Ruby Ramblings

Saturday Rambles and a Fajita
April 17, 2010, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Korea, Travel | Tags: , , , ,

In light of my quick, out of the country trip next weekend, I forced myself out of bed and onto the subway yesterday for a little exploring. I usually end up staying around my neighborhood, or going into Seoul, which after all this time is a shame since there are so many subway stops between here and there.

Sometimes with my pictures of temples, parks, and such, I think I may be sending home a vision that is not really Korea. The vast majority of the country actually looks like this:

and this

(That castle in the background, I thought might have been a gaudy love-motel, may actually be an over-the-top wedding hall for folks going for the prince and princess theme.)

…and this

To the left of that Toona building, is what I came to Songnea searching for. Rumors of a taqueria. TacoRia is to the left of that building down a little street. This is the best Mexican style food I’ve had in Korea. I’m a fan of Taco Chili Chili in Noksapyeong, but this was even better. Rather than a pre-assembled fajita, the well-spiced chicken, rice, really good salsa, and vegetables come separate so you can make your own on – gasp – corn tortillas! Actually two flour and one corn, but next time I’m sure if I ask for just corn, the owner Dong Kyu Kim would oblige. It also came with a side of the ever illusive condiment in Korea, real sour cream.

For a few minutes I lost myself and thought I was back at a taqueria on Gallatin Road. (Hey Carol, what kind of ridiculousness is the Eastwood church posting lately?)

Besides being really friendly, Dong Kyu is a great cook.

From Sognea, I went on to Bucheon where I was hoping to have better luck with their underground and market for some random clothes items, but not so much. It was a nice day walking around, and in both Songnea and Bucheon I caught some fun things to share.

Flipping the bird is a popular gesture here. Even my youngest boys seem aware of this insult, although I’m pretty positive they have no idea what it means. This was the entrance to a bar, not a very friendly one by the looks of it. 🙂

I would like to go to the dentist soon, but this place looks more like the set for Saw.

Random English on clothing. Buns of steel?

Key Cut While You Watch

I don’t know, I’ve been subjected to a couple of kimchi boongs on the subway. I don’t think they are very sweet.

And just something pretty.

Snow Hiking
March 22, 2010, 2:25 am
Filed under: Korea, Travel | Tags: , ,

– my mountain song, for your enjoyment.

This weekend I took another trip through Adventure Korea. It was a great time, if a little wet and cold on Saturday. We went to Seoraksan on Sat. and then spent the night at Osaek hot springs, where we didn’t enjoy the sauna as much as we should have given the lengthy night of noreabong.

The visibility was horrible, and the hiking pretty treacherous on Saturday, so I ended up just taking the cable car up the mountain and trying to get a few good shots.

Mysterious mountains in the clouds.

After coming down off the mountain, we warmed up in a cafe with some tea that was the creation of the shop owner. Savory, not sweet, and in wonderful leaf shaped cups on a wooden saucer.

Sunday was gorgeous, if a bit brisk, and we hiked around natural mineral springs. The water here was naturally carbonated, and tasted just like sparkling water you would buy. Fantastic.

The End of the Line – New Songdo City

I woke up too late today to venture out on my original plan which would have included a two hour subway ride each way. By the time I had gotten to my destination to take the pictures, I’m sure the sun would be on its way out. So I decided to take my local subway line, the Incheon line to the end. I knew the area was under heavy construction, and has been for several years, but I was not aware of the fact that it literally doesn’t really exist yet.

I was the only person to get off the last stop. There wasn’t a soul in the terminal, except for a young sleeping security guard. My shoes even squeaked on the floor it was so new, shiny, and unused. When I got to the top of the stairs of the subway terminal this is what I saw.

No sidewalk. No ubiquitous Paris Baguettes. Actually not a store, or, for that matter, a fully constructed building in site. It was a wondrous construction zone that lasts for miles. The only place I’ve been in Korea where I was the only one around. A few construction trucks flew by, and although I know I shouldn’t have been there, I couldn’t help wondering around and trying to get a few good shots. The Free Economic Zone of Incheon is going to be the world’s largest constructed community. A 10 year, estimated $40 Billion dollar project, it is a completely planned, completely wired, and eventually the hopeful center of some serious international commerce. I’ve heard that starting prices for apartments, that haven’t even been built yet, is $500,000. Even if I never come back to Korea to teach, seeing what happens to this area in ten years would be worth taking a trip.

This part of Incheon, as in literally the piles of dirt under my feet, didn’t exist a few years ago. Well, actually it existed as a landfill. Korea has been undergoing massive artificial island projects to expand. It is quite plain on the subway maps which parts of the city are artificial, and where the natural coast line is. The faint dotted lines are where future development is planned. Although Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Dubai and other places have been using this as a form of land reclamation for years, it still makes me wonder at the stability of it all, if say a major earthquake or tsunami were to hit the area. I’m also curious as to why artificial islands fall under the geographic term of reclamation, how can you REclaim something that never existed?

New Songdo city is not all that large. I managed to walk from the barely existent International Business subway stop to the Incheon University subway in probably a little over a half hour, and that was with meandering around construction zones and taking pictures. I was hoping there would be a little life around the University stop, but it was literally a subway stop poking out of a field of dirt. There was a shuttle bus to take students to the school, which I couldn’t see on the horizon and a student pointed vaguely in the distance to where it must be. I’m quite confused as to why the stop is named for the University, except that from the subway line, I guess it is the closest access point to the school. A shuttle stop and subway marker jutting up out of nothing.

In between is the Central Park subway stop. A completely planned, and what is clearly going to be quite lovely park in the middle of this constructed city. Complete with public art pieces already installed. The impression I get both from some brief research reading, and from walking around the area, is that this city is meant to be an entity in and of itself. It has plans for international schools (with tuitions of upwards of $25,000/year), tax incentives for international business, a banking industry with low interest loans (presumably to very large investors), and the makings of town that plans to exclude, and possibly outright dismiss the existence of people of lower economic class. It makes me wonder what kind of actual life or vibrancy this fabricated city is going to have. Can you plunk down a city where one never existed, move in a bunch of folks, and call it home? I guess I should ask someone from a gated community in Arizona. (jab.)

Here is a photo of a poster on a construction barrier that shows what the city is supposed to look like when it is finished. Very modern, very urban, and quite nice. Of course, this doesn’t show the trash, the cars, the exhaust, or an Ajashee clearing his throat and spitting it next to someone’s shoe.

On a whim I got off a couple stops later at Campus Town. Again, I was having faint dreams of college towns, but alas, I think it meant “campus of highrise apartments.” Again, although this area is much further along in development and people clearly live here, there was nothing in the way of restaurants, shops, or stores within close walking distance of the subway stop. Even the map inside the subway was barren except to show the location of three housing developments. It makes me wonder if with the popularity of the car, there isn’t a move toward separating residential and commercial space, which, in this city, would be an incredible shame.

A brief and interesting article.
An article on the “wired” aspect of New Songdo City.