Seeking: adventure in the village


You may have figured out by this stage of our blog that our options for sight-seeing and/or entertainment in our little village are somewhat limited, thus our numerous escapes to the various cities around and about.  However, all this travelling to different locales can become expensive, not to mention time consuming or rather limiting.  Having to catch the last bus or train back to the village at 9.20pm doesn’t really allow for a huge night on the town.  And spending two hours plus on a combination of bus, trains, taxis, subways just for the ‘luxury’ of watching a movie sometimes just seems more hassle than its worth.

Desperation drove us to try and seek out delights closer to home.  First, we needed to look in every nook and cranny of the village to see what our options might be JUST in case we’d missed something from all our previous explorations.

The Low Down on Options for Entertainment in Deoksin:

1. Billiards – there are almost as many billiard establishments as there are fried chicken joints.  A possibility.

2. Drinking – outnumbering any other kind of businesses by about 4-to-1, there are countless hofs (Korean style pubs) and bars to be found.  In fact, practically every restaurant in Korea lends itself to cheap, accessible drinking.  Our first night ever in the village found us at a hof just up the road from our house.  Not knowing where anything was, feeling rather abandoned and not being able to read or speak a word of Korean, we wandered into a hof unsuspecting and as fresh as they come and before you knew it, were downing large jugs of brightly covered soju cocktails.  Becoming fairly quickly giggly from the mixture of food colouring and drain-cleaner, oops, I mean soju, we felt a little better about the world.  However, subsequent to the visit from the Soju Monster in another episode, we have largely abstained from this type of drinking and in fact, this type of establishment.

Right, so what else?

3. The gym – well, we can already tick that off the list.

4. Go for a lovely walk  – we had by now covered every square inch of the village…or so we thought when last Sunday we ventured up a road we had never encountered before!  We found…some stinking bush and figured out that we were perhaps near the tip.

5. Shoot hoops at the local school – done!  We even kicked some Korean butt.

6. Eat – hmm turns out we have been doing a little TOO much of that activity and accordingly have to do daily number 3s!

7. The PC-Bang (PC방) – a room full of PCs, filled with the smoke and BO from chain-smoking War-Crafters.  Next!

8. The Norae-Bang (노래방) – sadly, Dan, after too long working at a seedy bar back home (you know where we’re talking about), has developed a bit of an aversion to badly sung karaoke.  The advantage of a norae bang, however, is that you are given a private room where drinks are brought to in to you, so you are never subjected to anyone you don’t know’s horrible singing, nor do you have waiting an interminably long time to sing badly yourself.  Win win!  H-J thinks she just needs to get Dan drunk enough to get over it as the norae-bang is really the quintessential Korean experience, and quite frankly, it would be rude not to partake of this national treasure. A possibility?

9…Ten pin bowling – after Dan’s shocking defeats in LA, he’s amping to regain some dignity.  Another possibility.

10…

Its about here we start struggling.

And its also here we come up with brilliant idea to attack one (and perhaps two if H-J can get her way) new activity and take ourselves out for a night on the town which will will henceforth refer to as ‘Getting Up in the Club’ in Deoksin.  Also known as, a pub crawl through the streets of the village, hopefully culminating in a wee ditty at the noraebang.

As luck would have, on Friday night we were graced with the privilege of finishing work early at 6.30pm as our middle school students were all away on camp!  An auspicious occasion indeed and it seemed like an appopriate time to celebrate.

For some strange reason we decided that a little pre-loading might in order.  No, we are not frugal university students and drinking in Korea is actually really inexpensive so there was no real excuse for this decision.  Anyway, we placed a bottle of rum and a bottle of coke on the counter, handed over a FIVER and received change.  Wow.

Continuing on our way home we realised we didn’t have much ice in the freezer at home but as luck would have it, H-J had earlier that same day noticed a new product down at the convenience store – cups of ice!  Seriously, the Koreans have thought of everything.  Picking up a bunch of these we turned to discover that these appropiately named “Ice Cups” have a companion item of pouches of different flavoured juices and coffees.  Great idea for impending summer.  And great for mixing with previously mentioned bottle of rum ESPECIALLY when one of the flavour pouches is Mojito.  Oh, yes, you’re asking for it.

