CONTRIBUTED BY SIBO LUNGU
Usually hubby and I, like most people, head out to Seoul or somewhere close by to spend our Saturdays and Sundays. This week we were feeling a bit lazy so we decided to check out what’s in our own town of Songtan. After all, why should we go exploring out in Seoul when we may have some great entertainment right here in our back yard? Most military families hang out right outside the main gate in what’s called “the ville”. I like it for its convenience, and the variety of restaurants being all in one area, but I was itching to see what else was in Songtan where many locals hang out.
When coming home from work at 8pm, I usually see so much activity going on around Seojeong-ro, near the Songtan District Office. People are always on the streets in the evening – even on a weekday! I had to find out what this was all about. Looking at a map, it seems to be downtown Songtan and the border of Seojeong-ri town and Songtan town.
So one Saturday afternoon, hubby and I went on the “1-1″ bus, which is one of the best buses to jump on because it winds around and around so you get to know the area; if you aren’t in a hurry, that is. We got off where the neon lights are usually brightest. It was still day light though.
The streets look rather similar to most city streets that I have visited so far in Korea. There are lots of big bold signs, Korean restaurants, bars, trendy women’s clothes boutiques, cosmetic shops, cellphone shops, store displays on the street, and of course street vendors. And let’s not forget a different K-pop hit song blasting from each shop. Some people don’t like it, but it makes me happy. I dance as I window shop!
There are a lot of alleyways with cafes and restaurants. The main street has the more familiar Starbucks, Paris Baguette, Tom Toms Coffee, a Daiso, Korean Dessert Café and Cafe Bene. But the alleyways have more traditional restaurants where one sits on the floor to eat. The signs and menus are in Korean, so I would recommend knowing what you want beforehand. Unlike the area outside the gate, with the exception of the familiar brand chain restaurants, there isn’t much English here.
Around 4pm, there weren’t that many people were out yet. Many restaurants hadn’t set up for dinner service yet. Apparently, and very good to know, they close or have limited service after lunch. The patio chairs weren’t even out yet. We were definitely the only foreigners out and about, which was interesting seeing as it is still fairly close to the base and some popular military family off-base apartments like Posco are in the area.
We got hungry and walked through one of the alleys to find food. Sandwiched between the Korean restaurants were a couple of Italian restaurants in one alley in particular. Unexpected, but we love pizza and pasta so we ventured in, seeing as our options at this odd hour were limited.
The first thing we were told when we walked in was that they were out of most of their regular alcoholic drinks. This was Saturday afternoon, so our thinking was that Friday night had been a blast – we have got to come back!
It isn’t a party bar restaurant by any means. It is more like a quaint cafe with a hipster feel. It is small with maybe 6 4-person tables. The walls are rustic; there are board games available, books, and empty beer bottles used as decorations.
The food came, and it was as good as it looks! Yummy!! Pizza made fresh. Thin crust. The cheese… oh the cheese. Sooooo good. Even my hubby, a.k.a. Mr. Meat, wasn’t sad that we ordered a non-meat pizza. Or maybe he was, but he didn’t complain!
With full bellies, off we went to walk around some more as the sun was setting. More people were definitely coming out now. In fact, thinking about it, many restaurants were setting up at about 6pm.
There are several boutiques in this area. Prices vary, like anywhere. I saw Won20 (~$20) tops and Won80 (~$80) tops. I am not familiar with the designers here, so that may be the difference. There were a couple of accessories shops too.
And then we found an international candy shop. They had candy and chocolate from different countries. Pretty cool! The only people in there were Korean teen girls and me! I happily stocked up though. It is a great place to buy candy with Halloween coming up.
Then sunset finally rolled around, people started milling about more, restaurants opened up and the place was getting more action. It was time for a cocktail. Or dessert. Dessert won.
We didn’t get too adventurous and just had the Café Bene Oreo bingsoo. It’s always yummy. Ice flakes, ice cream, and Oreos in one cup on a hot day. How can you go wrong?
After this we just walked around a bit more. Had a drink at a bar called Rock Paper Scissors. It looked like a club, but it was empty…understandably. It was only 7 at that point. How uncool are we, showing up at 7pm at the club?
When the neon lights turn on, you really see the action. During the day, one can forget that there are two levels of businesses because one rarely looks up. At night however, all the lights come on, so you see everything. There are many pool bars, soju and hof bars, and even more restaurants on the second level of the buildings. There was a nice looking Italian restaurant that looked to be “date” quality.
There certainly isn’t as much as Seoul or even Suwon have to offer in terms of block and blocks of entertainment, but I did like it. It is really only 2 streets (4 blocks maybe) and a couple of alleys. But there are many bars, clubs and shops. We had a good time, and it is nice to know that more good food, shopping and a stroll is only 10 minutes from Osan main gate by bus.