Before I went to bed on Thursday night, I did my usual ritual of getting things recharged. My computer, my phone, my backup phone battery, my wifi router, my camera all need regular attention. About the router - Korea has a similar system to Japan. You rent an unlimited data wifi router that is pocket sized and it provides internet and internet phone everywhere - it's extremely convenient and not too expensive - about $6/day in Korea, a bit more in Japan.
Anyway, I had to use my voltage converter for the first time (Japan runs on 120 v like the US and most places have US-shaped plugs). Plugged it in and pow! the distinctive odor of deliciously smoked circuits. It looked like it had blown out both my voltage converter and my computer power supply (which wasn't plugged into the computer at the time - clever me).
So my first order of business was to find replacements. I googled electronics stores and found out about the Electronics Market - an entire district in Seoul devoted to that kind of stuff. So it sounded like a piece of cake. Off I went, and got on the train in the wrong direction. This turned out to be a good thing because I got off a station adjacent to something called Lotte World Mall. I decided to return after taking care of business. It was about 45 minutes by train and foot to the market. It is a huge hodgepodge of stores .
There are hundreds of small stores, some specializing in things like home security, cabling, LED lighting etc. and a whole lot of stores that all seem to sell iphone covers. Here's a look at one of the indoor corridors and one outside street. These capture less than 10% of the extent of this crazy place.
Add to that dozens of deivery carts, bikes, motorycles, vans and trucks shuffling boxes in at out at breakneck speed, and it's a pretty entertaining place. Unfortunately, not a place where I could begin to figure out who had what I needed. Finally I stumbled upon a computer store that was several stories high and after finding the sales department I worked with a very patient guy and aided by google translate we were able to identify my computer power supply and a converter. To get ahead of the story, the charger was just right but the 'converter' was almost the exact opposite of what I wanted. It performed no transformer function to step down voltage except to two USB ports and was incompatible with Korean outlets - it was designed to allow Koreans overseas to charge their equipment, not the other way around. Fortunately, by juggling my computer's usb ports, I was able to get back in internet road warrior shape later that night.
Headed back flushed with success, I stopped for lunch at a street stand in a small night market (mostly closed during the day). Lunch was mixed tempura of vegetables, sausage, octopus and dumplings with a side dish of two kinds of tofu in a spicy red pepper sauce. Everything was tasty - the sausage was a type of Korean blood sausage called sundae - be warned if you hanker for hot fudge in Korea! Six bucks.
Walked off the meal by retracing my steps to Lotte World Mall.
Talk about the alpha and omega of shopping experiences! The mall opened about a week ago and it is astonishing. Here is the atrium of the 7 floor section devoted entirely to high-end and very high-end everything.
A shot of the cosmetics department
and one of the atrium from the other direction.
And this is only about one third of the place. There is a separate 7 floor section that is much bigger and caters to a wider audience. There is an amazing video display in the atrium of this part that consists of a dozen independent giant led screens that are raised and lowered up and down the atrium and show a coordinated picture across them all as they move. I have some video, but not the patience to convert/trim/upload at the moment. Footage will be available upon return for the price of a beer.... Speaking of which, there is a nascent craft beer industry in both Japan and Korea - I saw craft beer bars in both places, though they tend to only serve one beer of a given basic style. Still, it's a start.
But enough shopping - what about the Giant Rubber Ducky!?!
Wait no longer-
Yes, it is that big! This is the Rubber Duck Project which is touring this critter around the world.
There are hundreds of people taking selfies and other-people-ies and just sitting and admiring the spectacle.
I actually was a bit hungry on the way home and I saw a restaurant near my apartment specializing in pork hocks. sounded interesting, so in I went. Ordered by pointing at random at a menu on the wall in Korean figuring it probably would contain pork hock. And did it!
I ate and ate (some of the condiments include raw hot peppers and raw garlic as well as what I think was raw pork liver in hot peppers-yikes. When I was slowing down, the waiter brought over two diposable plastic gloves - huh? The folks at the next table let me know that protocol was to put on the gloves and then pick up the giant bone and gnaw on it to your heart's content. I then faced a cultural question; is there a doggy bag tradition in Korea? Googling wasn't much help (!) but I did see what appeared to be styrofoam containers near the pork cutting area in the window of the restaurant so with brilliant gesturing I was able to get the staff to box the remainder which will be breakfast for days to come. I probably walked out with 1 1/2 pounds of leftover pork!
In a food-induced coma, I fell into bed.