Noryangjin Fish Market, Seoul
When you go on vacation for two weeks, it's hard to identify one favorite moment. I had a lot of amazing experiences in Korea, but my favorite night was two days before returning to America. It was the night that Ashley took me to the Noryangjin Fish Market.
I didn't have too many plans when I came to Seoul, but after seeing some of Ashley's photos, I knew that I wanted to visit the Fish Market. There was one creature that bore an indemnifying resemblance to a particular part of the male anatomy, and I have to admit that I was intrigued. Furthermore, I thought it would be an awesome cultural experience: while there are places in America where you can buy live fish for consumption, there aren't open market places where you can haggle for live products while the products in question give you bleary eyed stares.
I was spoiled to have Ashley for a guide, because she's fluent in Korean, and we got an experience that the average tourist probably wouldn't get. After our vendor snatched a fish out of the water and swiftly killed it, a woman swooped in and grabbed the fish, then motioned for us to follow her. Ashley gave me a confused shrug ("I've never done this before, I don't know where we're going"), and we found ourselves in a room with bright lights and low ceilings.
It was an incredible experience, and one that would be difficult to find in a travel guide. Our fish arrived in three different courses, accompanied by the standard Korean additions of kimchee, red sauce, lettuce, raw garlic, and various condiments. Ashley and I stayed until the restaurant emptied out around us, and by the time we finally left, it was two in the morning.
The market was still open, although everything was very quiet. It was a different experience from the one we had a few hours before. Ashley was hand-fed fermented stingray by a vendor, and when we passed a stall with tanks of live octopi, I made use of Ashley's language fluency once more. It took a little bit of convincing, but she finally talked him into letting me take one out of the tank and hold it for a few minutes.