Night Out in Hongdae

This year on my birthday, I was sick but sucked it up and kept my plans to visit another town in Korea with a few friends. However, on the way to the meeting spot, my phone broke, so I couldn’t find them. I tried to redeem the day by getting lunch with a couple other friends, but at the restaurant, the executive chef (an American) came out and condescendingly yelled at us for what seemed an eternity just because we asked to have our meat cooked a little longer. That wasn’t cool, so after finding another place to eat, I just went home and went to sleep.

This weekend, kind of as a birthday redo, my friend suggested that we try going to Hongdae, an area of Seoul known for its art scene and nightlife. I’m not a big partier; I’d take a milkshake over a beer any day, especially if I have to pay seven bucks for it. But, I love to dance, so I greenlighted her plan.

***

I got on the subway around 11:30pm and noticed a full row of empty seats in the car. Cool, I thought. I’ll get to sit. After taking two steps towards the free spots, I realized why no one was sitting there. A completely trashed girl had flipped her stomach inside out in the aisle. I’d never seen an unaccompanied girl that drunk before in public.

The crazy thing though is that after she got off the train, three girls who I assume were strangers to each other and to the drunk girl, cleaned up her vomit! I was really impressed by that. There was something really redemptive about it.

***

Once off the train, I waited for my friend outside exit 9 of the #2 train’s Hongik University stop, and a crowd began to line the road in front of me. I sat back and thought, Oh, maybe it’s a celebrity sighting, like a K-Pop star are someone, so after a minute or so, I stood up to see if I knew the celebrity, but was it a celebrity? Noooo. It was two wasted guys fighting in the middle of the busy street. Fighting like reality show cat fight/wrestling match fighting. I’ve never seen anything like that before either.

Apparently, in Korea there’s a word to explain why so many drunk people were out that night: “bulgeum,” which I will translate for you as “#yolo it’s friiiiiday. heeeey!”

Anyway, after witnessing these two events, I began to wonder what the night would bring for my friend and me…

But it was cool. When she arrived, we walked towards the main strip. There were a bunch of restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, and people on the streets “busking.”My friend and I split some hoteokk and then some fried squid and mandu at this place called Mimine before finding somewhere to hang out.

My friend suggested we head to this bar called Thursday Party. It was a great suggestion. The crowd was composed mainly of foreigners, but there were some very stylish Koreans there as well. The music was great — until about 3:00am; after “Call Me Maybe” played, it was all downhill from here. Also, the drinks weren’t expensive, about 3,000-5,000 for beer and 5,000-7,000 for mixed drinks. Fun, casual atmosphere. I’d go back.

I forgot to mention that public transportation in Korea is not 24hrs, so if you go out at night, you have to plan ahead and find somewhere to crash or do what my friend and I did and wait until 5:30am to roll around when the trains start running again.

After we left Thursday party, we went to find a 24 hour cafe to wait in for a while.  On the way there, we passed another huge crowd on the street and a taxi parked with it’s headlight serving as the spotlight for whatever was going on. I thought it was a really talented street performer or something, so my friend and I went to check it out. Surprise, surprise. It was another wasted girl, and everyone was just gawking at her. Really sad. A couple of fellow English-speakers voiced their shared frustration over the situation. At times like those, it would be nice to know a little Korean. People need help…

***

The cafe we found was crowded, like you’d think it was 4:00pm rather than 4:00 in the morning. All around, people were shamelessly sleeping mouth-agape, legs propped up on chairs. About twenty minutes after we got there, the staff kicked everyone out to clean the upper floor, so we had to find another cafe. (If you’re waiting in a cafe, find a spot on the first level so you don’t get kicked out!)

At about 5:15 am, we walked back to the subway station to catch the first train of the day. There were people already waiting in the cars. Again, they were knocked out.

Around 6:00am, the old ladies in their hiking gear headed to their Saturday morning treks started to board, while we twenty and thirty-somethings were still en route home from the day before. It was fun though, like there was a sense of camaraderie amongst all of us, like, “Yeah, that was a great night.”

No way I could do that every weekend though, haha.

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