26 May 2008

Interview with Ian Oppa

As I mentioned previously, Ian Oppa came to Seoul for a two-week vacation. Given the fact that he was in Korea for a longer period, knows a little more Korean, and is generally more amiable than my sister, I thought he'd offer a different take on his time in Korea.

He's currently compiling his photos, but you can check out his interview below. My comments are in purple.

What was your first impression of Seoul?

Seoul??? I thought I landed in Los Angeles with the smell and the
haze of smog. Other than that, Seoul is like your typical "big city"
with lots of cars and people.

Given your Korean skills, was it easy to get around?
I was surprised that so many people spoke English (or at least
understood it). However, if you don't know how to read or speak some
of the language I would say that it could be pretty difficult to get
around. Because I spoke some Korean, everyone automatically assumed
that I was fluent (which I am nowhere near). I think it would be
better to feign ignorance and just speak English.

Were there any Korean phrases that you wish you knew how to say?
"Hey ajumma, why are you cutting in front of me?"

"Another bottle of beer/soju please." Oh wait, I do know THAT one!

What are a few sights that all first-time visitors should check out?
Everyone should check out Gyeongbokgung Palace because it's really
like going back in time. The changing of the palace guards is a must

Bongeunsa (Buddhist temple - near the Coex, across from the Intercontinental) was very spiritually uplifting. So much so that I now am studying Buddhism. I really lucked out that it was the weekend of Buddha's birthday as the temple was adorned with lanterns and the monks were busy chanting. (On Thursdays @ 2pm, for 10,000 won you can go on an English tour, meditate, and experience a tea ceremony).

What's also so neat about these places is that they are located smack
in the middle of the city amongst the highrises. You can truly see
how time has passed by in history.

How did you like your accommodations?
The Best Western Gangnam was very nice. I had a large single room
with an excellent view of the city toward Seoul (Namsan) Tower. The
restaraunt and bar staff were really friendly (I even made a friend)
as well as the ajummas who cleaned my room. However, that being said,
the front desk people were robotic and emotionless. I would still
recommend this place though because of the location. I just wish that
it was closer to the subway and not up that treacherous hill (my legs
hurt just thinking about it). Me too.

If you had more time, what would you have liked to done?
I would have loved to see the country outside of Seoul. I also would
have gone to the DMZ to look toward North Korea. Oh well, there's
always a next time!

If you had more money, what else would you have liked to buy?
Another suitcase full of UNIQLO!!!

How did it feel to be in the Motherland (or in your case, the Grandmotherland)?
I felt welcomed in Korea. I felt like I somehow belonged there. I
though that I would have experienced more of a "culture shock" but I
just blended in (well almost). Yup, extensive arm tattoos will get you a second glance. Props to you for being tolerant of the gawking.

Seoul versus Bundang? Thoughts?
Bundang (ha ha Bun Dang) was interesting because it has that big city
feel with a lot less people. I can see how people want to live there
because you get to escape the city while still having all the perks of
the city like restaurants galore and the shopping (except no UNIQLO).
Seoul can be daunting with all the people. We may not have a UNIQLO (yet), but we're getting a Din Tai Fong!

Any tips for dudes visiting Seoul?
The more metrosexual you are, the better.

What surprised you about Seoul or Koreans?
Most Koreans are really friendly and polite and I say most because you
will definitely encounter some rude ones. You just have to break
through the exterior of some people and they turn into the nicest

As far as Seoul is concerned, where are the frigging trash cans? I
must have seen about three of them the whole time I was there. I was
shocked to see all the trash on the ground everywhere I went.

What was your favorite neighborhood and why?
I felt comfortable in Gangnam because it seemed central to everywhere
I needed to go. There was shopping (a UNIQLO) and lots of places to
eat and drink. It is also a great place to people watch and see what
people are wearing and how they do their hair. When I would have to
wait for people (cough cough) (미안!), I would just park myself on the side
and watch people pass by. Gangnam has a good mix of people.

What did you think of Korean food?
In Korea, the taste of food is more simple and fresher tasting.
Korean food in Hawaii seems saltier and "thrown together". Except for
those noodles we ate in Hongdae (thanks Cindy) I found the food to be
less spicy than what I'm used to.

Try not to eat "American" food in Korea (i.e. McDonald's, Burger
King), you WILL be dissapointed.

What's with the sweet pickles??? Seriously, what's the deal?

What is your opinion of Korean fashion?
Where do I start? For the most part I think that Koreans are very
well put together. I hardly saw sloppy looking people (sorry to say
this but sloppy as in American sloppy). You can tell that by all the
people staring at themselves in any reflective surfaces, that most
Koreans care about the way they look. But...the dudes need some help.
As Anna says, those shiny business suits are REALLY shiny, almost
disco shiny if you know what I mean. You really have to see it in
person to appreciate what we mean. Unless I was crazy (which some of
you think that I am), I would not be caught DEAD in one of those
suits. As for the ladies, high heels are the norm and that
dumbfounds me. Seoul is not a flat city. Some of the hills and long
blocks give me an asthma attack and yet, there are women in high heels
EVERYWHERE. No wonder all the girls are skinny with killer calves (and corns).

Do you think you would have enjoyed Seoul if you didn't know anyone?
Hanging out with you guys was AWESOME, to say the least, and made my
trip the trip of a lifetime. I think that if I didn't know anyone I
still would have enjoyed the sightseeing , food, and shopping
(UNIQLO). You guys being there was just the icing on the cake. Yay! We were so happy that you could come out and visit!

What will you miss about Seoul?
I will miss hanging out with you guys first of all. There's nothing
like visiting a foreign country and having your friends there. I will
also miss UNIQLO very much (ha ha, I'm not kidding) and the sunglass
vendor in Gangnam. I'm sure that he misses you too. Now, he'll just have to stare at himself in the mirror to console himself.

Any other tips for travelers?
Korea is a country full of culture and a very rich heritage. Leave
your country's thinking behind and think "Korean". Study the language
and the culture because it will make your time there more enjoyable.

Get a T-money card as soon as you can. It is the utmost in
transportation convenience.

Any other comments?
The largest Korean won bill is 10000 ($10) so bring a really fat wallet.

Ian Oppa's Top Ten Highlights:

1. Hanging out with friends (old and new...Piggy included)
2. Bongeunsa temple
3. Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung palace
4. Watching drunk salarymen try to kiss and hug each other
5. Shopping!!!
6. Namsan Tower
7. Going to my first "pro" baseball game (our team lost)
8. Eating at "Imo chib" (Insadong)
9. Having my fortune read at a saju cafe
10. Korean Airlines (it really is a great airline)

The Lowlights:

1. The pollution in Seoul (on the streets and in the air)
2. Pushy ajummas
3. Eating beondegi (could also be considered a highlight)
4. Passing by a bosintang restaraunt in Hongdae
5. The men's room of some restauraunts (oh the SMELL!)


Anonymous said...

as ian oppa's dear friend (tho he may deny that he knows me... -.-) i was so happy to hear how much he loved korea. cuz believe me i was a lil "worried" - but i knew that my dohngsengs (or his FAVORITE peeps) would take good care of him, as well as my unnie who took time from her busy schedule - dats wut ian oppa sed - to spend time with him. much mahalos and love to u three for wut he "giddily" remembers about his trip. and as soon as i get a good job (and yes cyndi i am trying) - ian and i will be visiting u two when u guys go back to cali!

take care, aloha!


Ian said...

Thanx JS Imo...

I have another tip for dudes going to Korea...borrow your Omma's or yeojachingu's purse...a murse (man purse)is required. You guys made sure that I got one when I got there.

Ian Oppa