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A day without a “won”

Written by
Michelle JY Park

(Michelle spends a day in Seoul with no money)

9:30am On an empty stomach, I headed out with a camera and a T-Money card.

10:00am I walked over to the Cheonggyecheon to get my ride. As a program offered by the Seoul City government, I rented a blue bicycle for free in exchange for my name, ID and phone number.

10:40am I rode along the stream towards Seongsu Bridge. There were a decent number of riders darting by the sea wall, as the sun was out in a yellow blaze. As hard as I pedaled on, the bike didn’t catch much wind or speed. I guess that’s what you get for a free bike.

11:15am Overlooking the bridge, I rode into a dark tunnel towards Seoul Forest. Sandwiched in between a couple and a family of three, I lay down on the grass but couldn’t fall asleep knowing that I had to return the bike within three hours. Instead, I dragged my bike over to see the deer. The dispenser for the food pellets were down, as the poor deer were infected with foot-and-mouth disease. It made me insanely sorry and hungry all at once.

1:00pm I took the same path back to the bike rental booth. Getting my ID back, the water dispenser in the corner of the booth caught my attention. I made a detour to the bathroom, but ended up coming back to ask for a glass of water. To my thirsty lips, it tasted as good glass of whiskey.

1:40pm My rib cage was about to give, like how I imagine pregnancy contractions. I immediately headed over to the nearest Emart in Wangsimni. The sign at the sample stands read “eat as much as you please,” so I made multiple rounds for dumplings, naengmyeon, fruit smoothies, raw tofu and chips. I am not saying that I wasn’t embarrassed.

3:00pm I got off at Gwanghwamun Station to see the Louis Vuitton “Series 2” exhibition. Although I didn’t sign up for a ticket online, I quickly got in after a 5-minute wait. There’s a certain irony to seeing Louis Vuitton on a day when you’re not spending any money.

4:30pm I ran into a not-so close friend at the exhibition. Without any guilty nudges or begging, the goddess paid for both of our cold drip Americanos at Terra Rosa. Did you know that coffee could taste like freshly grilled burgers?

5:45pm Leaning against the bookcase, I read a book on the “mother of the countryside” who whips up Kinfolk meals(Korean style, of course). “Doenjang jjigae flavored with fresh shepherd’s
purse leaves with thistle and seasoned pigweed” made my mouth water. I left Kyobo Book Center with a full heart, but still famished.

8:30pm I followed the night lights towards Ttukseom Resort Station in an effort to numb my stomach. Making my way down from the free exhibition at the J-bug, I saw a huddle of students singing, and playing the guitar. “We met under this bridge today. From this day on, we are going to call ourselves…the KICA!” Looking into the depths of each other’s eyes, the two boys serenaded like reunited lovers, and that’s when the crowd began to form.

10:30pm As soon as I got home, I tore apart the wrapping of the designer ice cream of convenience stores—the world cone. Without a single penny to spare, it was a dizzying day with excruciating hunger spells. If I dare to give this another go, there’s going to be lunchboxes, and heaps of them.

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