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Entries about itaewon

First Experience of the Korean Music Scene

It's not all Kpop and silly girls and boys looking like girls...

rain 20 °C

On a very rainy day in Itaewon, we are sitting in a bar, hiding from the massive storm outside. It's still cold and I'm wearing about three layers of winter clothes. Some band is playing me to sleep in the bar and it's not even dark outside yet. The window behind me keeps being opened and a rush of cold air and wet wind blows onto my neck.

As it starts to get dark, we leave to go and get dinner. Somewhere during the evening, with the strong wind snapping my umbrella back, I just left the irritating umbrella right there in the bar. Outside I realise my mistake as the rain is now coming down even harder. We hop in a taxi and make our way to Vatos Urban Tacos, a mexican restaurant in Itaewon. The food is incredibly spicy, but good. Here I have a Corona Margarita, aptly named a Coronarita.

1. Coronarita...A massive alcoholic delight
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During the course of the evening two new girls join us. As everyone speaks of what the evening holds, the one girl talks about some awesome bands that are playing in Hongdae. My ears immediately whir alive. Having always been a fan of live music and discovering good new bands, I am very keen to go with these two girls. No one at the table looks interested at all, but I am very interested and agree to go with the girls. We take a taxi to Hongdae for about 25,000 won. The bands are playing at DGBG. My two new friends unfortunately have no idea where this place is. We ask around and find it eventually. Entrance is 10,000 won which includes a drink.

2. Club DGBG
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The bands here are good. The music is varied as well. Some Korean hard rocking girl bands, westerners singing in Korean and even Koreans singing in English. After all the opening bands, a two piece get on stage. Their style can best be described as Indie Folk and their is music is awesome. We jump and dance and sing. The two girls leave, but at the club I coincidentally meet some of my friends from orientation and continue to party with them. I am desperate to find the name of this band. One guy knows their name, but the next morning I am very sad to realise that I forgot the name. I message my friend about this very sad predicament that I find myself in. Soon I receive a message with a link to a song. It's them. It's Wagwak. Their name stands for "We aren't gay, we are Korean". This points to the way Koreans dress and how Korean men often hold hands or put their arms around each other, which is seen as nothing strange in the Korean culture, but sometimes had to be explained to their foreign friends.

Give them a listen on SoundCloud as well!

Here is the article posted on Chincha?! of that night. Watch the video at the bottom. At 02:03 minutes in, I am the one in the bottom left corner putting my hand up in the air..

So glad that I finally found this band, I start listening to all of their music that I can find online. Not very long after this gig they put up a notice on their Facebook page. They will be moving to Europe to further their music careers there and possibly get signed by an international label. They announce their last gig in Korea. I am desperate to see them for the last time and start introducing them to some of my friends. My friends from orientation want to go, but I cannot seem to get a definite answer from them. No one here in Incheon seems to share my passion until I introduce them to a new friend. He seems to love them more than I do and I am excited that I finally found someone to see this band with. This time they are playing at Freebird, once again in Hongdae. Freebird is one of the oldest live venues in Hongdae and is quite spacious compared to the small underground DGBG. Entrance is 10,000 won which also includes a free drink. To start the show, the band moves into the crowd and sing from right between the people. For the remainder of the show, they move to the stage. They are even better than the first time I saw them as I now know some of their music. I buy the Limited Edition EP that they make available at the show, and steal a poster from the wall which I then proceed to forget in the taxi back home.

3. Wagwak's Last Gig in Korea
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4. Meeting the lead singer of Wagwak, Daehyun Kim
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A photo taken of me and my friend are also featured on Chincha, an online magazine. Read the article about Wagwak's Last Gig here. We are the second picture in the article.

My first experience of the Korean music scene was a great one. I was sad to see this great band leave Korea, but I do know that there are still many more of these bands to discover.

Posted by Anja Fourie 03:57 Archived in South Korea Tagged folk indie hongdae itaewon wagwak club_ff loose_union chincha Comments (1)

Hi Seoul! ~ The Soul of Asia

First real visit to Seoul and my birthday in Itaewon

overcast 18 °C

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It is still cold out, but not as drastic as two weeks ago. Spring is finally settling in and my hands are freezing less and less. Today is the day I make my very first trip to Seoul. My first time using public transport in Korea as well. Still without a phone, I have to rely on a little map of the subway I tore from a magazine. This does get me to Bupyeong station where I meet my friends. From here on, people who seem much more adapt in navigating things like subways, take over to get us to Seoul. We arrive in Myeongdong late afternoon and meet more of our friends there.

South Korea has an excellent metro system, the Seoul Metro. I live near Dongincheon station which is the first stop on the Rapid Line. This means that there are two trains leaving form Dongincheon station. One to your left and on to your right. The train on your left is the slow train and stops at every station on the way to Seoul. The train on your right is on the Rapid Line. This train only stops at every third or fourth station. It is called the Yongsan Rapid as the train does stop at Yongsan station. The Rapid train takes approximately 45minutes to Yongsan while the slow train will take about 60minutes. From Yongsan you can take a taxi for as little as 4000won to for example Itaewon if you do not feel like transferring to another train.

1. Tea in Myongdong, Seoul
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2. Wandering the busy streets
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3. Galbi dinner
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4. Animals in Seoul ~ Very often you will see promotion people dressed up in animal suits.
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5. Bosingak Bell Tower

While walking back from the restuarant to get a taxi, I spot a building in the background. The group is in a big rush as we are on our way to a club in Itaewon. I quickly pose for a picture. This is the Bosingak Bellfry. It was built in 1396 to notify the residents of Seoul of the opening and closing of the city gates. Every morning it would ring 33 times at 04:00am. The 33 signifies the 33 cheon (Heaven) of Buddhism. In the evening the bell rang at 7:00pm for 28 times for su (the stars). The building has been destroyed many times by fire, Japanese occupation and the Korean war. The actual bell is preserved in the National Museum. A replica was installed in 1985.

Today the bell is not rung daily anymore. There are New Years parties held here and every year at the strike of midnight, the bell will be rung 33 times. During this time, the area is so busy and so popular that the station closest to the bellfry is closed. The train simply passes it and does not stop for any passengers to get off.

We make our way to a taxi, get in and soon we arrive in Itaewon. The two areas are very close to each other. It is much more cheaper by train, but will take you a little while longer as the taxi is quick and direct. The club that we are visiting is called Helios. Entrance is paid for by one of the boys, we conveniently check our coats in at the entrance and we are ready to go. When the clock strikes twelve, I also celebrate my 23rd birthday in Seoul!

6. Birthday Time!
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7. Awesome birthday cake from my co-teacher
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In other news, a friend took me to traditional Korean dinner in that week. The food is so much that it feels like no one will ever be able to finish it. This is what an ultimate traditional Korean dinner looks like.

7. Traditional Korean Food
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TOP TIP: Get a Seoul Metro App on your phone as soon as possible. If you do not have a smartphone or no phone at all, print out the metro system. This will come in very handy when navigating the subway as you will have to get off the trains and transfer many times.
I RECOMMEND: Metroid App for Android. Or, get the printable maps here.

Posted by Anja Fourie 22:21 Archived in South Korea Tagged south_korea seoul subway korea incheon bosingak seoul_metro itaewon myongdong galbi dongincheon yongsan express_train rapid_line Comments (1)

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