How-To: Survive the Summer Heat in Seoul
I don’t believe that it’s a secret that the temperatures in Seoul, South Korea, are somewhat uncomfortable for the average human being. That being said, I am less-average in the sense that I’ve always lived in the mountains, which means, frigid winters and mild summers (of course, these days, that does not seem to be the case up in the mountain region from whence I came). Thus, I have never enjoyed hot climates, and so, I find summertime in Seoul less than desirable; actually I find the general climate of Seoul to be less than desirable all the time, but this is not about that. With that said, I have recently discovered a way to enjoy the heat, just in time, no doubt. Even though the temperature hasn’t hit blistering levels quite yet, I have tested out my new strategy a few times already, and I imagine that my plan will work swimmingly even as the temperature climbs.
None of what I’m about to say will be ground-breaking insight nor will it be anything but obvious.
Nevertheless, I do feel like sharing this little tidbit because, well, I’m finished with my fiction writing quota for the day, and now I’m bored. So, here it is! Well, I suppose the plan is two-fold and includes tips and tricks (a tip, no tricks) for getting to know Seoul as a whole along with my cooling method. For starters, you must know that I have lived in Seoul for three years now, and honestly, the city has become a bit … redundant. The lifemate and I have slowly been discovering that pretty much every nook and cranny of the city has much of the same things going on … shopping …eating … hiking … a level of consumer drivel that’s out of this world. Despite this general lack of diversity (in every sense and form), each neighborhood does usually have one major attraction or eatery that will be new and distinct. And so, my first (only) tip and trick.
When deciding where to explore within Seoul, the best thing to do is find the nearest subway station to your current location. Once you know where you’re located within the city, use this MAP to determine a location that’s about thirty to forty minutes away by subway. I think that most people under the age of forty will have no problem using the map, since it’s pretty self-explanatory. If you are having a hard time figuring it out, just start clicking on the little dots on the screen next to each subway station name, and everything should become clearer to you. If you’re still having problems, leave a comment, and hopefully, someone will help you out.
Okay, so now that you know which subway station is your closest station, choose, at random, a subway station that’s approximately thirty to forty minutes away. Here’s the tip, it takes, on average, about two minutes to travel between stops, i.e. traveling from Dongdaemun to Seoul Station is five stops apart and takes nine minutes. Once you choose a stop, search the station name through whichever web-search engine you prefer (Google it). The web-search engine of your choosing ought to provide enough information about the one interesting thing to see or do in that particular neighborhood. Sometimes the thing will be a traditional-type palace or a traditional-type goods alley or a traditional-type foods market or a Buddhist temple or a contemporary department store or modern-day attraction or, you get it. If the main attraction near the subway station you chose on the map sounds good to you, then go there. If not, pick another station and repeat the process until something really hits ya between the balls with excitement, etc.
What the lifemate and I typically do is we search for whatever thing we’re looking for, a market or a restaurant or a movie theater, search the subway station associated with wherever whatever we’re looking for is located, and then, we search the surrounding area … all virtually, of course. Then, when a place sounds like it has at least two different things going for it, we also make note of all of the immediate subway stops. We usually go straight to our desired destination and scope out whatever it is that we’ve traveled all that way to see. Then, we walk to one of the surrounding stations. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into the actual lives of Koreans.
I would provide more information about the neighborhoods we like to hang out in, but then I risk running into more foreigners, and I’m not really interested in such social meetings. Also, we don’t really go to tourist hot spots ’cause, do I really need to explain myself? Plus, our “it” neighborhood is changing all the time because that’s how Seoul is –it’s changing all the time. Again, this is why this strategy works well for those of you who have or are planning on living here for more than a year. Seoul’s rate of business turnover is … fucking ridiculous. You cannot count on anything being there the next time you visit, and so, we’ve learned the hard way to just soak up each new neighborhood the first time we visit, and then we push it from our minds and never hope to return there for whatever specific thing we loved in the hood the first time we visited. Sure, we’ll repeatedly return to some areas of the city, but we know full well that whatever it is that we’re traveling there for will most likely no longer be available. Thus, the “Pick and Pop” (TM [… jk, who’d be so pretentious]) method through the subway map was born. Sure, these days we have to travel upwards of ninety minutes sometimes to get to a neighborhood we’ve never been to, but since we travel less frequently, generally speaking, it’s not such a burden. During everyday-type weekend outings, we stick to a neighborhood that requires only thirty to forty minutes of travel.
