Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Itaewon Village Festival: Road Closed, But Open To Everyone!

My Korean friend Jae-yoon once told me that, one Friday night in Itaewon, as he and his Korean friends left a bar, they felt so weird because everyone else around them was a foreigner. 

Yes, that's Itaewon, the only place in South Korea where even locals feel they're not in Korea. 

Itaewon is actually just in my neighborhood. From my place in Hannam-dong (in Yongsan-gu, Seoul), I can either take the Blue Bus 110 and will be in Itaewon in about 5 minutes. If I walk from the UN Village area through the Soonchunghyang Hospital road, then up the street towards Cheil Building fronting the IP Boutique Hotel, I'd be in Itaewon in about 15 minutes. Just fifteen minutes, and I would have saved KRW 1,050 in bus fare. Ha-ha-ha!

But near or far, I would have frequented this place every now and then because, as a foreigner, this place is fun for me. And all these years living in Seoul, I have known this place inside and out that I was able to tour my fellow Filipino friends around Itaewon last autumn during the Itaewon Global Festival, and showed them the corners which ordinary visitors don't see on a day tour.

If you walk through Itaewon every day, or night, you will feel that it's very international as you'd hear different languages and see different races.  The tourists, visitors and shoppers are not the only foreigners walking up and down the Itaewon main street, or going in out the shops and restaurants. 

Even the business owners and their employees in Itaewon are from other countries, including my favorite Mexican restaurant in Itaewon, which is owned by an American guy married to a Korean lady, and employs a French, a British and a Filipino as servers. I think I would have discovered more nationalities had I chatted with those working in the kitchen. Ha-ha-ha!

And here today, at the Itaewon Global Village Festival's mini-parade of nations, there were even more countries represented as they all walked down Itaewon's main street amidst the annual festivities, which closed down one lane of the strip to give room to the parade participated in by locals and foreigners.

                         (My Blue Bus 110 stuck in traffic)

                    (And the bus wants to join the parade, too)

I will be heading this weekend to Itaewon to check out the festival, and the mini-parade of nations as well. Considering the traffic will be rerouted and will definitely be very slow, I think I will just walk from my place going there. They're closing the main street from Hamilton Station up to the Noksapyeong Station this weekend, by the way.

If I were you, I'd also skip the bus ride, and just take the subway going there. And if you want to watch the parade, I suggest you take a spot, not from the Hamilton Hotel area, but from further up towards the Hangangjin Station, where there will be less crowds.

And since there will be a lot of walking, make sure you're wearing your most comfortable walking shoes. No need to wear those shiny leather shoes, or your 6-inch heels as you will be torturing your feet running up and down the booths during the day, and ruining your shoes with all the puke during the night. Ha-ha-ha!

         (These participants came all the way from Argentina!                                  Muchas gracias to my Spanish professors 
            in college; I was able to chat with them en espanol.)
These days aren't that cold yet. But thanks to global warming, I can still wear shorts with my Nikes this weekend. You can, too. It would also be easier to run for one's life in case a fire breaks out again in Itaewon just like the last time.

The World Culture Parade is on Saturday and will start at about 3PM. I'm crossing my fingers that the weather will just be fine for everyone to have a good time.

And leave your car elsewhere. Looking for a parking slot will be impossible, just like finding a good seat with a view at a cafe after lunch in Itaewon. Ha-ha-ha!
                      (More crowds awaiting the parade at 
                              the Hamilton Hotel area)

See you all there!

For details of the festival, click>> Itaewon Global Village Festival.

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