Laptop solution, rodgered by an elephant


Definitely one of the biggest laptops on the market and, definitely the largest laptops I’ve ever had the chance to help buy. I write ‘help buy’, because I was helping my workmate buy a laptop at Yongsan electronics market, acting in the role of fundi; an advisor or expert. One of the fun things in this role is that you get to look at the latest gadgets and talk about them.

In this case it was an 18 inch laptop. Big but not bulky at 4 kgs. But if you wanted to take it down to Starbucks to show off, then a big table is advised, this laptop takes up a lot of real estate.

The Sontaran, the snowman, and the long trek

Another hike, but the twist this time was that the weather. Though cooperative, it was very cold. Freezing in fact. I have to admit that I almost gave up, as my stomach, which was getting a strong, updraught of cold wind. One, right up the bracket you might say. I had on my scarf and down jacket. Ben, had simply zipped up his jacket up to his neck. He honestly looked like a Sontaran, a character from the Doctor Who series. He even gave a brief rendition of their battle chant. We both laughed at the chant, and the reference. Doctor Who is something we both knew. The target destination, as usual, was Yongsan station, and the electronics market.

Starting from Gu-il station, we started trekking up one of the Han rivers smaller tributaries was a wasteland of dirt and occasional parks. At one point we passed policemen doing their P/t. They might even have been trainees, but we we’re sure. The head instructor stood next to a PA, with maybe the intent of doing some karaoke numbers later to tired trainees. Before that, we walked past a driving course, the sort found at driving schools in Korea, except 75% the size. It might have been for training, but only for very small cars.

Ben and I had done this route once in the past, and before all the landscape was different, and now it was finished.

We reached the junction where the stream met the Han river. We sat, and rested, trying to work out the kinks and cramping we both had. I had particular problems with my right shoulder. It would be with great relief that I put down my bag on the hotel bed later that afternoon.

In the homestretch to Yongsan station was the electronics market. I commented positively that the actual market was a mere 300 metres distant. A grunt was Ben’s reply, as his feet were sore, and in retrospect, so were mine, I just hadn’t realised it. My new hiking shoes, bought in New Zealand off of a pal of mine who ran the shop, ironically were Asics. A Korean brand. Still they fit, and did the job. A new pair of shoes, broken in and christened.

After making a small purchase at Seong-in plaza, we continued onto Yongsan station and it’s relative comforts of low teenage Celsius temperatures.

Geek Mecca, old and dusty

Yongsan electronics market can safely claim the title as the center for geeks and tech-heads all over Korea. Encompassing several buildings in differing states of cleanliness, I tend to think the hub of the whole place is in the Seon-in plaza building. It’s older than the other buildings. Inside, it’s crowded and hot but, it has a pulse. It buzzes of activity and people. Appealing to the male dominated buyers are singers hawking goods of the the electronic variety.

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Now what does SNDS have anything to do with Intel chipsets? In fact on most laptops showing some sort of movie, you can see K-pop bands strutting their stuff. Oh, and they sing too. Seon-in plaza is not only where new tech can be bought but is also where old tech goes to die too. Corridors full of gutted computer cases while the innards await for harvesting for parts. Eventually when no-one wants it, it’s bagged up and sent else where for recycling.

Looking past all the gloss of  the adverts, Yongsan has it’s selection of bums. On a triangular piece of land (next to the railway tracks no less) is what could be called ‘bum city’. Fenced off, it has an assortment of trees and tapoline for tents.  Seen for a long time, a man sold only novelty silicone pigs. The odd thing is that the stuff that he’s selling is obviously crap. The last time I was up in Yongsan, he’d gone, obviously seeing the error in his marketing plan.

Old and grey, old and dusty

If it was, then it was a shadow if it’s former self. Found in the western blocks from the main Yongsan electronics town after Ben and I  had decided to kill some time by walking around the lesser seen parts of the Yongsan-gu area. Previously seen was the seedy part of Yongsan. No, not the area where they sell over-priced cellphones*, but Korean’s version of  a shop front from Amsterdam.

Walking through the grey-washed buildings containing even more uninteresting techno junk. ‘Electronics town’ was all of two buildings opposite each other. We only went inside one of them, the sign on the other building proclaimed it had PC related products inside. Ben resisted the idea to go inside claiming it’d be “too boring”. So we continued to wander through the landscape seeing businesses of the online nature. One building seemed to mirror that of the electronics town one except that it also had Chinese characters on it. All told this could have been like radio street, the seed germ that Japan’s Akihabara got started on.

We finished our walking tour of the lesser known areas of Yongsan electronic market, ending at one of the newer buildings that contained a movie theatre, household goods, camera and notebooks, second vinyl LPs and other obsolete stereo equipment. This stuff was brand new and definitely tailored towards a niché market. The first shop that sold second-hand vinyl their inventory was extensive, with all artists from Spandau ballet to classical tracks. In the basement we came upon specialty shops that sold individual parts. We came upon a shop that sold just switches. Wow.

* Meaning pay a huge price and then bend over with your pants down.

The Mapo broadwalk, big contrast

The last time Ben and I walked through Mapo, was about two years ago. Then it was shabby buildings that looked like they’d been bombed by some foreign power. This time, it was quite literally the other side of the railway lines.

What a contrast it was, setting off from the randomised station, we emerged, as it turned out, in the hagwon district of Mapo. Pretty posh, we pasted a Maths hagwon that ‘guaranteeing your grade’. I wonder how hard you’d have to sleep in class to flunk, and then how much more harragging from the mother to get a refund. In big cities, the schools aren’t run by the Principal or the head, they’re run by the parents.

Mapo has streets like any other street in Seoul, this one was clean with the usual stores, apartments and restaurants. Towering above us were candidates for the forth coming local elections. A booty of high pay and perhaps a more reclining lifestyle awaits the individual that champions his cause the best. Maybe not this guy. He needs to review his photos before they go to print on a 10m by 50 meter poster stuck on the side of a prominent building. Wincing your hands isn’t conducive to an image of integrity and honest policies. Even the crowd in my town have a better sense of decorum.

Onwards to what could almost be seen as the “apple cart”. You don’t have to travel far to see signs of Koreas agricultural roots.

It never fails to surprise me how lacking in testosterone men are portrayed in advertisements in Korea. From Boy bands, to selling Nikon camera to showing what the average police graduate might look like. He might look nice, but he doesn’t at all have the image of authority that Mr Plod in New Zealand might have.

I have to comment that the photos of the two police officers are would-be graduates of a Police hagwon. Not, just one, but one of many police hagwons, or ‘academies’. Joke anyone?

Car tart, hatchback slapper

It was one of those numerous trips to Yongsan electronic market. Having found nothing of what I wanted, Ben and I just kicked back to enjoy a beer and to watch the goings on. The “exhibition area” that day was marked out like a ship with life rings, and skinny korean girls were decked out in dishy sailor suits. Even the guys looked like girls, metro-sexual as they were.

Well the good ship ‘Cass’ (a beer label) was untidily organised and went down like it’s namesake; thinly disguised and lacking substance.

What was happening upstairs was being vaguely parallelled by what was happening downstairs. GM-DAEWOO had released a new car, and to herald the new sled, it had been sent with a chick to accompany it. She must have been there on the revolving platform for at least 2 hours. The geek squad were quietly salivating, their zoom lenses must have been near the limit of it’s zoom.