Apr 14, 2006

Dispatch from Korea, Day 6 "Eating Follies and the Search for Papa Johns"

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

We actually managed to get on the metro by 9 o’ clock or so. We still the missed the 10:30 bus from Suwon station out to the Korean Folk Village, but we caught the 11:30 one and arrived by yes, 12 o clock. The Korean Folk Village was a fascinating place and I wish we’d had more time. It’s acres of a traditional Korean village staffed by people who essentially live the life of the old-time Koreans (at least until 5:30 when it closes). They had the usual handicraft shops, but here you could actually see the items being made in the way they’d been crafted for centuries. There was a paper mill, a blacksmith, a brass smelter, a wood-burning artist, and many others. We only had four hours until our shuttle returned to Suwon station and it was not near enough to see and appreciate all that they had there. We did manage to see a re-enactment of a traditional Korean wedding and some dances. We also saw girls do a see-saw routine which was quite remarkable. The girls were most excited about the small, thoroughly modern amusement park attached to the village. Most of the rides were closed—still too early in the year to be running roller coasters I guess. But some of the rides—the Viking (you know, the swinging boat thing), the Simulator (sit inside this box that bounces and jerks around while you watch a faded first person film of being on a rollercoaster), the Music Express (one of those rides that spins you around backwards at nauseatingly high speeds, and the girls’ favorite, the bumper cars. They were practically the only kids in the park so they got to go on the all the open rides as many times as they wanted. I felt bad about them missing Lotte World’s rides the day before so I let them play, rather than forcing them to walk around and look at the more educational village itself.

We managed to make a spectacle of ourselves at lunch time at the Korean Folk Village. We looked over the menu at the ticket booth, and saw some things listed as “meals”, others as “side dishes” and others as “special menu.” So we ordered oh, one meal, and then a side dish. . .and what the heck maybe an item from the special menu. And a drink from the drink menu. For each of us, of course. The cashier looked at me kind of funny and as we paid she whispered under her breath, “Wow.” I thought that was a bit funny. Maybe “wow” mean’t something in Korean, but it sounded suspiciously like the English to me the way she said it. As in: Oh. My. Goodness. Wow.

So we go to pick up our food at the various traditional Korean kitchens (food cooked over open fires by little old ladies in traditional Korean garb) and found that each item on the menu was a FULL MEAL with a numerous sides of kimchi, soup and so on. Apparently, “side dish” means something different in Korean. We had ordered WAY too much food.

I’m not sure whether it was more or less pathetic that we ate it all.

The eating experience was neat. They put us in these little enclosed booths. We took off our shoes, went inside, and they shut the doors. We ate sitting on a heated floor off of low wooden tables. It felt very “cultural.” We loved it. Such tourist we are.

After lunch, it snowed briefly and the girls were absolutely thrilled!

Around four o clock we missed our shuttle back to Suwon station, so instead paid $18 US for a cab back to the train station. We took the subway back to Seoul where we began our hunt for Papa Johns. The Vice President had spotted one out the windows of the metro and decided she wanted Papa Johns pizza. So the search began. After many phone calls and much walking in the freezing rain we finally found it. We ordered it and ate it on the run, on the bus and the subway on our way back to the Seoul Arts Center for a Brian Crain concert.

Brian Crain is a San Fransciscan pianist who specializes in that soothing, catchy, vaguely New Age-y music. The songs are short, pretty, and vaguely cinematic. We’d never heard of him, but my wife was determined that the girls should get as much big-city culture as possible on this trip, and since we just missed the Seoul Symphony, arriving a day after their concert, Brian Crane would have to suffice. Actually I think this was mainly for her. Babs really misses being able to hear good classical music live. We don’t have much of that in Saipan. Actually we don’t have any of that in Saipan.

Crain wasn’t bad. He played mostly duets with this stunningly beautifully Korean celloist, and then for the second half of the concert, with a string quartet. It was beautiful. Live strings have to be among the most beautiful sounds in the world. And the concert hall itself was an experience, with its exquisitely wood paneling, golden lighting, amazing acoustics, and plush seats.

The girls slept through virtually the entire concert, but at least it was gorgeous music to sleep to.

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