Adventures in Fancytown: Garosu-gil & Sinsa-dong

November 9, 2009


So lately my life has taken a trip to Non Sequitur Land, with sentences like, “I fished a paperclip from a princess’ mouth,” and “I think the demon children will eat him, I can tell,” coming out of my mouth at regular intervals. Some kid told me I “looked like  a Peppero stick” the other day. I suppose I should take that as a compliment: tall, skinny, and… dipped in chocolate? But that’s all in a day’s work as a teacher, I suppose.

DSCF4558Nice building in Sinsa-dong. Changed colors in time with the building next to it. Sometimes spelled out Chinese characters. I don’t know if that’s trying to hard to be awesome or just plain… awesome.

Play time, however, has become a bit fancier than those Incheon days. No more Max Riders and cheese kimbap, now it’s…well to be honest, now it’s sitting in my apartment and watching Top Chef, but sometimes, I take a bus south of the river (Fancytown Seoul) and indulge in its… fanciness. For those that aren’t “in the know,” South of the Han is known for being home to the wealthier districts of Seoul: Gangnam, Apgujeong, Cheongdam, etc.

On Sunday I went with the work crew (work gang? work unit? which do you prefer?) to Spa Lei in Sinsa-dong. Spa Lei is a women’s only facility and it’s pretty much a public bathhouse or jjimjilbang, but “without ajusshis cleaning their face with their own sweat.” It was amazing and super relaxing. There were green tea baths, rosewater baths, outdoor (but shielded from lookey-loos) pools, steam rooms, ovens, infared rooms (to feel like a piece of reheated fast food?), and a ton of other stuff. I got my face threaded, which is just as painful as it sounds. Basically you could spend a whole day there just lounging around without clothes or in your robe, eating sweet potatoes and eggs, taking baths, watching soap operas, and getting pampered. I like it. I really like it. It’s like spending time at home being lazy in your underwear, but with a bunch of strangers…. Doesn’t that sound, uh, appealing?

You’d think the whole “naked” thing would make you feel embarrassed and squeamish, but it’s not awkward at all. It’s a very communal, casual, I’ve-got-no-clothes-on-and-so-do-you. It kind of makes you wish that the States had such a healthy non-prudish relationship with nudity, that nudity didn’t necessarily equate sexuality and what not, that people could just be comfortable with their bodies as is, in a family environment. There seems to be so much shame in American culture, about things that are normal and everyday, and I just feel like we should all, you know, get over it. But anyway, I don’t want to sound weird, but you really haven’t lived until some middle aged woman has scrubbed off all your dead skin while you lie on a table. Seriously.

sheep_headObviously, I have no pictures, but at jjimjilbang you can fashion your towel much like Princess Leia. Get it? Leia hairdo at Spa Lei? That was bad, I’m sorry. From here: http://www.randomwire.com/sheep-head

Anyway, afterwards, we headed off to Garosu-gil, which is this famed tree-lined street in Sinsa-dong (is this its own dong or a part of the greater Apgujeong Fancy District?). It’s a really nice place, lots of shops, brunch places, cafe places, and people so beautiful they make you feel bad about yourself. We ended up eating at School Food, this fusion Korean place, which is basically a kimbap joint classed-up with a few Western influences. It’s kind of the Korean equivalent to Ketchup in West Hollywood (a place where I’ve sat next to Paula Abdul while eating kobe beef hot dogs, ah but that’s another story). On the menu there are some questionable items like carbonara tteokbokki (who knows, could be amazing) but we ordered this less extreme variant with mozzarella and a sweet/hot tteokbokki sauce. It was my favorite thing we ate:


I have a ton pictures of the other stuff we ate, but I guess you can just check my facebook for that.

So I’ll end on that note.  Until next time, everybody.



  1. hey – i heard you are back in korea – i wanted to email you but i don’t have your email – send me a message!

  2. You did it! My favorite korean spa memory: 4AM, you are still dirty and sweaty b/c you didn’t want to get naked with all the ajumas. Then taking you to sleep in the only room left, I think it was an igloo.

  3. Drool.

  4. I’m still rather taken aback by the idea of cheese in any kind of Korean food. Never, never saw this when I was there. (Granted, that was 12 years ago.)

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