We carry on our merry way absolutely thrilled with our purchases and ease of which Korea is making it for us to start out night with a bang.  We mix our drinks, play some drinking games, dance around the house and so the night begins….

A bottle of rum down, its time to hit the streets and discover what’s to be found in Deoksin’s bars.  First stop, for old times sake, is the hof just up the road from our house where we found ourselves back on that first night in the village.  And also for old times sake, we order a jug of brightly coloured soju juice and a plate of fried items.

Turns out after having consumed an entire bottle of rum already, together with the fact that we think with our sloppy Korean we ordered a particularly strongly spiked jug, the soju just wasn’t going down that easy.  After 3 or 4 glasses, we were struggling….

While Dan was calling for us to “harden up and just chug it down”, H-J was singing the merits of pace.  Thankfully, when Dan downed just one more class of the septic food-colouring concoction he started agreeing.  The host of the hof looked slightly shocked that we were leaving half a jug behind but the decision was made.  On to get some strong black coffee at the bakery and then continue on the mission.

At this stage we were joined by our friend Prabjoht, and living in Deoksin and working as a fancy engineering manager or something for one of the massive industries here.  We head off to check out a place we’ve walked past a zillion times and looks okay.

The entrance to Silhouette bar is, like many places in Korea, up a non-descript stairwell on the first floor of a slightly run down building.  But when we open the door we are greeted with a stunning bar space, gorgeous bar-tenders, only three other customers and a beautiful view of the just bloomed cherry blossoms out the window.

A feature of bars in Korea is that often you can only buy full bottles of alcohol.  Knowing our limitations, we decline the litre of Absolut place in front of us and the lovely English speaking bar-tender pours us generous shots instead which we top up with little cans of Jeju Island Tangerine Juice.  Yum.  As there are three bar-tenders working each group of customers gets their own, so to speak, while one attends to the beautiful private curtain-lined booths along the side of the wall.  It turns out that our bar-tender is a fashion design student at a University in Busan and just comes to Deoksin to work.  Its a lovely spot to sit and chat with her (and each other) and sip our drinks while admiring the blossom.

The other people in the bar are a trio of guys aged 30-33.  A person’s age is genrally the first thing you find about someone in Korea as it dicatates whether or not you can be friends!  Turns out we pass some kind of friendship, or at least bar-ship, test as these guys proceed to speak loudly down the bar back and forth with us. One guy in particular claims to be “Mapia” (Mafia) and shows us a peek of his rather large back tattoo.  We jump on board also claiming to be Mapia as tattoos are extremely tabboo in Korea and its nice to have a fellow rebel in our midst.  None of this trio speak English so like many of our interactions in Korea, its done with much miming, pointing and laughing.

A great start to the night which bodes well for the remainder of the evening.

So on to the next destination, another place we have walked past every day called Boss Cocktail Bar.  Yippee!

We open the doors to find another beautiful looking bar and another fashion-design-student-English-speaking-bartender.  What we don’t find, however, is any cocktails, as we are immediately informed that the entire page of cocktails in the menu is “unavailable”.  Sigh.  Oh well, we make do with vodka and orange (H-J) and a Jack & coke (Dan).  With no ice. Until we manage to bully them into it!  H-J also notices that one of the few other customers in the bar is drinking an extremely brightly-coloured drink with an umbrella and a cherry…something that looks suspiciously like a cocktail! She mentions this to the friendly bar keep with whom she has built a rapport culminating in him showing her his brand new (“velly expensive”) hand bag, and asks whether she can have whatever it is that the other guy is having.  He disappears into the kitchen and comes back with…an umbrella and a cherry but strict instructions from whoever lurks behind the scenes that no, she can’t have a cocktail.  Happy enough, she places the cherry and umbrella in her vodka and orange.

After many goodbyes and promises to return sometime, we head off to the next place on our hit list – Bugsy Bar.  Same non-descript entry-way, up some stairs and into yet another lovely, large bar.  With only two other customers.

