Airhead and Chips

I had the Friday off as the school had middle school entrance tests. I’d succumbed to the temptation of Mr Ive’s latest piece of industrial artwork, the iPad air. With this in mind I landed in Dorothy’s Cafe opposite Frisbee in Gangnam around 9:30am failing to realise that this hi-tech emporium did not open its marbled halls until 11. Dorothy’s was its usual satisfying mix of good coffee and pastry ably supported by a cast of consumers straight off a K-pop production line. Boy? Girl? Unsure? Who cares anymore the catalogue of faux males in this country is encyclopaedic in length.

I was more concerned with Man City‘s ascent of the premiership and Saturdays away game at Fulham. For the uninitiated my teams away form has been unspectacular this year, they seem to create chances but fail to convert them and then abscond any resemblance of discipline at the back to manufacture the loss of title-winning points. Recently though the return of Vinnie K has coincided with a mini-turnaround; a win tomorrow would see them in second place.

Anyway the said item was in stock and the service exemplary; my shock was the monumental reduction in weight from iPad 3. The iPad was set up in store and deposited in my new daypack; my backs saviour as it happens!

The wintry weather was salvaged by a clear sky and strong sunshine as I headed towards Chungmuro for my next piece of retail therapy. What does the amateur iphoneographer need to ascend to the next level and aid video capture? Only the Manfrotto trio of Pixi tripod, the KYLP iPhone case and the ML240 mini LED light! What a gob-full you’re thinking and you would be right. Only one shop in the whole of SK would pander to my needs; deep in the heart of Chungmuro. This treasure-trove of photogenic paraphernalia is Saeki P&C Co.,Ltd. Saeki Building, 22-12 Supyo-ro, Jung-gu, 100-013 Seoul. The KLYP will go into action on the February Myanmar adventure.

From here I wet on an ultimately unsuccessful search for Brazil travel brochures for my Winter Camp then headed south to the Lotte Department Store to try to find a neoprene travel sleeve for the iPad. This mirrored my search for brochures and failed. Inside the Star Street women took selfies in front of their femme boy band idols oversized images then outside a clutch of Santa’s in multi-coloured suits tried to extract currency from passers-by. Across the road a giant cartoon character ran with bow and arrow above the heads of taxi drivers. Heading into the underground shopping centre I was met by giant Tissot advertising signs that dominated the stairwell.

By this time the wind was biting and so I retired to a coffee shop to do some more iPad configuring. Coffee shops in SK are more akin to Internet rooms in the UK; customers make a drink last all day while they use the free wi-fi. There’s very little point buying the LTE version of iPad as Internet access is generally free and universal. After pottering around the overcrowded markets of Nandaemum I headed towards Itaewon for my 2 night base the Itaewonland Sauna; 2 nights in a single room with unlimited spa access is 30 English spuds! Leaving the subway at Noksapyeong I crossed over the dual carriage way bridge coming across some street art that took the form of giant hearts referencing the CND movement. My thoughts quickly meandered to the ladies of Greenham Common and my not to distant youth :-).

On reaching Itaewonland and after a thorough scrub and kip, I headed across the road to the Fry Pan; I’d read excellent reviews of their fried boned chicken and hand cooked crisps. I can confirm the reviews were true and it has superseded Altari and Khanbu as my must “go to” place for boned chicken. Into an unbearable Siberian headwind I struggled up to the North West of Itaewon landing at the Magpie Brewery to sample the fine craft ale; the Amber and the Porter are excellent. The staff here are really knowledgeable about beer and home brewing; they continued to sample the produce during the full-term of my visit. You can see the bar and the staff featured in an Arirang production called “Semipermanent”:

The neighbourhood has a couple of other “craft” bars including Craftworks but the queues were prohibitive so I braved the weather to speed walk back to the main drag passing a bizarre advert for mens waxing of the pubic region! I’d earlier spotted a new bar opposite the Wolfhound apparently opened by a friend of the Magpie Brewers. The Four Seasons (130-4, B1F, Itaewon Dong was a great find. Firstly everyone was chatty and friendly and the owner had lived in London for a year were he’s developed his pennant for real ale. As I chatted to him and an independent producer time flew by: I sample three of the beers, my favourite being a Belgian Abbey Beer called Brother Davids. The ale was fantastic but actually brewed in the US; I also discovered that import tax on beer is around 170% on top of unit cost, protectionism gone mad. Korea only serves up shite beer anyway! So the outcome of this is we pay more but we drink less and it tastes heaps better!

Saturday was culture day and the Samsung Leeum Art Gallery and Museum. I’d pencilled in the Hiroshi Sugimoto photographic exhibition and it proved not to be disappointing! I’d seen Sir Anish Kapoor here last year and it is an incredible exhibition space. Before arriving there I passed the new VW Beetle emporium and a giant red chicken.

Sugimoto, is probably best known for luminous seascapes made at first or last light with an immense box camera, found that static electricity often blighted the results. Using a Van de Graaff generator to release electrical charges on to photosensitive paper, he has reproduced this accident to advantage.  What you see looks spectacularly like the very thing itself: frozen lightning. I was more impressed by his study of Siberian Wolves, the series called Dioramas. These are not in the raw, or in the wild, they are in fact taxidermy set in front of a painted backdrop and then photographed. The images were captured at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. Amazing stuff! The Skylight of the Leeum is an artwork in itself and the architecture stunning as discussed in a earlier post.

Leaving the Leeum I pottered through the Namsan Botanical Garden before deciding to follow the road that circumnavigates the mountain around to Myeongdong. There would normally be great views across Southern Seoul but a haze hung over the city despite the crisp winter weather. The walkway had a series of metal cameo silhouette’s pointing out photo opportunities. I crossed over the south side of the mountain taking the cable car to the top before taking a walking trail back to my digs in Itaewon.

In the evening I headed over to Hongdae to salivate over the Beegers fish & chips and be courted by the Simpsons before returning to Itaewon for religious purposes. By that I don’t wish people to think I’ve been tuned into a God-fearing disciple of false or real prophets. I simply returned to watch the Blue Moon rising courtesy of NBC USA. The Hollywood Sports Bar is owned by former K League professionals and will now be a focal point of future weekend visits to Seoul. I met two guys from the UK and was asked (after mentioning my family history) to manage an ex-pat team in Seoul from next March; I accepted the offer.

With a slightly heavy head I decided to head home early on Sunday and after spotting the usual “morning after” characters in the coffee shop and enduring the loudest American ever on the subway I \headed back to Chungers.

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