Larvae vs. BTS

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DAY 1

(Reading time: 6 minutes)

South Korea was our second joint expedition to Asia after Japan. The choice was overwhelmingly influenced by my long-standing passion for all things Korean: history, culture, food, K-pop, cinema… and also by my attempt to make the most of my Korean language courses. However, I can’t say that Mark suffered from my choice of country in any way. 😊 On the contrary, both of us would like to return to South Korea in the future. Although we managed to see a lot, there is still much undiscovered waiting for us there.

The more people found out about our plans, the more often we heard the joke: “South Korea? Why not North?” … What do you want to say about that? Maybe: “Never say never.” Let’s talk about our experiences in South Korea now.

We flew at the end of September, when the temperatures are still pleasant, but the main monsoon season is already over. The 10-hour direct flight from Prague passed, surprisingly, quite smoothly. We didn’t sleep much, as usual on planes, but we ate well, had a drink, and landed without any problems; that’s always the biggest reward for me. The only hiccup was waiting at Incheon Airport for Mark’s suitcase. I almost got the idea that we would be dealing with something that would give us new life experiences, but the suitcase eventually came out… the very last one.

At the airport, we bought TMoney Card (specifically Korea Tour Card) from a vending machine, a plastic card for the metro, buses, taxis, but also for shopping in convenience stores (e.g., 7-Eleven, E-Mart 24…). This practical item can be purchased from machines at the airport or in the metro, and also in convenience stores. It works on the “tap & go” principle and “top-up” (you recharge it with the desired amount as needed).

From Incheon Airport, we headed to our first accommodation in Seoul. At the metro exit, we were greeted by Larvae. Do you know them? It’s a totally silly Korean animated series (on Netflix) about two larvae with two nozzles. It’s an absolute “IQ drop” that leaves your brain feeling like boiled broccoli, which is sometimes exactly what you want after a tough day at work.

Our hotel was located next to the bustling district of Myeong-dong, known for its nightlife, shopping streets, and street food. Let it also be known that we are in a country of the so-called “hallyu wave,” which means that K-pop and K-drama idols appear in various shapes, colors, and forms in many places. This can subsequently mean hell for your wallet but a warm feeling in your soul.

And so we plunged into the whirlwind of aegyo madness headlong – into the BT21 merch store designed by members of the Korean music group BTS.

The creation of BT21 was a brilliant marketing move; thanks to the seven cute characters (and their gray-and-white guardian) with unique looks, different personality traits, and interests, a new universe was created where they live together, visit each other, throw parties, experience minor troubles, great joys, and are held together by a strong bond of friendship. Every fan knows which BTS member contributed to the creation of each character and who they prefer to support when making a purchase. BT21 is immensely popular, so it’s advisable to arm yourself with patience and expect to endure a queue before shopping.

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Equally famous are Korean sheet masks. They have already made their way to our country, but their price is incomparable. In Korea, you can buy one for as little as about 0,20$, whereas in the Czech Republic we have to pay 2$ and more…

In the evening, after all the shopping madness of the first day, it was essential to grab something good to eat. Myeong-dong is full of street food stalls, a feast for the eyes, and what could be more traditional than starting with tteokbokki, elongated rice cakes in spicy chilli sauce.

Tteokbokki from street stalls often comes on a tray with pieces of fish cake and a cup of fish broth. They are spicy, really spicy, just like many other Korean dishes. Spiciness is a characteristic of Korean cuisine, and if someone is not used to spicy food (and I mean Asian spicy food, not western imitations), consuming it in Korea can be overwhelming. But for those who develop a taste for it, there’s no turning back. 😊

What looked tempting but turned out taste-wise disappointing were these egg sandwiches. For some reason, someone thought it was a great idea to put eggs on sweet bread, and that’s just not okay.

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We went to bed early, the jet lag was calling the shots, and we couldn’t let it dictate to us the next day.

-endy-

DONKEY’S SPECIAL:

  • We took photos on two different phones and one digital camera, so their quality in the articles from South Korea category may vary.
  • I’ve met people who confused North and South Korea several times, I can think of examples where people didn’t even know that Korea was divided…
  • Andy mentions the monsoon season in the first article about Taiwan, and it’s also mentioned in Japan (we were fleeing a typhoon and almost didn’t take off), for a good reason – most travelers spend only a few weeks at a place, and probably nobody wants it to rain 24/7 (generally, the best time for tourists to visit is in the autumn or spring).
  • BT21, consisting of Tata, Chimmy, RJ, Koya, Cooky, Mang, Shooky, and Van, were created “by accident,” perhaps no one then thought it would be such a success, but that’s exactly how the best things are created, first a great idea, and then start figuring out if it will make any money.
  • Spiciness is a chapter on its own, the rule is that mild/gentle things will seem spicy to us in Asia, and their labeling of “spicy” may be downright inedible for some.
  • We gradually found out that Koreans combine sweet things too often, egg on sweet pastry was the beginning, on the other hand, someone from them might turn up their nose at our egg with bread: “so you don’t have it sweet, huh…?”
  • Jet lag slightly affected us when traveling by plane to the east, never the other way around, and it’s nothing bad, at worst you’ll find that you’ve been trying to fall asleep for hours and still nothing, which can happen even at home. 🙂

-mj-

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