Decided that if we wanted to do stuff to our hair it had to be today, before Lee arrived to join us the next day. We took the subway to Ewha Women's University station ("Edae" for short), which was just two stations away. That's where all females in Seoul go to get their hair done (almost true).
We went to my usual hair salon without an appointment, and were told to return in half an hour. Walked around looking for a place to grab a quick bite and settled on Isaac Toast. They have outlets all over Korea but I've only eaten there once before. The MVP Bulgogi Toast I got tasted better than I remember their food to be.
I'd decided to do something radical with my hair and was feeling rather antsy. My hair does not have a history of coping well with change.
My new hair didn't turn out half as bad as I'd expected it to be, and that put me in a great mood. So great, in fact, that in my state of happiness and vanity I left my earrings at the salon, only realising it when we were already halfway through a bowl of shaved ice (bingsu). Good thing the salon was just one street away from the cafe we were at.
Got the persimmon-flavoured bingsu. I love me some persimmon but these folks need to go easy on the sugar syrup. The jujube chips were an awesome touch though.
Can't get over how cute the cafes in this country are.
At the top of my list of places to visit in Seoul were two parks - Haneul Park and Olympic Park. Since most of the day was over we decided to head for Haneul Park, which was the nearer of the two to Edae and located at World Cup Stadium station.
I realised from the map at the entrance of the World Cup Stadium that Haneul Park was one of five parks forming World Cup Stadium Park. Tricky. We checked with a traffic warden at Home Plus supermarket to make sure we were headed in the right direction. Getting to Haneul Park took more than a half-hour walk from the station but the pleasant weather made getting there a breeze (hey be thankful I didn't say "walk in the park" okay).
The word 하늘 (haneul) means "sky". We had to climb 291 steps to actually get to the park. Pretty intimidating, but it was what I came here for. Well to clarify the resulting photo-op was what I came here for. That and Shinhwa Broadcast :(
The sun was still coming down strong when we got to the top.
We learnt that Haneul Park is a place that consists mostly of grass.
Apparently it's at its prettiest in late summer when the sunflowers are in bloom, and in late October when the fields are filled with long-stemmed and reedy eulalias. Since we were neither there in late summer nor autumn, you'll have to settle for pictures of the Han River and yes, lots of grass.
We decided to head downhill before it got dark. Forced Charlotte to take some fake-candid pictures of me at a stream, then got drinks and sat by the lake in the adjacent Peace Park. Taking small sips from a can of fizzy Milkis, I soaked in the cool evening air and watched little kids flying kites and riding bikes. The weather felt so lovely I tried committing it to memory.
It started getting cold as we scurried across the park. We were having kamjatang (a pork and potato stew) at the nearest restaurant which served it. It was a considerable distance away, and we had to walk the length of a wholesale market and cross two huge roads to get there. Very unwise of me to be wearing what I was wearing.
The warmth of the restaurant was a welcome relief from the night chill. While waiting for our kamjatang to arrive we observed a family of four at the next table tackling a giant red pile of seafood and beansprouts. I deliberated stealing their food.
The thick, spicy broth of the kamjatang was flavorful and warmed my belly. The ajumma serving us was also very nice and kept coming back to help us with the cooking when she realised we were foreigners.
We were in high spirits and Charlotte suggested that we order a bottle of soju. I'd never tried it before but felt up to it so I agreed. Besides, the ajusshis at the next table were on their fifth bottle and looked fine except for being slightly red in the face. We filled our shot glasses and clinked them.
I then took a sip from the shot glass and gagged. Spent the rest of the meal trying to conceal the remaining soju in other bowls, eventually dumping most of the contents of the bottle into the leftover broth.
Shopping at Dongdaemun is a quintessential tourist experience if you're in Seoul. You'll be spoilt for choice - In Migliore alone there are 4 stories of shops selling women's apparel. It's open till 4 a.m. too.
Unfortunately the shopkeepers' attitudes towards tourists are less than ideal. Most of them are very rude, especially if you try something on and change your mind about getting it. The way the shops are arranged makes each floor feel like a labyrinth and it can get dizzying after some time. I manage to pick up some good buys, but it's hardly an enjoyable experience. Might be a better idea to stick with shopping at the university areas instead.