Gangnam style, Coex Mall, Kimchi in Seoul’s hit district
3rd June 2013. Diary Format.
We have a convenience store inside our tall residential monster on ground floor, which is a common sight in Seoul. Because the big supermarket is a bit far away, we often just go down to get a bite for breakfast.
Tea with lemon and brown sugar (the price of real honey and dust on the package spoke against the bee product) in many tiny cups (six!) to get the equivalent of a regular cup of tea. Cereal with milk and the best part, tofu! I was so excited to see those square packs of soft and fresh tofu on the shelves of our convenience store.
‘Morning tofu’ is as great as Japanese tofu. Even better – it always comes with a delicious sauce and cool sounding names, like ‘black sesam & peanut’ or ‘lemon & apple’ or ‘real oriental’. All are absolutely awesome.
Today we thought we would explore South Korea’s most known district. Gangnam. The hit song ‘Gangnam style’ by Korean rapper Psy is a phenomenon promoting K-pop, Korean upper class decadence and the new Asian opulence. This promised to provide loads of cultural entertainment!
Gangnam. View from top of Coex Mall. (It actually is an underground mall but there are buildings on top and one featured a café with views.)
When looking for places of desire, material pleasures and nice things, I usually turn to the shopping mall. Coex Mall is a mall and consequently we were visiting. It is also a well established sight!
Location: 159 Samsung-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
I have an idealised image in mind that shopping malls are clean and climate-controlled and feature pristine bathrooms. Therefore I was mildly disturbed by the fact that it is underground. Having been through the creepiness of Hitler’s war bunkers, I am not particularly fond of basements.
But if ginseng roots, pirate treasures and Tokyo’s underground are any indication, everything found underground must be necessarily amazing.
Coex Mall was undergoing some reconstruction and did feel empty. Like walking through an endless metro tunnel or airport hallway with an occasional lower end shop.
Coex Mall turned out to be a maze of daunting blank, distance, pillars. Somehow it felt like space has been the victim of mismanagement. Hidden in a corner further downstairs, is the Kimchi museum. It was already closed but South Korea is Kimchi World so we need to compensate somehow (by eating a lot of that spicy cabbage is what comes to mind).
One hallway was lined with restaurants and we went for the one with the least meat. A Vietnamese pho soup restaurant.
Each table had neat drawers with wooden chopsticks and spoons.
Tomek had fried rice with shrimp and I ordered seafood pho soup.
More than concentrating on our meals, it was engaging to watch ongoings at the other tables. Neighbours were creating awesome Vietnamese spring rolls. They used incredibly thin, almost translucent rice paper. Those round wrappers were served in flat baskets with a bowl of hot water – to dip in the rice papers, lay it down on wooden plates, wait for the rice paper to become pliable and then load it with various greens. Food Fun!
My bowl was a bit bland but I liked the seafood and vegetables a lot.
Try eating your soup with chopsticks!
The bill was a bargain. 18, 500 won. No tipping custom.
Korean Mall toilets.
Not as posh as Japan’s multi controlled heated, musical and automated models but clean.
The best part of Coex Mall was the passageway to the huge Hyundai Department Store. I thought Hyundai only made cars but there you go.
The highlight is the fancy food court in the basement.
Deserts. Combine precious stones with chocolate and high heels and proclaim these creations a women’s best friend.
Shoe fetishists – have a bite!
Bread, we found real bread and it was delicious, too. The loafs were tiny and 3, 500 won each.
We found butter, as well! Diary products are a luxury in Asia and were as expensive as in Japan. Butter was 5,750 won!
The we-have-a-lot-of kimchi counter.
There are about as many kimchi variations as Korean chefs. Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made of fermented cabbage and garlic, salt, vinegar and a lot of fiery peppers. It is loaded with wondrous health benefits, such as vitamin A, B, C and the lactobacilli bacteria aiding digestion, preventing yeast infections and the growth of cancerous cells. Fermented but not bad!
On top of Hyundai Department Store – a generous recreational area (if you cab block out air con generator noises).
The view was guarded by double glass window fronts.
I think I found the ideal of a trendy South Korean salary man in Gangnam.
Black tea latte at the fantastic Korean alternative to Starbucks, Hollys Coffee. You don’t have to look for it, it’s just everywhere. Totally recommend and love despite 5,800 won the cuppa tea with heavenly milky foam.
I like surprising arty stuff decorating cities.
Let’s not digress – We didn’t come to shop and look at sculptures but to do THE Gangnam style!
♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ Heeeey sexy lady – 0p op op op oppan Gangnam Style ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ Tomek’s courtship dance totally worked on me.
Gangnam station and the surrounding Apgujeong area is a popular place of urbane Koreans. There are many shopping opportunities for all price ranges. Take exit 10 and enter the smaller side street up the hill to be rewarded with a cool parallel world of cheap eats, cafés and bars. If you stick to the main road, you will get all the local and international chain store variety which looks like this.
Basically, the hub is all about the 760 meter area between Gangnam Station and Kyobo Tower. Attractions include 22 media poles that bring news and digital art. Galleria Department store (location: 343, Apgujeong-ro, Gangnam-gu) brings luxury and top fashion brands.
Many doughnut places and other brand food chains. I found Taco Bell and couldn’t resist to go in and reminisce of my high school time in Lakewood, Colorado in the States. I had a taco salad, the only vegetarian dish on the menu. How about a vegetable-bean-rice burrito without minced cows. Please!
Ah, and behind the flower curtains, the fascinating world of tarot and fortune telling. If I was convinced to get a concrete answer, my urging question of that evening would be: When is Taco Bell going for animal free tortilla snacks?!
But instead, all media poles read: go home!
So we did.
The metro. Seoul’s metro system is ranked 4th in the world when comparing the number of stations, amount of passengers and route length. You will see gas masks in glass cabinets at all stations. Preventive measures due to an unpredictable neighbour.
The metro’s vastness accounts for many exits at a station. Interestingly this map indicates ‘Korea Plastic Surgery‘ as a point of interest. South Korea has the world’s highest rate of cosmetic plastic surgery and the streets are lined with gorgeously wide eyed women smiling down from billboards.
Anyway. I am glad Tomek likes my legs, decorated with Tokyo’s finest fishnet tights.
We have arrived at our station. A happy vanity pic and off we go!
Have a beautiful day, all you beautiful readers!