Monday, October 09, 2006

Itaewon: A touch of America

Part one in a five part series about my trip to Seoul.

During my time in Seoul, I also visited North America--kinda of. The district of Itaewon in Seoul is nearby a US base. It has grown to become a service not only to the US soldiers on leave from the base, but also to all foreigners. The district houses food from Pakistan, Germany, Thailand, China, India, Mexico, United Kingdom, and the USA. In addition to the restaurants, I saw Russian, Reggae, Canadian, and Nigerian bars and clubs. The Russian bar curiously was named "Klub Rio." So, it was a Russian bar, in Korea, with a Spanish name. Whatever.

The centerpiece Western-style restaurant is Gecko's Terrace. When I walked into the restaurant on Wednesday, my second night in Seoul, I felt as if I was walking into an American bar and grill. It was amazing. The place was filled with Americans, English was the lingua franca, and there was even American music on the speakers (Justin was bringing sexy back). I was able to eat an stout beer, eat a cajun chicken sandwich, and enjoy a time with my friends surrounded by western culture.

Gecko's was very therapeutic. So therapeutic in fact that we had to return on Thursday afternoon to share the experience with the "Brits" of our group that weren't able to join us the first day. It was interesting--as the other Americans and I gravitated toward American food, the Brits found the British food on the menu: fish and chips, and a Guinness meat pie.

Friday, we made another trip to Itaewon. This time, we ate at Pancho's Mexican restaurant. It wasn't as satisfying as Gecko's, but it offered some of the flavors of Mexican food at least. Then, we headed to Rocky Mountain Tavern, a Canadian bar. In our group there are four very patriotic Canadians. The taverns was a peanut-shells-on-the-floor bar with plenty of Molson Canadian on ice. This is maybe when I felt the most out of Korea. I was surrounded by people who spoke English, and there were no Hangul characters in sight. I scoured the place and could only find English.

Itaewon also had its downsides. It was impossible to walk from one end of the street to the other without being propositioned by a prostitute. Also, every place we went, it seemed that the US Military Police were patrolling. We asked one of the MPs what they were doing and they said besides looking for rowdy soldiers, they were mainly there to enforce the US drinking age of 21.

Sorry no pics. Mine were corrupted. However, try out the links below to see and read more about Itaewon.

Itaewon Tourist Site
Life in Korea's Itaewon Site
An article about the Rocky Mountain Tavern

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