We operated on a strict policy of lurk and observe...and then simply repeat observed actions. It was a policy that proved to be successful if not a little bit time consuming.
Our desired location was Itaewon, a district in central Seoul widely known as the foreigner district and marked by a huge US military presence. The Yongsan Garrison, one of the largest US military contingancies is located near by, which explains the huge volume of US troops in the district. Other notable minorities in the area include Turkish immigrants, African immigrants, english teachers from Canada, the US, and England, and a small, but noticeable population of gay men (VERY rare in Korea, or so I'm told). Each group sticks out pretty visibly. The GI's seem to have really short crew cuts and are gigantic, at least by comparison to everyone else in the area. The Turkish and African immigrants seem to stick pretty tightly to one another and are rather flamboyent in their attire (think urban pimp and ghetto king for many of the Africans and tucked in professional who reads GQ for the Turks.) The english teachers are pretty obnoxious and can't seem to stop talking about their jobs. They also look the frumpiest of the bunch. Apparently, there have been many an incident of GI provoked violence in the area and as a result the MP's work in conjunction with the local police, of which I saw none, to enforce a 3am curfew for military personnel and genearlly keep the peace.
The streets were a veritable knockoff bazar. Think Canal street only with less, but better gear. I cannot tell you how many knock off designer scarves, blankets, gloves, underwear, socks, and your usual selection of fakery I saw. I will say however, that the quality seemed better than I had seen in American knockoff markets and the prices were better as well (a designer scarf could be haggled down to between 10k and 13k won, which is approximately $6.75-9 ). I purchased a pair of black Rayban wayfarers and passed on a fucking sweet Native American T-shirt for 10k won...kind of regretting it. Rachel bought a pair of rad pearl essence wayfarers and a Dior scarf. In addition there were a number of boutiques from western companies, although they were mostly sneaker companies (Reebok, Nike, Puma, New Balance, etc.).
Since we were in the foreign Dong, we decided to get a good old foreign meal. We passed by a Mexican restaurant and all bets were off. Despite expecting nothing grander than a trife burrito or possibly a passable quesadilla we were besides ourselves with curiosity and hope. The owner of the establishment a bleach blonde (sort of) white dude from the north bay instantly pegged Rachel and I for mexican americans and began chatting us up. Dude's name was Wayne and he sure liked to chop. Eventually, the conversation got around to the quality of the food. When asked how I thought it stacked up, I sort of stuttered and began to ponder how to tell the dude it tasted somewhere between cafeteria quality and what you might expect from a low end taqueria on 82nd ave. Before I could let dude know what I really thought, Rachel had the good grace/heart to tell Wayne how wonderful it was...God bless her soul.
Later in the day we happened upon a wonderfully 80's inspired snowboard store. Unfortunately, it was all closed up for the day, but as we were later to find out, it was for good cause.
When we walked down the street a little further we wondered upon a full on snowboarding demo complete with totally psyched Korean announcer (Think tragically cliche'd snowboarding attire with the voice of a strip club DJ...only in Korean). There were probably about 20 different snowboarders thrashing the 50 foot mountain. Most the snowboarders seemed pretty pysched on the rail situation. I was personally hoping for some dangerous airs off the little kicker ramp.
As we were leaving the demo a flamboyently dressed young Korean man approached me and asked to take a couple of pictures of me. I was shocked and a little bit wierded out, but obliged anyhow. Why not right? He pulled me aside, and low and behold, he had pro photographer with him snapping pictures with a serious looking DSLR. He shot probably around 8 photos in a couple of different poses, focusing on the knees to the shoes, knees to the chest, waist to top, and a couple full on shots. After he was done I asked dude what the pictures were for. He gave me his card and told me he worked for the Korean edition of Arena magazine, a British fashion magazine in the vain of GQ or something. The kind of mag that "hip" or trendy professionals who probably make twice as much money as I ever will like to flip through. At any rate the dude told me he was the editor and that it might be in the next issue's "street style" section. Cool. On the way home I checked out the magazine at a periodicals store in the subway station and scoped the street style section. It seems that it is just pictures of foreign dudes wearing the latest wears. I doubt anything will come of it, but it was at least a novel experience.
Next up on our Seoul tour de force are trips to Hongdae, Apgujeong, and Shindon. Stay tuned