards. "Yo, use the other sidewalk, boi!"

Friday, 28 December 2012

Tapgol Park, Seoul

At the end of the main tourist avenue in Seoul, Insadonggil, sits the little, understated Tapgol Park. The place offers a nice respite to the busy, bustling, urban Seoul right beyond its gates. What's interesting is the clientele - men, mostly middle aged and older. It's not gay or illicit, the park is simply known as an older guy's hangout. Juxtaposed with bucolic pagodas and trees, the scene makes one smile.

The park regulars, doing what they do.

There's a famous artifact in the park, a Joseon-era stone pagoda. You'd think it was some artifact Indiana Jones is after from the way it's been protected. The balance of security versus appreciation ability appears to be all wrong. More men, practicing the hangout.

And more men, reading, meeting, doing what Seoul men do.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Kimchi Is Korea

The national dish of Korea is Kimchi and it's not just some sort of obscure, historical relic. Go into any restaurant, order your meal and before it comes, you get a nice selection of the pickled delights. For some people, it's an acquired taste. For Korea, it's museum-worthy.

Presenting the Kimchi Museum. Who cares if it's on the car park level of a giant shopping mall? It's a museum devoted to Kimchi!

Typical kimchi dishes. Any vegetable that can be grown and pickled in Korea is fair game. Add the unique blends families develop and the kimchi world is endless.

Just like the Japanese, there's no better way to tell the kimchi story than with miniatures. First, let's chop the veggies.
Then it's time for pickling. And a bunch of socializing. Then it's onto packing the jars that get buried in the ground for aging and storage.

Packing a jar before burying. Let the digging begin!

Kimchi is truly an amazing dish in Korea and a great example of edible heritage. Kimchi's varieties depend on the season, location and what vegetables and seasonings are available. The food is married to the local culture and rewards the country in nutrition and health.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Haechi, The Symbol Of Seoul

Hello Haechi!

Our fine stone friend is the official symbol of Seoul. He's a mythical beast, part lion, part dragon. His legend is as guardian of the old palace (as in the pic above) as well as justice in general. What's not to like?

The interesting part of Haechi is his recent rise to official symbol of Seoul. The mayor of the city is design-obsessed (a good thing) and he was upset that many world class cities have famous, known symbols, an Eiffel tower, the Big Apple, etc... Seoul needed to become a city with an icon, an iconic city. His director at the Design Planning Division chose Haechi in May 2008.  A star was born.

And a star born is a star reinterpreted. Since Seoul is all about design, it is not just dictating taste, but trying to incubate creativity. The city supplied the icon, now it's time to have some fun.

Hello old recycled bottle Haechi!

And hello multiple reinterpretations. The anvil-looking thing on the back in the left photo is the old palace. Someone seems to have gone to a bunny party.

A fantastic version, a play on classic Asian blue and white porcelain ware.

A couple of American influences: Miami tourist making the scene and a winking Superman. Winking?

Finally, Haechi isn't just for fun, he's for ubiquity. The cabs proudly display him. If you can't be a yellow cab, might as well promote the icon.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Hardware Stores The Easy Way In Seoul

The hardware stores crowded in the business district of Seoul seem to believe the more stores near each other, the merrier. And the more stuff crammed into each store, the messier. Let's just say it's big box retailing crammed into a lot of small boxes.

A typical hardware store/stall/locker/shoebox.

Keep your inventory full and shopping can get messy. Just make sure to leave plenty of room for your welcome mat. "Do not cover the mat!"
Another store, another 10,000 products in 1,000 square feet. Some things have to spill onto the sidewalk.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Korean Pop Goes Popular

Sigh, Psy isn't the only Korean pop sensation. OK, he's the only Korean pop sensation we and 99% of the world knows, but back in Korea, he probably has to get in line behind lots of other superstars. Oh how the Koreans love their pop universe.

A little stroll on the main tourist drag of Seoul, Insadonggil, revealed this trendy shop's wares. Boy/Girl pop madness!

Maybe a simple glossy photo isn't enough to show your fanatic love. It's time to wear it! But what do feet photos say about your love?