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[HanCinema Korea's Diary] The Gangnum Strip

2011/02/19

Gangnum is a hub of actively that frequently overwhelms. Its streets are bustling with trendy socialites, campaigners, vendors, photographers, businessmen and the image conscience. There's never a dull day in Gangnum town and there are a multitude of hidden attractions and restaurants to keep you coming back.

The Gangnum strip was one of the first experiences of Korea I had. I went on a Saturday afternoon and was taken aback by the masses that engulfed me. People streamed pass me as they to dodged and weaved their way through the madness. To this day I have never seen Gangnum as busy as I experienced my first time there, which I am very grateful for. Although there is a lot to see and do here, there are some staples there that I frequently return to.

If you're a foreigner in Korea, or just looking for books in English, Gangnum's Kyobo bookstore is what you're looking for. It has a large array of English textbooks, novels, comics and graphics novels. And if you can't find what you want for it's easy enough to place an order and wait a week or two. They will even deliver it to another Kyobo outlet at your request. Even though Gangnum's Kyobo has a very impressive English book selection, I have to impart that the newly relocated "What-the-Book" in Iteawon, is now the place to go. Gangnum's Kyobo does, however, have a not-so-secret lower level that houses wide variety of funky stationary, music, DVD's, games, and some digital accessories. You will almost always find yourself grabbing something from this floor, and at worst you'll find great gift ideas for the future.

Planning a night out? Gangnum delivers with its numerous bars and restaurants. You can bet that whatever your fancy you will see it satisfied. There are the standard chains there (McDonalds, Burger King, Paris Baguette, Dunkin' Doughnuts) but also I few restaurants that aren't as widespread. Butterfinger Pancake is tucked away behind the strip, but be prepared for a lengthy wait. It is not uncommon to wait 20~40 minutes for a table, but I think it's worth it! Having a quality king-sized western breakfast is rare in Korea and Butterfinger Pancakes is that indulgent delight that won't disappoint.

Located on the Gangnum strip there is the phenomenon know as Dr. Fish. Dunk your feet into a tank of small (or sometimes frighteningly large) fish that will swarm your smelly feet, exfoliating and cleaning off dead skin as they nibble in and around your toes. Be advised: if you are ticklish try to push through the first 5 min or so, after which the overbearing need to yank your feet out of the warm waters will subside. Dr. Fish isn't a café or restaurant all by itself. It is a small service offered as part of a larger café. To find it head out Exit 6 and walk about 150m till you see the Paris Croissant on your right. Next to it is an apparel store (Basic House), it's on the second floor. You will have to purchase a beverage in addition to Dr. Fish but considering that in western countries such spa treatment can cost as much as $50, it really should not be an issue. The café itself has a wide variety of drinks and you are sure to find something delicious to sip while you wait for your turn with the fish.

At night Gangnum is just as busy. There are a multitude of great bars to choose from. One of my favourites is Rainbow. This hookah bar has a fantastic atmosphere with an assortment of delicious drinks and cocktails to ensure your night goes well. There are bands and drumming groups that frequently play there, and you will find guitars and other instruments scattered around if you've got the skills. It's a social underground affair that is sometimes full and a wait might be required. Its relaxing and intoxicated vibe is great place to start or end the night.

Gangnum has so much to offer and these are just some of my favourite places that I go to when I am there. Be sure to venture down and around the streets of Gangnum and find yours!  

-Christopher J. Wheeler

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