Friday, January 30, 2009

China Here I Come!

... well, in two weeks or so.

I finally finished jumping through all the hoops, and climbing all the mountains, necessary to getting visas and tickets for my vacation trip to visit TB in Beijing (not the disease, no--but you knew that.) One day last week, I went to the Immgration Office in Mok-dong and paid 50K to add multiple entries to my Korean visa.

Yesterday, I went to Myong-dong station and trekked halfway up the backside of Namsan (that's "South Mountain") to the Chinese Consulate. Amazingly, though I visited a dozen websites, including the official one (okay, it was in Korean) I somehow missed the information that the Chinese Consulate no longer gives out ordinary visas. They are only available from designated travel agents.

Fortunately, the whole street is pretty much nothing but designated travel agencies, with a crowd of barkers standing nearby to navigate you to their shop. Also, despite the (mis)information promulgated on the internets, there is no one-day service. So I had to come back today to get my passport back; I took some pictures in case I forgot exactly where to go--they all look ... similar.

Turns out I didn't need them; I found the office with no trouble, and got my passport, with visa correctly applied. For 180K. Down the hill was an agent with an official-looking Korean Air banner outside. Earlier, I reserved but was unable to buy my tickets online because my debit card was the wrong kind, or something. Anyway, at this agent, after comparing the prices, I opted to fly China Air--the price difference was 160,000 W.

I plan to use part of that savings to buy a new carry-on size backpack. My current carry-on is a three-day type, and I don't want to use my duffel or my big case, both of which would have to be checked (you can see the bags I brought to Korea at this post--seems so long ago!) I dropped by Dongdaemun market on my way home to check out what they've got in the labyrinthine luggage/handbag/leather goods section. No decision yet.

The rest will be applied to a higher quality of partying while I'm there.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blog News

We labor long and hard here in the Seoul Patch, planting, tending and harvesting, uh, Seoul, for the entertainment and edification of our dear readers. And we do this without thought of praise, payment or remuneration of any kind.

Nonetheless, it is with something akin to pride (well, at least in the same half of the dictionary) that I announce The Seoul Patch has been nominated for a Golden Klog Award--two of them actually.

What is a Golden Klog? Yeah, I didn't know either, but it turns out some dude who has probably run out of stuff to put on his own blog has hit on a clever way to up his page hits without too much work: he and a buddy get really snockered and go through all the Korean expat blogs (Korean blog-->Klog, get it?), dreaming up categories to "nominate" them for awards in. They then get this nice guy called Rob to notify nominees, so it all appears legit. Nominees like myself then post a link back to the first guy's site, urging visitors to go there and "Vote for Me!" Like I'm gonna fall for that.

Yours truly was nominated in the "Happiest Korea Blogger, 2008" category, which I'm really pissed off about, and "Up and Comer: Blogger to Watch in 2009" which I'm okay with, since it's already 2009.

Anyway, go to this guy's page:, click on the survey links and vote for Tuttle! Repeatedly!

In other blog news, my blogger profile has just passed 500 views. No real significance, I just like round numbers. Besides, fifty or sixty of those are me, anyway. But don't let this delay you in going to the Golden Klog Awards and letting your voice be heard. Or at least voting for Tuttle. TIA, HAND!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nerdiness in the Cause of Peace Isn't That Bad

I went to the fitness center today for the first time in yonkies, and still managed to do okay, though my calf muscle seems to have taken a few steps backward due to disuse. Fitness guy didn't even ask where I've been, though I had my excuses prepared--in pidgin/charade format.

I had planned to go the Chinese consulate today to get my visa for the upcoming China trip, but I noticed at the webpage that they are closed today--many things in Seoul were closed Sun., Mon. and Tues. due to Seollal, but this is the only place I know of that extended it through today. This was on their 2009 table of closings, where the Dec. 25 closing was announced as due to "Korean festival". April 6 is "Tomb-sweeping Day."

Incidentally, here are directions to the Chinese Consulate, from our friends at
Take Subway No.4 Line, exit at Exit No.3 of Myeong-dong Subway Station, then walk about 400 meters (437.4 yards) toward Namsan. The Consular Office is close to the Ticket Office of Namsan Cable Car Station.

Do you see what they've done? They've taken a measurement that is approximated to the first significant figure (400 m), then converted that measure to a result that has four sig. figs (437.4 yds). Appalling!

I mean, I did 6.2 km on the elliptical today (will have to start building back up) but that doesn't mean I did exactly 3.90072 miles. The fact that the readout is calibrated in tenths necessarily means any conversion can only have the same precision. Precision, of course, has a particular meaning in measurement, as does accuracy; but you knew that--so why didn't the folks at

Before we go any further, I also spent time on the treadmill and the stationary bike. Alas, converting from pounds to kilograms doesn't really change the outcome so far by much--though I have cinched up my belts a hole or two (count numbers are absolute since there's no measurement uncertainty).

The title of this post comes from a quote by Nixon: "Paranoia in the cause of peace isn't that bad." Or something close, though my google-fu has failed me. If you know what I'm going for, please send a comment to straighten me out. TIA (thanks in advance). But you know that.

Bonus Photograph: Snow in Itaewon.