Now, how to stay cool during these searing hot months? Well, that’s the fun part. There’s nothing better than an ice-cold bevey to satisfy a sweaty profile. And there’s nothing better than a little booze to lubricate a day on the town. Therefore, there’s definitely nothing better than an icy-boozy bevey to keep you cool and emotionally lubricated. What do I mean by lubrication? Well, Seoul is a fucking crowded city, and yea, it’s fun and exciting at first, but then I found that it has become droll and daunting. There are thousands of people everywhere you go, all the time. If you think about a city the size of Seoul with a population of about 10,000,000, that means that there are more than 15,000 people on average packed within one square kilometer. It’s like I said, crowded. Yes, it can be extremely exciting, but if you’re like me, it becomes very draining. And so, I like to get a little (more than a little) tipsy while out on the town. It helps me care less about the pushing and shoving and rudeness and ajumma entitlement and the general sense of,
“Oh my ephing god, these handrails/bathrooms/chairs/benches/door handles must be so disgusting! Think about how many people use them every single minute of every single hour of every single day! And I’m like four stories underground right now in a small tube with thousands of people who listen to authority to such an extent that they will end up dying rather than simply getting off the train!”
I digress. Anyway … So yea, I use alcohol as a coping mechanism for all of my idiosyncratic phobias and general psychosis. Obviously, I’d prefer the all-natural, more-fun beez from our days of yore, but alas, such goodness, perhaps, works well as a carrot. Again, I digress.
And now, the 10 steps to staying hydrated and lubricated during the scorching Seoul summer! (These measurements are for two people hanging out together.) This process works best when undertaken the night before an outing:
- Step 1: Buy one to three (depending on your desired level of inebriation) bottles of cheap (cheap cheap, you’ll see why below) white wine
- Step 2: Buy one small bottle of a lemon-lime soda of your choosing
- Step 3: (If you have an empty 2L bottle of water, skip to Step 4) Acquire or save an empty 2L bottle of water
- Step 4: Fill 2L water bottle with white wine until it’s about 3/4 full (use your own discretion or fill two 2L bottles, whatever, it’s all up to you!), leave room for the lemon-lime soda and add half the bottle of lemon-lime soda, leave the bottle nearly full, leaving room for expansion
- Step 5: Place the nearly full bottle of wine and soda mixture into the freezer the night before an outing.
- Step 6: The next morning, the contents of the bottle ought to be frozen. Wine freezes quite well, but it remains slightly slushy, hence the lemon-lime soda. The soda helps it to freeze to a more solidified state. Remove the frozen bottle of wine from the freezer and wrap the thing up in a hand towel. Any sort of carrying device will work. Whatever suits you and your desires works best. The lifemate and I like to carry the thing around in a small panda-shaped backpack.
- Step 7: Now, as you’re leaving to your desired destination for your outing, pick up some sort of cold (or hot if you desire, but that seems beside the point) bevey from your favorite (or cheapest) bevey-distribution shop, you know, something of the cup-and-lid-and-straw variety, and drink the bevey on the way to the subway station.
- Step 8: Once inside the station, your purchased bevey ought to be finished, so now, this is the important part, KEEP THE BEVEY CUP! If the cup is a hot-bevey cup, then you might want to rinse the thing out at a subway station water fountain. Most stations have them. If you have a cold-bevey cup, then just swish the remains out with the last of the melting ice.
- Step 9: Now comes the fun part! Fill your decoy cup with the frozen wine. Sometimes the wine will still be a bit too frozen, so at this time, you might want to just massage the bottle with your hands to warm it up while you ride the train to your destination. The point is to take it slow, so there’s no rush to get the juice into the decoy cup before arriving at your desired location, especially since the trains are air conditioned quite well. If it’s really hot out, the wine should be a nice slushy mixture by the time you get to wherever you’re going.
- Step 10: Once at your destination for your day’s outing, you should be happily sipping a delicious wine slushy from your decoy cup. As the cup empties, simply fill it with the contents of the water bottle. Since the thing was frozen, it does a surprisingly good job of staying cold and refreshing throughout the entirety of the afternoon heat. Enjoy the day refreshed and tipsy! (See Exhibit A)
The crazy thing is that alcohol is readily available throughout the city, and old grannies and grandpees drink openly in public. The lifemate and I, however, still feel it’s a bit strange and would rather avoid the odd looks, especially since we already have to deal with so many odd looks given the fact that we’re a mixed-raced couple, and Koreans, in general, are surprisingly, quite racist. So, we like this strategy cause it looks like we’re just sipping some frozen concoction from whatever local bevey joint our cup’s label advertises. Also, we’ve tried stronger versions with hard liquor and the like, but vodka, etc., gets us a bit too drunk and being drunk makes me feel even hotter. The wine, I’ve found, takes the edge off without giving me the liquor sweats. Obviously, if you’re a hard drinker, you may want to swap out the wine for something stronger, but the point for us is not to be so drunk that we block out the city completely. The point is just to lubricate my senses so that I can enjoy it without all the … compulsive obsessions.
So, there you have it! My take on how to stay cool and chill while out in the blistering heat that is Seoul in summer. I hope you try it! If you do, let me know! If you have even better tips and tricks, definitely let me know! Lates.