These days you might be eagerly longing for vacations because you are at the middle point of the semester now. If you want to experience an exotic atmosphere, free from your normal life, I have some places to recommend to you guys.
Multicultural Street, Ansan
You can get to this place by subway in about two hours from University of Seoul (UOS), rather than by plane. It is Multicultural Street which is located in Ansan, Gyeonggi-do. It is right next to Ansan Station. Therefore, the best choice is to use subway line number 4.
Multicultural Street in Ansan is not artificially built like the streets where you can find many signs with foreign languages in Myeongdong and Dongdaemun. Foreigners living in Korea naturally formed this unique place. Ansan is known for being the most popular place for foreigners in Korea. Since the late 1990s, foreign emigrant workers formed a residential district in Wongok-dong, Ansan because this area was near their workplaces. As a result, it became a representative multicultural area in Korea.
Instead of imitating foreign streets, this street provides foreign workers in Korea with daily necessities from their home countries. If you go to Multicultural Street, you can see the signs in foreign languages. Karaoke, mobile phone stores and even hair salon advertise their stores in Chinese, Arabic and other languages. You can also enjoy this street with your nose, rather than just your eyes. The smell of distinctive spices attracts you to try new foods from other countries. You can easily find people selling food, such as Chinese steamed buns, twisted bread stick and lamb along the street.
Also, there are mooncakes (Chinese snack) which you cannot see in your daily life. While restaurants in other regions change the original flavor of other countries dishes to suit Koreans’ taste, those in Multicultural Street preserve the original flavor. That is because they usually sell the food to foreigners. At the fruit stand, you can find strawberries, apples and peaches. Also, you can get tropical fruits such as mangosteens, durians and coconuts at a cheap price. Songs in various languages coming from the stores and people walking and talking to each other on the street would make you feel like being in a foreign country. Most of them are people from China and Southeast Asia.
If you go deeper into the street, you can find the Multicultural Promoting and Learning Center. It opens from Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can experience other cultures firsthand and have an opportunity to deeply understand foreign culture by looking at traditional musical instruments, apparels, food, relics and money, all of which amount to 500 pieces.
If you feel burdensome because you need about four hours to get from UOS to Ansan and back, I recommend Itaewon. You can get there in 30 minutes from UOS by subway. Itaewon Station is on subway line number 6. You can find many foreigners without getting out of the subway station. You might doubt you are in Seoul, Korea. Walking along the street in Itaewon, you can see restaurants serving cuisines of foreign countries such as India, Turkey and Mexico. I chose Turkish food because I was most unfamiliar with it.
I was served bread, a unique soup and ayran (Turkish Yogurt) as appetizers. Turks eat bread a lot because high quality wheat is largely produced in their home country. Also, as the Turks traditionally led a nomad life, various fermented foods were developed. Thus, they could be the first people who invented yogurt. Yogurt is what they routinely drink just as the Chinese routinely drink tea in their daily lives. Next, a food called Mixed Chicken Grill was served as the main dish. Chicken on the bread was grilled and served with sour cream and a sauce which tastes like spicy tomato ketchup. As for the chicken, it tasted like nothing I have ever had before in Korea. I also ate Turkish ice cream as a dessert.
It was somewhat sticky. All the main dishes in the restaurant are over \10,000, courses are over \30,000 per person and a couple set menu options for two people are over \50,000. Unique dishes such as kebabs in the pot should be reserved three hours before you eat. Foreign cooks make the food and foreign waiters and waitresses serve it. There is a bakery selling Turkish snacks with various shapes and colors. You can get four pieces with about \2,000. As I walked along the street, I noticed that I the saw same stores for several times. When I walked into one of them, I found that it was a fast-food restaurant selling kebabs. They offered their food to customers in the way they can eat with comfort like McDonald’s selling hamburgers. You can also try Turkish ice cream here. Furthermore, you can find supermarkets selling things from abroad in Itaewon. If you go inside these supermarkets, you will meet many foreigners buying their groceries.
Another place you can visit in Itaewon is the mosque. This is an exotic building Muslims in Korea visit. Although only Muslims can enter the building, it can be an extraordinary experience for you to look around the building and feel the exotic mood.
How about relieving your stress from school at one of these places on the weekend? You will be offered with a special experience to peek into foreign cultures on these places where foreigners gather to find their familiar culture. If you have a foreign friend, you can also compare each other’s cultures and understand him or her better in Ansan or Itaewon.