Imagine a race of humans that live in a world of perpetual steam. Maybe in caverns and crevasses. They would have smooth, opalescent skin, blow hot, steamy kisses your way, and invite you to their geyser. We'll call them the dumpling people!

Good coffee can be found in Seoul, just don't go to Dunkin Donuts silly! We found some prime stuff in Hongdae. This cafe serves every coffee with an espresso to match, a nice way to give you two impressions of the same bean. I had the Indonesian Mandheling. It was !!!!!!!good!!!!!!!

They also had a toaster oven and served us fresh baked cookies you guys! We spent a couple of hours leafing through their photography books on our caffeine highs.

Barrista, I Love You

Both?!

Freshly Baked

PS. I like saying you guys now you guys!

Graffiti and other things on walls around Hongdae in Seoul.

paint

paste

spray

grimey

Big Head

Here are three ways to tell someone they have a big head in Korean. I think the second one is the most slang-y (and it's general, as in military general). And, yes, I have a big head.

Pops Cool

We went to a bar called Pops Cool in Apgujeong, a chi-chi neighbourhood in Seoul. The decor and art on the walls is pretty rad, and they brew some decent beer on site. (Sacks of Pilsner malt from Germany are stacked in a corner.) Order a pitcher-sized bottle and it will be served in a bucket filled with water and dry ice. Pretty rock and roll. Bring your own lasershow.

Fake Plastic

Fake Plastic

Fake Plastic

Fake Plastic

Fake Plastic

Fake Plastic

As I was taking these photos, a man walked up beside me to see what the excitement was about. Imagine people gaping at a white wall in amazement. That's what we looked like to him.

We watched Volver last night. Penelope Cruz is looking goooood! Also, I can still pick out more Spanish than Korean. The other day I was awakened by a phone call, and said, "I don't know Korean." I went back to bed and in my half-sleep congratulated myself for conjuring that phrase in my daze. Then I realized what I actually said was, "I don't know English." Is confused? I idiot? En Español?

Anyway, someone buy me this thingy --

Bicicleta

We returned to the Seoul Arts Center last week or so for the MoMA exhibit "Humble Masterpieces". Aside from an introductory blurb it turned out to be entirely in Korean, leaving us Anglophones peering at displays of Bic pens, Slinkys, paper clips and other products. I did pick up a small pamphlet with dates for each item, and we had some fun quizzing each other afterwards.

More satisfying was a contemporary art exhibit in a different gallery of the complex. "Contemporary Korean Artists In Paris" includes paintings, photographs, installations, and a "moving sculpture". According to the write-up, the exhibit is composed of three parts, which I'll quickly paraphrase as: Let Me Explore My Korean Roots, Let Me Experiment With My Medium, and I'm Young -- Here's Me In The Modern Art Scene.

The gallery attendant was most helpful, flitting from visitor to visitor in an almost panicked manner, eager to impart some facts about the pieces on display. "These sculptures are made of bronze, and have been left outdoors to naturally corode." "Some say this chair reminds them of a kite." "These bowls are filled with thread. What do they remind you of?"

It was a nice way to look at art. I should have made her my permanent art-buddy.

Paintings

Installation

Bronze Sculpture

Bronze Sculpture

More Art

Sculpture

Sculpture

Photography

Photography

Tis getting cold in our corner of the world. This means that we get to pump up our heated floors, drink hot teas, and wear woolen socks hiked all the way up. All the way!

Speaking of cold, here are some kids playing it cool (sorry) in the ice room of the last jjimjilbang we stayed at. Ice rooms seem to be a staple, but this is the first one I've seen with what appear to be two miniature snowmen. That's chill, but where are the carrot noses?

Snowman

Ice Cold!

Chilling

Here are some photos I took on the streets of Daejeon near Jungang Market this weekend.

Market Umbrellas

Pigs

Selling

Selling

Discarded

Selling

Selling

Selling

Selling

Rider

Books

Table

Q-Tex Curtain

Fruit

Seoul seems to have a number of districts dedicated to specific things. We have found ourselves in areas specializing in sewing machines, home lighting, dried fish and store signage.

Kwang Jang Market in Seoul has many fabric outlets. Mixed in was a shop dedicated to buttons. I know some of you would love to go on a spree here.



We'll be heading to Daejon to catch some Shakespeare in Korean this weekend. See you on the other side!

I got my first haircut in Seoul last weekend (just a cut, I'll have to save the man-perm for next year), and I got it at a jjimjilbang. I've mentioned these before, and perhaps I'll do a jjimjilbang exposé someday, but for now just think "Korean sauna".

We went back to Spa Land, the jjimjilbang inside the World Cup Stadium. In addition to a jacuzzi that is scented (flavoured?) tropical fruit one day, cherry the next, Spa Land also has a barber shop. I got my trim for 10,000KW.

No shoes, no shirt? No problem. The barbershop is in the men's only section. One can get a hair cut naked. The barber is clothed though. I wasn't sure at first and kept my jjimjilbang outfit on this time around, but when I saw a Korean business man settle his bare behind into the towel-covered chair next to me, I resolved to live as freely as he in the future. Can you picture me getting a perm naked? You're welcome.

The back of the head is an important aspect of a 'do. Yes, one wants to impress from the front, but it's equally important to be sexy from the back. You never know who will be staring at the back of your head. We're all familiar with hairdressers taking a mirror and swivelling it around behind your head so you can catch a glimpse. No such primitive rituals here -- a camera is dedicated to every seat, and perfectly aimed over the barber's shoulder to broadcast the progress. Is he butchering your mullet? Ruining your rat-tail? Bungling your fade? Just watch the TV in front of you. I wonder if I can get it burned on DVD.

My barber worked with sure hands, moving fast. In the final lap, he took a powder puff and deftly coated the lower perimeter of my hair with a single stroke. I felt like a French pastry. He then took scissors and worked his way around my head, evening out imperfections magically revealed by the powder. Finally, he smeared cold shaving-cream around the edges and cleaned them up with a straight-razor. Finito!

I look more Korean now.

If you didn't know, a fixed-gear bicycle lacks the freewheel mechanism, which means it cannot coast -- if the wheels are turning, so are the pedals. Most bikes of this type are also single-speed. The combination makes them lighter, but also more challenging to ride. It's a purist thing.

It's also a cool kids thing; the bikes have recently become potent signifiers. Ride one and what you're saying is "Hey, check out my social milieu!"

Ayyyhnnyway. Guess what I came across in Seoul, near the artsy Hongik University, at that parkette frequented by a mix of punks, hip-hop thugs and club kids that is often venue to live music and booze picnics.

Bike

Bike

IMG_3465

mmm Bikes

Bikes

Bikes

I got to ride one. The owner's sole instruction: "Slow." These machines are not cheap. They were definitely being shown off more than they were being ridden. If you're sexy and you know it...

I Ride

We got treated to some noraebang nearby, and of course the bikes joined us. They parked right in the song room, no questions asked. It was another example of a certain laxness exercised here that I really, really want to export to North America.

Korea Sparkling? How about Korea, Yeah Dude Whateeevs, Just Take Your Shoes Off When Appropriate.

Noraebang With Bike

If you have any tips for cyclists in Incheon/Seoul (where to buy, where to ride), let me know.