Haircut, Gyeongbokgung, Supermarket

June 18, 2009 § 3 Comments

Today I got a haircut.  And even though I don’t really want to talk about it, I will.

The reason I don’t want to talk about it is because it cost an exorbitant amount of money.  At the time I justified it by saying that it was an experience and that the people that I met were really nice (which is true) but thinking back, I think I could have had a similar experience for much less of a cost.  I will not divulge the dollar amount here but just know it could have fed a poor African child for a year (remember those ads?).

Okay, so here’s the story.  I got a recommendation to go to 이대 (Ehwa University stop on line 2) for cheap but good hair salons in Korea.  I had always admired the immaculate straight and curly perms for young people that salons in Korea seemed to do so well and after receiving some spending money from my relatives I decided to give it a try.  I had never tried it but I had heard of a mystical “volume magic” that was basically a straight perm but with a little bit of volume added so that the hair did not go straight down but puffed out a little as it went down.

I had two things on my itinerary: visit Gyeongbokgung (a palace in Seoul) and get my hair cut/permed.  Because the day was so hot, I decided to do the perm first and wait out the sun in a nicely air conditioned room.  After waking up and getting some lunch, I got off at 이대 to find a cheap but good salon.  I walked one block and saw about four salons.  Jackpot!  I walked around just looking at the signs until I mustered enough courage to go into a salon and ask how much it would cost to cut and perm my hair.  The salons vary their prices depending on the length so I couldn’t go by the signs outside their doors.  I didn’t know exactly what the perm I wanted was called so I tried explaining it to no avail.  After a few minutes of explaining and gesturing I gave up and just asked how much a magic straight (the regular straightening perm) cost.  150,000 won (about $150).  What the heck?  I didn’t want to pay that much!  I was under the impression that I could get it done for less than half that price!  I walked to another salon and they quoted a similar price.  Another salon, similar price.

I was torn.  I was hot, and tired, and determined to complete my itinerary of 1.  hair cut/perm and 2. Gyeongbokgung.  At the third place I inquired, the salon guy sat me down, showed me pictures and prices, explained the difference between the perms, and was very nice to me.  Gosh, I’m such a sucker for good customer service.  The air conditioned salon was so enticing and I eventually gave in.  At first I was skeptical at his skill because he looked so young but it turned out he had been a hair stylist for about 15 years already.

I have to say, my experience was very good.  I just don’t usually spend that much (I’m not saying if it was below or above $150) on myself, much less my hair.  And after cutting and finishing the procedure, I have to say that it does not look very different.  I kind of prefer the messy, tousled waves that I had before but I guess now my hair is a little less frizzy.  I’m not a fan of the way he cut my bangs but I know it will grow out so I’m not too bothered.  My hair is a lot lighter though, which is important when traveling.

While I was at the salon I chit chatted with the main hair stylist guy and his assistant.  They were both really nice and friendly and we ended up exchanging phone numbers after everything was done.   There were two very memorable moments for me.  The first was when the hair stylist oppa asked me if I had seen any Korean celebrities during my time in Korea.  He seemed so disappointed for me when I said no and then told me that sometimes he acts as hair stylist for celebrities on tv shows and that if I were staying longer he would have taken me.  The second random moment was when he asked me if I was surprised by the number of gay men in the area.  I said that I wasn’t that surprised and that there were lots of gay people from where I come from (yeah Berkeley!).  lol.  After I told him that I had some gay friends he said that he did too but that he was not gay.  And then went on to clarify that he liked women.  And I’m not sure if I understood everything correctly but I think he also mentioned a healthy libido.  lol.

ANYWAY, my favorite things about the salon were the AC, ice cold lemonade, head massage, and the two people I met.  Oh, I also justified the cost by saying that I was supporting the Korean economy and that I was helping pay three people’s salaries (I was the only one in the salon for a while so I was really pampered).  There were multiple times when two people were drying my hair and another was supervising.  Hehehe.  I remember thinking, “so that’s what it feels like to be a celebrity.”  After it was all over I asked to take a picture with them and they were so cute and took pictures with their own cameras too.

When I finally reached Gyeongbokgung it was about 5:00pm.  The palace closes at 6:00pm but it turns out that you have to buy your tickets to enter before 5:00pm.  Therefore, I could not enter.  I didn’t really mind though because I still got to tour the outside and look at the cool explanations of palace artifacts.



My favorite part of the visit didn’t actually have anything to do with the palace.  I was fascinated by the pathway from the subway station to the palace grounds.  Usually the subway exits are ugly, hot, and loud.  This particular exit (exit 5) was clean, had ornate pillars along the pathway, played music, and had a bit of a breeze!


Oooooo.. pretty

There was also this gateway that I think only tourists walk through.  I walked through it twice.  =D


Once I got home, I stopped by a supermarket (HomePlus) because I always feel better after seeing lots of freshly packaged food.  One of my dreams is to one day own a supermarket.  I love supermarkets.  It’s not just because I love food.  I also like the air conditioning and the smell.  It’s weird.  Allan always tries to take me to a supermarket when I’m not in a good mood.

Anyway, look at all the pretty and interesting sights you will find in a Korean supermarket!

Pre-made side dishes

Pre-made side dishes

milk in glass bottles

milk in glass bottles

soju section

soju section

cheese flavored beef jerky

cheese flavored beef jerky

yummy food

yummy food

individually wrapped nigiri! sold for 60 cents each

individually wrapped nigiri! sold for 60 cents each


§ 3 Responses to Haircut, Gyeongbokgung, Supermarket

  • Caroline says:

    Are you putting up more pictures on a private photo album? I want to see more FUN pictures like the picture of you w/ the hair people. I want to see what they look like 🙂

    And I think you’ve been in Korea a little too long. Calling markets supermarket!!!

    And I remember loving how the milks and orange juices were in glasses bottles. I lovveed it.

    Don’t dwell too much on the cost of the haircut. You deserve pampering and hell if it was $300, that’s fine.

  • laura says:

    Yup, we all know it was more than $150. And I think caroline’s tripping because markets are markets and super markets are supermarkets. Not everyone can appreciate a bountiful spread. Anyways, it looks like you’re using any excuse to use that camera. I just ate 5 mini monster cookies.

  • ac says:

    60 c nigiri? wow.

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