Snow in Itaewon, Jan 25, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Magnificent Festival Wishing Prosperity for the Year of the ox

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village, posters in subway station
This weekend is the Seollal Festival (Lunar New Year) celebrating the arrival of the year of the ox (so long, year of the rat!) They crowned Karen and me Empress and Emperor of the Magnificent Festival Wishing Prosperity etc etc ...

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village, posing for photo op
Just kidding, I wanted to get that pic out of the way; but seriously, there were a lot of people wearing costumes, including this little cutie:

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village, miniature hanbok
... and these guys:

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village
It's the Lunar New Year, so here are the obligatory photos of lanterns, kite(s) and paper flowers:

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village, lanterns
Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village, kite
Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village, paper flowers
There were numerous performances, samples and demonstrations, including this guy doing a traditional ritual called Charye, honoring ancestors.

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village, Charye ritual
You could eat traditionally cooked sweet potatoes or popcorn:

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol VillageSeoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village

You could play traditional games:

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol VillageSeoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village
Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol VillageSeoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village

You could create crafts, like Karen's necklace:

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol VillageSeoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village
Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol VillageSeoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village

It's called the "wishing prosperity" festival because you can follow the traditional method of writing your wish in a ribbon and tying it to your zodiac strand on the wishing tree.

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village
Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village
Or you can write your message of hope on the Message of Hope board.

Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village, Karen's message of hope
Seoul Seollal Festival, Namsangol Village, my message of hope
Either way, Happy Lunar New Year to you!

Namsangol Traditional Village

Today I visited the Namsangol Hanok Village on the occasion of the Seollal (New Year) Festival. I'm gong to divide this trip into two posts, one on the Hanok (Traditional) Village, including the Seoul Time Capsule, and one on the New Year's Festivities. Well, three if you count the Chungmuro Station post.

Traditional Hanok Village: The photos below show interior views of traditional houses, followed by the ondol, the floor heating system still used today--well, instead of wood fires and forced air, they generally use hot water.

Namsangol Hanok Village
Namsangol Hanok Village
Namsangol Hanok Village
Courtyards, one filled with kimchi pots, the other festooned with decorative ribbons. And decorative Karen. Be quiet, outside the courtyard is a flock of cranes. Just kidding, they're not real! They are red-crowned cranes, long incorporated into Korean culture and art, and revered as a symbol of fidelity and longevity.

Hanok Village, kimchi pots in courtyard
Hanok Village, courtyard
Hanok Village, red-crested crane models
I've been listening to too much T. Rex:

Me, banging drum in Hanok Village
This shows a wooden race which carries water down the mountain into the holding pond. It's been a dry winter, but just wait until the snow melts.

Water reservoir with race
The village has another, larger pond, which is frozen over right now and on which small children were seen:
Namsangol Village, boy on frozen pondNamsangol Village, frozen pond

Seoul Time Capsule: Buried in 1994 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Seoul's designation as the capital of Korea, the capsule contains 600 items and is scheduled to be opened in 2395 AD.

Seoul Time Capsule, Namsangol
Seoul Time Capsule, Namsangol
Seoul Time Capsule, Namsangol
Seoul Time Capsule, Namsangol

Coolest. Subway. Station. Ever.

On my way to the New Year Festival at Namsangol Hanok Village, I encountered Chungmuro Station for the first time. Most of the stations I've been in (quite a few, but probably not a tenth of the total--hell, there are entire lines I haven't ridden) are fairly nondescript, even if highly functional. Some make a token effort to display art (Itaewon), others are massive architectural edifices (Noksapyeong), but this one is unique, and unique at three different levels.

First, in the tunnel, it looks like the bedrock is exposed--there's a station on MARTA in Atlanta like that. But when you give the stone a tap, it reveals it's fiberglass facing.

Chungmuro Station. line 3 and 4
Chungmuro Station. line 3 and 4
When you pass through the turnstile and turn left, you see this:

Chungmuro Station. line 3 and 4
It is apparently a tribute to the Korean movie awards, because around the corner, the whole hallway is covered in awards show stills:

Chungmuro Station. line 3 and 4
Finally, the entry plaza walls are covered in decorative tile murals. And check out those crazy phone kiosks.

Chungmuro Station. line 3 and 4Chungmuro Station. line 3 and 4
Chungmuro Station. line 3 and 4Chungmuro Station. line 3 and 4

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chicken, Street-Style

Buy the Way
Around the corner from this convenience store (Buy the Way, get it? - a rare example of the well-executed Engish pun in Korea), you will usually find a rotisserie chicken vendor operating from a specially-equipped truck. Well, today it was a steamed crab guy, operating from a specially-equipped truck.

steamed crab vendor
Though I enjoy steamed crab, blogging about it earlier really got me in the mood for the chicken, so I pressed on. The other such vendor I know of is about six blocks back in the other direction, near the Gangseo-gu Medical Center busstop. Fine. The whole point was a nice long walk, this is just a bonus:

rotisserie chicken truck
I walk right past a certain well-known convenience store on the way back, and pop in to get a bottle of beer for afters. There are generally three sizes here: 500 cc, 1 L and 1.6 L. Guess which one I got?

The photos below show the whole and the half. Delicious!

rotisserie chicken, 6000 W
stuffed w/rice, herbs and fruit