Seoul Food: Ultra Music Festival & Myeongdong (Day 3)

8:00:00 AM

Ready, Set, Go! Ultra Music Korea… disaster!

I’ll say it right now. I did not make it to Ultra Music Korea. At least not past the VIP entrance. For a more indepth explanation of what exactly went wrong, just keep reading.

Saturday = Ultra Music Korea. It was that simple. That was all I had planned for Saturday. After all, Visit Seoul flew us out to Korea and they gave us tickets to Ultra Music Festival sooo… it would make sense that we attended the festival, right?

Ultra Music would’ve been my first EDM festival ever, if I ever did make it in. I’m not a huge follower of EDM with the minor exception of anything that made it onto the radio waves. But the artist setlist for Saturday looked fantastic, so I was pretty excited to go.

After spending the entire morning prepping and dressing up for Ultra, we headed down to the front lobby where I asked the concierge for the quickest route to the stadium. Unfortunately, he gave us instructions to go to the Olympic Park, rather than the stadium. Needless to say, the two of us made a small detour along the way.

Around 1:30 (approximately when the festival started), we went to the information booth and asked the volunteers as to where we would pick up our tickets. Problem was, nobody seem to know for certain. I showed them the email I received from the Visit Seoul and our travel agency and they told us to go around the stadium to the West Gate, where the VIP entrance was located. This is where the language barrier got frustrating. Communication can only go so far when I can’t understand Korean and they don’t understand English. When we made our way around to the West Gate, we were greeted by ‘men in black’ or essentially security guards who were monitoring the entrance. We tried our best to explain to them that we wanted to pick up our tickets for the festival, but they didn’t understand us. That was the start of my “if only I had internet to access google translate” moment.

After providing the phone number to the travel agent who arranged the trip, he called her and they talked and he told us to sit and wait. Turns out VIP ticket entrances does not start until 3 PM. I was only notified thru email indicating arrival at 1:30 PM. After half an hour or so of waiting, they moved us to the VIP waiting area where we sat around with other groups who I dubbed the Korean Gossip Girls. If there were anybody I encountered in Korea during those five days that resembled the ‘Upper East Side,’ it was them.

Time passes by slow when you’re just sitting and waiting. Things got more confusing once the other VIP groups started to enter the stadium with tickets, leaving the two of us sitting there. After bypassing the security entrance, we went to the VIP tables asking for our tickets and they asked us what “TIER” we were in, which of course-- we had absolutely no idea.

Another call to our travel agency finally gave us the answer: the tickets were for FRIDAY, not SATURDAY. They were not two day tickets and on yes, we were “VVIP” but only for Friday. That meant on Friday, they reserved a table (I’m assuming which included the rest of the winners), but only for that day. Unfortunately, there was nothing the volunteers could do about it and as frustrated as I was with the whole situation, I couldn’t do anything about it either. And yes, I flew halfway around the world to attend a EDM festival, but all-in-all, I was turned away at the gate.

It was poor calculation on Visit Seoul and the travel agency part seeing as while they did tell me I could pick up my tickets on Friday, they didn’t inform me that they were only for Friday. And seeing as though I never talked to the other two winners, I wonder if they managed to attend the festival.

Misunderstandings and language barriers aside, the two of us spent a good 2-3 hours just hanging around the entrance of the stadium wasting time doing nothing. By that time, it was almost 4 PM and I was tired and jet lag was kicking in again, but seeing as though we essentially did nothing that day, initiate PLAN B.

Myeongdong, here we come!

Lost in Translation: Multinational Myeongdong

Following the pattern from Thursday and Friday, I’m sure you can figure out by now that we got… lost. Eventually we wandered into Gongcha which thankfully had wi-fi. With a little luck and some major help from Google, we were able to find our way to Myeongdong.

Myeongdong, the shopping mecca of Seoul and arguably the to-go place if you’re into Korean makeup and skincare. During the course of the few hours, I ran into multiples of the same skincare/makeup store (Tony Moly, Etude House, Its Skin, The Face Shop, Nature’s Republic and etc.) in every corner of every street crammed together that made up Myeongdong.