We are not sure why this is but think perhaps a combination of (a) people here drink pretty much every night of the week so a Friday night isn’t really a big deal; (b) people drink more with food so hofs and grill restaurants tend to be busier than bars; and (c) Koreans eat and drink a lot earlier in the evening so by the time we hit the streets at around 9pm many had already done their dash for the night and headed home.  It worked for us though – always had great seats at the bar, lovely attentive service and great conversation (of sorts!) from whoever else was trendy enough to be at these lovely places!

Anyway, we take our seats at the bar and all of a sudden feel large hands clapping down on our backs.  We turn to see the Mapia guy from the first bar, standing their grinning, pointing at the bar and then to himself and saying “owner, owner”.  Cool.

Turns out we were inadvertently “in” with the owner of the bar we now found ourselves!  The staff at this bar didn’t speak English but were also gorgeous, accommodating and very friendly ladies who looked after really well.  We had a drink with Mapia and H-J enjoyed the cross-lingual banter with the staff while Dan went and hung with the only other customer in the place, his friend haven fallen asleep and then abruptly woken up and left.  Prab plays on his phone (he has obviously been in Korea way too long!).

An enjoyable time passes and before we know it its pumpkin hour for Korean bars – 2am.  We are regaled with hugs (we nearly faint – this is SO un-Korean!!!!) from Mapia and his lovely entourage and leave once again with promises of returning.

Prab wimps out at this point.  The Kiwis who claim to not drink very often have outdone him and he slinks off to a taxi…but we’re not done yet!  Where to go when all the bars are closed though?!  An opportunity presents itself here – THE NORAE BANG!!!!

Dan is actually drunk enough and having a fantastic night enough to not put up any resistance at all and in fact pulls H-J down the stairs of the first neon norae bang sign we come across.

We are taken down a boring hallway, drink orders taken and we are deposited into our very groovy little private room.  The song folder had an amazing selection of songs in English.  Needless to say, we sang out little hearts out in the privacy of our karaoke cave and not too much more needs to be said on that front.  The photos speak for themselves.

When our throats are stripped raw and our heads can take no more booze we start the descent home, stopping, of course, at the 25 to pick up the requisite post-drinking snacks.

Dan takes much delight in documenting this photographically, much to the embarrassment of the poor shopkeep who is probably not very accustomed to drunk, white people stumbling into his workplace at 3am.

Home, happy, mission accomplished and with burgers in hand.  An excellent night and we definitely found good times and adventures in the village!

Categories: Drinking, Food, Korea, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

22 comments

  1. too funny … want to know more about the Soju Monster though. What does that beast look like?

  2. Wow, big night out should always start with some Soju and fried foods… It looked insane towards the end, hope your heads weren’t too hurty the next morning…

  3. Love your writing style; feels like we were all out with you two that night! Can’t wait (though a little afraid) to try the real Korean soju; soju we get here in the states has tremendously less alcohol so they can sell in non-liquor stores (i.e., w/ the beer and wine). Are you two on Twitter, by chance—would love to follow you there if you have an account.

    • Drinking soju is definitely one of the “must-do” Korean activities! What we can’t figure out is how Korean businessmen drink it on weeknights and then manage to get to work on time the next day!!! Now THAT’S stamina. We would definitely recommend having not much to do the next day if you plan on drinking copious amounts of the stuff 🙂 Its available absolutely everywhere here – the supermarkets, the corner dairy, the fried chicken joints, all the restaurants. I don’t think I’ve actually seen a liquor store in Korea. There don’t seem to be the same liquor licensing laws as back home, haha.

      We’re aren’t on Twitter 😦 In fact, we are rather luddite in our technology – we don’t use Facebook or Twitter or anything much fancier than Gmail and now our WordPress blog! If we do join the 21st century, we’ll let you know 🙂

      • Also curious about your comment that tattoos aren’t well received in Korea; my wife and I both have ink (my wife is, in fact, in the process of getting a NZ-inspired tattoo on her leg—not Maori design or anything offensive, just ferns, etc—curious if we will need to not openly display those when we’re over there?

