Friday, March 15, 2013

My Day In Sanbon

So last Sunday (3/10), my neighbor took me to Sanbon, which is basically downtown Gunpo. It's the heart of the city--where everything is at. And it's glorious (at least in comparison to where we're at normally). (Note: All pictures were actually taken today (3/16) when I went back on my own.)

We left about 2:30 PM and grabbed a taxi. Apparently a taxi for two is just as much as a bus for one, so might as well grab a taxi (it's about 2 bucks). He taught me how to get there via taxi so I got to tell the driver "Sanbon yok" (I'm only guessing that's how you spell it until I can confirm). It translates to "Sanbon station." Once we got there, we went to the center of Sanbon so he could show me things in every direction.

Front facing the train station.

Toward the back (away from the station).

To the left with some benches
(and I think towards the bus stop)

To the right (I think).


We decided we were gonna go see a movie that afternoon, so we would get our tickets ahead of time. The two options for movies in English at the time we wanted were Jack the Giant Slayer and Stoker. Of course I chose Stoker. I've seen 5 Park Chan-wook films in America (he's a Korean director for those who don't know). Why wouldn't I see his first American film while I'm in Korea? The irony is too great. (Off topic, but I also plan on seeing the American remake of Chan-wook's Oldboy, my favorite Korean movie, while I'm here, too.) Anyway, this particular theater is in a giant building with different stores on the bottom floors and apartments up above, so we went up to the theater and got our tickets. We also had to choose which seats we wanted, as there was assigned seating.

One of the posters inside with listings/times.
From there, we made our way around Sanbon. It's basically this one long road/walkway with intersecting roads as you go along. He showed me different little restaurants and places so we could figure out what we wanted for lunch. We ended up just getting a couple burgers and fries. It was decent, though the patty itself was more like this rib-meat burger that was about the thickness of a few sheets of paper. But it was filling enough.
Wanna go to Outback Steakhouse? They have it!

The little burger place inside this tiny little garage.

Then there was the adventure known as E-Mart. E-Mart is basically like a giant Korean version of a Wal-Mart or Super Target and the like. The first floor was basically all foods, and the second floor (yes, there were at least two floors) was mostly electronics and appliances (as I later discovered, there are a few more floors… clothes, cosmetics, and parking as far as I could tell). To get from floor to floor, especially if you had a basket, you went on these things that were basically a mix of a moving sidewalk and an escalator. So a moving ramp, I guess? And I was forewarned before going in that Sundays are the worst possible days to go because of how crazy busy it is. And he wasn't wrong. For those back in Victoria, imagine something like the day before Thanksgiving at HEB times three. You have to just wade through Asian people like they're an ocean you need to get through. But I was assured this was the worst I'd ever see it, and most other days it's not close to that bad. Oh, and there's these little lockers as you come in to put any bags you don't feel like carrying. I was also told there's ones especially for little dogs so people can put their dogs there to wait while their owners do their shopping.

The moving ramps as best as I could get.
From E-Mart, we made our way to a Dunkin Donuts for some hot chocolate and to just sit and talk for a while and kill time. And apparently Koreans love them some donuts, because the place was packed. We were there for a while until he decided to show me this little bar and grill (that serves breakfast) that's apparently a good place to meet people, but it was closed.

We still had quite a bit of time to kill, so we went to an arcade and played a little House of the Dead 4 (for those unaware, a zombie/monster shooting game) while a bunch of teenagers watched us. I lasted just a little bit longer, but soon died off, too. We still had quite a bit of time, but we thought we'd just go to the theater and relax there and wait. Little did we know our most entertaining part of the day was yet to occur.

The front of the building with the theater
(it's super tall with the apartments above).

When our elevator finally takes us up to the theater (it kept taking us down into sub-levels to get more people), we took a seat in this waiting area near these bathrooms. And this is where the fun began. As we waited, there was somebody (presumably in the men's restroom) making the most bizarre noise. It sounded like a mix of choking, heaving, and squawking. And I'm not even sure that description does it nearly enough justice. It happened in short intervals, and at first neither of us knew what was going on or if it was some cultural thing we were unaware of. But then we noticed even Korean people trying to investigate where the noise was coming from and/or what it was. But every time we'd try to start a conversation, this noise would start, too. And eventually we would just burst out laughing and couldn't control ourselves. It really was the most ridiculous thing ever. We think it was a guy having a really bad reaction to something. We suspected it was one guy who eventually came out of the bathroom soon after the noise stopped. But then he went back in and never came back out. Hopefully he didn't die.

We also talked about funny little things about we could be talking out loud in English because nobody around us knew what we were saying. So my neighbor started saying ridiculous things just to prove the point ("I ate a clown today!") to which nobody reacted. He also let me in on the little "looks" we will get as foreigners from Koreans. They won't outright stare (most of the time), but they will look at you at least once. And he was right--if you're paying attention, you will see the Korean people steal at least one glance at you. So while they (usually) don't look at you, they're always very aware that you're there.

The next strange thing happened as we were going into the actual theater area. The ticket girl looked Korean, but spoke English… with an Australian accent . It was quite strange. The theater room itself was incredibly small. Easily the smallest I've ever seen (and probably even smaller than you're imagining. The chairs themselves were comfortable, but there wasn't a whole lot of leg room. As for the movie--it started off really slow and weird. The first 20 minutes were very odd, and I never knew where it was going. But as it got into the story, it got better. By the end, I really liked it. Definitely not for everyone, though.

We left the theater and headed to the bus stop… in some weather that easily dropped like 20 degrees in the last couple hours. And I was shown how to take the bus home from there (and which bus to take). And I got home about 7:30 or so. And that was about it! This was easily the best afternoon I'd had so far in Korea. And I'm sure I'm gonna be spending quite a bit of time in Sanbon.


  1. oh wow nick...what an amazing day. the pictures are great...what a cool place....and i'm so glad you got to go to the movies....know you loved that. I'm so thankful for Jon being there to show you around. i'd love to see the place at night...i'm sure the neon lights are everywhere. i'd love to go to the emart cool is that.

  2. i forgot to add that the center area of downtown where you took the pictures of the streets each direction....that is a fountain like thing with water that shoots up from the ground and the kids play in it...i saw that on a video i looked up on Sanbon...really cool in the summer.

  3. Hey Nick, in the picture labeled "to the right," do you know what the white building is before the mountain? I like the composition of the picture.

    Thanks for a great story of your day!


    1. I'm actually not sure what that building is.

  4. Nice! Even better was you mentioning that you headed down there on your own the next day. Once you have your head around the transportation system, you'll be all over the place.

    1. It was the next weekend I went back alone, but yeah. I'm trying to do stuff on my own a little at a time.