Alongside the many skin care shops, there were clothing boutiques,  restaurants and some familiar names like H&M and Forever 21 that littered the street. If you take time to just look up, you’ll see even more restaurants and coffee shops on the second and third floors of the buildings.

Being such a large tourist attraction, the sales associates working in the shops know a variety of languages, the major ones being Chinese and Japanese. So here I was walking into the stores and the first thing they do is greet me in Chinese. And when I didn’t give them a response, they switch to Japanese and finally English. I have to say, it’s quite impressive and there was an occasion where we were paying at the register and the sales associate told us the total in Chinese and then proceeded to thank us in Japanese. Well, even the best of us would get our languages mixed up every now and then.

Since, this is a food blog, LETS get down to the FOOD, shall we?!

Aside from the Gong Cha (oolong milk tea with boba), I had on my way to Myeongdong, I ate everything else from street vendors. All the shopping didn’t give much time for sitting down and eating a proper meal. And by the time the two of us finished shopping, it was already 10:30 PM and we needed to catch the subway back to the hotel.

So the first thing I ate was takoyaki! And these were some pretty bomb-tasting takoyaki. I forgot to take a photo because we were too busy scarfing them down while avoiding running into people.

TIP: Many street vendors have buckets or trays where you put your money in and grab your change. Due to sanitary reasons, they don’t want to touch the money while cooking and preparing the food. Koreans put a high level of trust into their customers, thinking that they would do the right thing rather than grabbing the bucket and making a run for it. You don’t see that happening in the States, not that I know of anyways.

Also not photographed was our visit to the Dragon Beard Candy Man. And for those who are unfamiliar with the concept of Dragon Beard Candy, it’s essentially made from a huge lump of sugar that is flexible enough to stretch out and folded over many times and thus producing very thin strands of sugar coated in powder sugar. The strands are then pulled into smaller sections and wrapped with a nut mixture filling to resemble a cocoon. The taste is similar to cotton candy, sweet and melts quickly in the mouth, but with a crunch thanks to the nuts. The Dragon Beard stall is definitely a must-visit for visitors especially if you’ve never seen the sugar pulling process before because it’s very entertaining and the Candy Man was good at his job. He even has the entire explanation down in English.

The reason why it’s called Dragon Beard is because when eating the pieces, some sugar strands could end up sticking to your lip, hence “Dragon Beard.”

Moving on over, we had our encounter with this lovely humungous soft serve green tea ice cream. Now, I love my ice cream, as noted in my previous “Matcha Love” post, but I was no match for this. Before I even got half way, it already started to melt and dripped all over my hand.

There came a point where I couldn’t even taste the ice cream or feel my mouth anymore because I was trying so hard to eat it quickly. In the end, the ice cream won... and I lost and that was when I lost my appetite for the rest of the night.

Defeated by ice cream. I don’t know how someone would finish it before it starts melting everywhere. UNLESS! You were standing in a freezer. If only I had a mobile freezer. Sigh.

It's calling to me!

I didn’t even have it in me to try the Softbee ice cream that I kept hearing people talk about. With the honey comb…

As the night wind down and we finally realized just how LATE it was and how much we disregarded dinner, I had my last snack for the night. It was a fried-battered rice cake and wieners on a stick. It was deep fried and greasy and possibly one of the most delicious thing I ate that night, if you don’t count the takoyaki. By that point, it was my hunger speaking, but all night as I was walking around, I saw people passing by carrying skewers of it and I had no idea what it was, but if it’s deep fried and it’s on a stick-- just how bad could it be-- tasting wise. So I’m glad I went for it even if that meant I suffered and woke up with a puffy face the next morning.

KFC chicken doesn't taste that great. At least when I tried it at the stadium.
It was a failure on my part for the lack of food photos, but seeing as how crazy Saturday flew by, I’d give myself a break. If anything, I made up for it on Sunday when I met up with a friend at Edae.

Coming Up Day 4: Exploring Edae, Insadong and Hongdae. Korean BBQ. Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream. Noraebang.

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