      • Korea still seems to have the view that tattoos are associated only with gangs (thus our “Mapia” friend, haha) and it does seem to be a bit of a cultural taboo here. Interestingly, tattooing without a medical license is illegal in Korea as it is deemed a ‘medical procedure’ so, not surprisingly, the tattooing industry is fairly underground. In small villages like ours we cover our tattoos all the time. There have been occasions when a small bit has been poking out and it has caused shocked stares and, in one case, an older man coming and rubbing my arm to see if it came off and looking decidedly uncomfortable when he discovered it wouldn’t! At work you certainly would never let any tattoos show – we noticed when we ate at TGIF a young staff member had a bandanna tied around his arm – obviously hiding a tattoo! The mind set is a little different among the younger people (like the waiter at TGIF and our students who find it fascinating) but the general mood is one that its not that okay. I imagine in the large cities like Seoul and Busan they will be a lot more used to it due to the amount of foreigners but I would definitely tread carefully. Its something we haven’t encountered in any other country to date! And being from one of the most highly tattooed nations in the world, its a little hard to get our heads around sometimes!

        Would love to see your wife’s NZ inspired tattoo!!!

      • That’s good to know; will definitely be more sensitive to it when we visit.

        She’s in the process—about half way through—of getting her whole ankle/calf up to the knee tattoo’d. She gets a little done at a time, both for money and endurance issues, but will hopefully be done by the end of this year. I’ll post a pic or send you one when it’s done!

      • Sounds exciting! Looking forward to seeing the pictures 🙂

  4. NICE! Damn, your town’s bars make Gwangju’s look like cardboard boxes…I mean, some of them actually ARE cardboard boxes, but you get my point. Very impressive night out! Love the blow-by-blow.

    • We must admit we were totally surprised as to the lush quality of the bars that lay behind closed doors. But who drinks there??! Can’t quite figure that bit out is Deoksin isn’t really a hub of anything other than heavy industry workers.

      Interesting to hear that Gwangju doesn’t have the same standard…isn’t it a university city? You would think that it would teeming with great places to drink and party! We haven’t made it over those ways yet but certainly keen to check it out.

  5. Sounds like a fun night out but am glad I only had to experience it through you – I´m a bit of a lightweight nowadays!

    • We feel ya – in fact, we only drink perhaps every six months or so. So when we do it these days, we do it well…and make sure there’s a day lined up afterwards where we have nothing planned, haha. Totally great night out but an experience NOT to be repeated for a while to come!

  6. Omg, what an epic night! And wtf, ice cups????? Wow, my people come up with the most random things ever hahah. I love the expression on the shopkeep’s face… he’s like, “stay calm… just smile and pose for the camera and the drunk white people will leave…” LOL.

    • Yeah ice cups – in any other setting we’d probably be like, “PAH! How ridiculous”…but here it just seemed, well, appropriate really!

      The poor dude does look rather scared, doesn’t he?! Heehee…I wonder what mischief we can get up to this weekend.

  7. Jeju Island Tangerine Juice sounds like a little taste of heaven. 🙂

    • It was delicious!!! The tangerine is probably my favourite thing about Jeju, haha.

      • I really like reading about how much you enjoy yourselves there. That may sound a little sarcastic in text, but I am not kidding. I have trouble enjoying the smaller (and even bigger) things in life sometimes. It’s really satisfying to read about how succulent everything around you is! I love it!

        I really want some steak now……………….

      • The blog is actually a great way of MAKING us focus on the cool stuff – and to actively go out and search for cool stuff too. Living in a new country definitely has its own challenges (as I’m sure you well understand!) and some days are just plain awful. The awful days are just usually not interesting enough to write about! But its all the good and combined that make travel what it is. And we’re certainly never bored!

        As for steak, sigh. That’s something that Korea doesn’t do well. Beef here is really expensive and comes served in thin slices. Just doesn’t hit the spot when you’re from New Zealand and used to big, fat, thick, juicy steaks…my stomach just started rumbling!

  8. Gotcha…it’s all about making the choice to focus on the good rather than the bad, eh? 🙂 I still appreciate how tangible and delicious you make everything seem.

    • Our most recent post is definitely about the lows…we’re not all rainbows and lollipops (or swan boats and picnics, haha)…but life is still good and we’re determined to continue to make the most of it! Are you enjoying your time in Japan?

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