So I had to look for another place to get dinner. Nandaemun market didn’t make the cut. As you know, I have never been one to ignore free advice from a local and I was not going to start in Seoul. Besides, being my first day here, it would be foolish to come down with food poisoning. Besides I still have to show up tomorrow at work! I did hear of another popular area not far from Nandaemun Market which was ten minutes walk away. It is called Myeongdong and meant to be quite popular, so I headed down that way.
Having learnt that none of these places are buildings or malls but are just streets or areas, this one was easier to locate. You cannot miss it as the streets are packed with pedestrians and street stalls! Looking immediately more upmarket, it was buzzing with visitors and vendors.
There were a few Korean BBQ places that looked inviting (who can resist the smell of meat being cooked on a BBQ!) but I found out that the minimum for these places were generally for two diners. As I was alone, I got turned away from a couple of places that looked inviting. Eventually I had to settle for an ok looking noodle bar and tucked into some delicious Korean noodles together with the ever present staple of Korean food – kimchi!
I would suggest that kimchi is really an acquired taste of sorts. I did not like it that much when I first tried it but after a while, it started to grow on me. Now I quite like it! BUT definitely not as much as the Koreans do. It is like the vegemite equivalent for Aussies!
After dinner I walked around a bit in Myeongdong and came to a sign advertising Nanta Theatre. I had heard about this from a friend but really not much more. So I wandered upstairs to where this show is held and noticed that it is a cooking show. But more than that, the cooking show is actually just a prop for drumming. Interested, I bought myself a ticket and checked it out.
The story line is simple. Four cooks are given short notice by the restaurant owner to prepare a wedding banquet of which one of them is the owners young nephew who is an apprentice cook. And that’s where the simple plot ends. The rest is a high octane performance where you will be treated to a mixture of comedy, tricks, dance and martial arts. My favourite is the samulnori drumming which is the common thread throughout the show. It is absolutely captivating the intensity of the drumming. I was totally hooked.
Of course, there is also plenty of audience participation. If you just happened to be coerced up onto the stage, be prepared. You could end up in a dumpling-making race or worse still – be married in a traditional Korean wedding to a complete stranger! But it is all in the name of fun and there’s plenty of that. I was not sure what to expect but I went away quite entertained.
After the show, I found out that the Nanta cooking performance is the longest running show in Korea! They have played to over 7 million audiences worldwide including even Broadway! So, if you ever do visit South Korea, give this a try for some great entertainment.
Looking at the time when the show finished, I realised it had run for 90 minutes and the night was getting late. So, I had to hightail back to the hotel. I still had to get up early for work the next day. (Sigh!) But it was a good first day in Seoul.
(Last image courtesy of wikicommons)