Jen has started up her own company and is scheduled to have no life for a long time due to a big project so I have a bit more free time. Well infinite free time really. Currently this is no bad thing as the weather in Seoul is perfect and it lets me do my favourite sport in the world: cycling. And then replenish the calories with eating.
I’ve always liked cycling but it was when I got to Asia that it really kicked in as it was the best way to explore cities which are vast and difficult in a way unfathomable to those of us used to G-mapping around the US or Europe. At a first glance Asian cities can seem a never ending parade of repetition. Foreign Policy Magazine even recently had an article blathering about this called “Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction“. Now they are right but only partly. You just have to put more effort in to discover the niches and neighborhoods of interest and a bike is the way to do that.
And Seoul; Seoul got it bloody right. The Han river cuts through the heart of Seoul just like the Thames in London or the Seine in Paris. The difference is it is pedestrianised, cycle-pathyised, sports facilityised on both sides for hundreds of kms. It is a truly public space that all of us who are stuffed into small flats with no gardens can enjoy. Families do sports along it. You can picnic. Drink. Cavort. The lot. And it is a 24 hour attraction. Come rain, come typhoon, come snow and the Han river freezing over. It is without doubt the best thing about Seoul.
The food and drink options are also various. At its most classy it is a full on picnic assembled with great love and care. Seoulist even has a helpful guide for the assemble rather than the cook picnic you can ‘source’ directly from convenience stores here. More often it is evenings attacking beers you can buy from a 7-11 dotted along the bike paths for cost price with Korean fried chicken delivered to the banks of the river by scooters. And then there is the really dirty stop gap option which is probably my favourite: Korean ramyeon.
I need to do a whole feature about Korean ramyeon (and the ‘y’ there is on purpose) as it is something distinct and rather special. And it necessitates lots of cycling to work it off. This post is about the traveller’s in-a-pot instant friend version which is your companion along the Han river and the tech which you ‘cook’ it with. Every single convenience store along the Han river has two things without fail: (1) instant ramyeon; and (2) beer. Well and (3) hangover cures.
So you take the pack, stick it in the aluminium foil box you get, empty the MSG and fake vegetables and chemical spice into it. The go up to the quasi vending machine/ cheap robotic demonstration model and press a button. At this stage every Korean in attendance will be watching the strange white person and often offering to help you in the cooking process. Sometimes with table delivery. Water drops in. A hot plate turns on. Bubbles commence. Wooden chopsticks stir and there you go; instant Korean ramyeon.