Posts/October, 2009/

Day 6 in Seoul: Heavy Metal and Ginseng

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

On our last full day in Seoul, J. and I saw two functional sides of the city. Our first stop was the Mullae-dong neighborhood off of line Line 2. A large section of it is metal work businesses, from heavy duty processes to the craftsman level. This is not a section of town tourists go to. But none of the people working paid us much attention, in part because they were concentrating on welding, bending huge pieces of metal, and not getting crushed by moving tonnage. The smell of welding was in the air, mixed with the roar of heavy machinery and the clank of metal on metal. We could have spent the whole day exploring the area, but we had other sights to see.

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Man in the street.
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Color-coded rods.
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Metal tubes.
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Rooftop squash.
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Large scraps of metal.
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Man wheel long bar.
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Stainless steel sheets.
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Man in his colorful and cluttered workspace.
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Another angle.
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Another man in his equally cluttered workspace.
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Metal saw.
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Man, rods, and hook.
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Another hook.
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Welding in the street.
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Labels for the color coding.
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Scrap.
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Man moves metal disk with magnet.
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More machinery.
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Rods and cranes.
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Cramped workspace.
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Colorful street corner.
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The less heavy metal neighborhood.

Our second stop was Gyeondong Market off of Line 1. The market specializes in traditional herbal medicine, but it also has produce and meat (including dog). There is a large central cluster of buildings surrounded by herbalist shops. The whole area smelled wonderfully of various herbs, particularly ginseng. There was a wide variety of interesting food stuff on display, much of which I couldn’t identify. I’m uncertain how all of the vendors can stay in business selling so many similar products to the store next door. It must come down to forming relationships with people. Or that the population of the city is enough to support so much competition.

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Street side lounge.
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The commerce side of the tracks.
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Ginseng.
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Potatoes and tomatoes.
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Herbal thorny wood.
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Bark bundles.
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Herbs and fungus.
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Jumbo aloe.
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Sacks of bees and wasps for unknown purposes.
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Some of the wasps were the size of finger. Scary big.
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Inside the main covered building of the market.
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An elderly woman strolls a side aisle.
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Dried fish.
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Massive cabbages.
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Dried stingrays.
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More dried seafood.
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Spice sacks and signs.
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I think this is caterpillar fungus.
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Little shrimp.
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Miscellaneous foods.
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Jumbo chestnuts.
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Half dogs for sale.
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Seaweed balls.
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Preserved whole vegetables.
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More shrimp.
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Octopus.
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My favorite stand: garlic and chilies.
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Mushrooms.
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Another market lane.
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Shadowy storage area.
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Squid.
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Tubs of spicy preserved things.
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Caterpillars.
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Snails.
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Box of chicken feet.
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Beautiful marbleized beans.
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Green onions in abundance.
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Herbal wood on a shelf.
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Squash for sale on the street.
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Under the bridge eating snacks.

We bought two sizable apples at the market and ate them in likely one of the least scenic intersections in town. I had to go back to the guesthouse to type up some scripts for work, so we took the subway home. Than evening, we celebrated our last night in Korea with a thin crust pizza and two glasses of wine from a cozy restaurant. As a side, they gave us a plate of sliced pickles and jalapeño. A gnat flew into J.’s wine, so I fished it out, dried it off, and watched it fly drunkenly into a window. After our meal, we had used up all of our cash, except the 18,000 won needed for the airport bus. No currency exchange was necessary at the airport.

Seoul was wonderful. I’m not sure how much of it was because I didn’t have to work, but the place definitely left an impression. The city is a perfect balance between clean, comfortable, and exotic. I want to go back.

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