This is post #12 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip for Monday, November 13, 2017.
We awake to a grey morning, overlooking the arcing roofs of the convention center. We’d picked up some breakfast at An’s Bakery last night, and share the loaf of strange bread and the bumpy bun, plus water. The advantage was that we had a great view for breakfast.
Second look at Korean money, both sides.
Dave went off to the convention center to do his science and after a long relaxed morning, I visited the concierge downstairs to try and get my bearings to get some food. I was hoping to try Bibimbap. I was also feeling confident to move around because of my portable wifi. That is, until I discovered that there are basically NO GOOGLE MAPS!! ACK!!
Apparently it has to do with some agreement in a treaty at the time of the Korean War, ostensibly to protect the residents of South Korea from North Korea, they would never allow maps from foreign entities to publish their streets etc. As one on-line source said “Technically, South Korea is still in a war with North Korea. During the Korean war, the big nations surrounding the Korean peninsula, China and Russia, were on the North’s side. Japan was not on the North’s side, but you know how South Koreans have been worrying about Japan after they had been ruled by Japan for over 30 years. So, Japan is also considered as a potential enemy. Basically, South Korea has been surrounded by big enemy nations.
“They have a law that prohibits sending terrain/buildings data outside their country (so that the enemies might not get those data and use them against South Korea). Google’s servers that reside in the US cannot have South Korea’s map data on them. That is why the portion of South Korea in Google Maps works and looks differently, because Google has to rely on third parties for that part.”
So yes, I could get general ideas of where I was, but there was no searching or no significant detail.
The maps they gave me at the hotel were also strange—kind of reversed in some odd way. It’s hard to explain, but when I came out of the tunnel in a building, expecting to see what they had on their map, it was all in reversed order.
No wonder I never wanted to venture out past where I could see my hotel.
Even though the street map business was a bust, I did try to use my Google Translate to figure out what things were, when there wasn’t English, or enough English. When shop owners would see me struggling, they’d hurry over with an English menu, which was sometimes helpful.
At any rate, I found Bonjook, a random Bibimbap cafe (the green store front, above), and had a great bowl of food.
My comments on Instagram note that “Just a regular joint but there were lots of people in there. I used my Google Translate App to tell the lady I wanted vegetables and egg and she pointed to one, chattered a bit more, and rung me up. It feels strange to pay 7500 units of currency (KRW) for a bowl of rice and vegetables, but it’s really only about 7 bucks. It was delicious, the bowl was sizzling hot, so I got the crunchy rice that is part of a good bowl of bibimbap.”
It was in the bottom level of a several-story building, and it was only after several days that I figured out that other shops were on the other floors. Again, because I was a wimpy traveler, I didn’t try any, but if I go back again, I should.
I decided I couldn’t get lost in that area, so walked around and found Daiso Korea—what a surprise!
This Daiso had two floors, and lots of fun things that I wish I could buy (like the red and white plates) but know I can’t fit in the suitcase.
In the wandering, I go past a grocery store, where the groceries come up on a conveyor belt, with the receipts taped to the boxes. They put the boxes out on the platform, and people come and pick up their groceries.
I walk a little bit, again, always trying to keep my sense of direction and an idea of where our hotel was (not the tallest hotel, but I could “steer by” its neighbors).
I photographed store fronts, the sculptures I saw, and the convention center. I stopped in to the Convention Center, to follow up on the tours they offered. One was to the Demilitarized Zone, up near North Korea, another was a tour of Seoul: Charming Korea Afternoon Tour. They told me my time had passed to sign up, but I got the email of the people who ran the tours and would email them after I talked to Dave. They gave me a little bag from the tourism folks.
I headed back to the room to wait. Time passed, and I did Instagram, correspondence.
When Dave came home for dinner, he had a map from the convention center about places to go eat, and we stopped by An’s Bakery to buy treats to take back to the room for tomorrow’s breakfast. Again, the map was backwards somehow. The other interesting thing is that they labeled all the shops in Korean, which makes sense, I guess, but when we were trying to compare the hand-written Korean characters with the neon signs on the shops, we were beyond frustrated. Finally we just chose a random shop, and ate there.
It was called “Teacher Kim” and again, they handed us an English menu.
Some items were “Galbi Dumplings” which were “Stuff with Teacher Kim Bareda spiced with special rip sauce dumplings.” Clear as mud. We went with Bulgogi, hoping we liked it and a couple of other dumpling dishes.
We sat down, but first looked for where to pick up our utensils. She must have seen us looking confused because they came over and pulled out a drawer underneath the table (much like our drawer at home), and there were the chopsticks (plastic ones that Dave doesn’t like), spoons, paper napkins, and as usual, moistened towelettes in a plastic wrap (they had those everywhere). Brilliant placement.
There was a family with small children in the corner, and I noticed the two girls taking a photo of us. As they finished up, the wee toddler smiled (we had been talking with the the young father, who spoke English, and had talked Dave about coming to America and going to work for UCR). The little boy held his fingers in a particular way. I asked the father what it meant and it was the “heart sign.”
Awww, so cute!
They said good-bye, and we grabbed our baked goods and walked back to the hotel, admiring the lights on the tall buildings.
Back at the hotel, I found out we could get on the tour the next day. We had toyed with the idea of the Demilitarized Zone, but it gave me the creeps. [We found out later that the tour there had been cancelled because a soldier defected to South Korea.] Our tour wasn’t cheap, and the name of it — “Charming Tour” — was pretty ludicrous, but we signed up.