Heart and Seoul

I extended my trip another day, and I had an ingenious plan: I would check out of the hotel in the morning, leave my luggage there, and head out on the town until the wee hours of Sunday morning. Then I could come back for my luggage, freshen up, and head to the airport by shuttle, thereby saving myself the hotel cost for a night (where I would only have been there for a few hours and might run the risk of missing my flight again).

So I hit up Dongdaemun again to finish off my shopping and buy some new clothes (since I'd originally only packed for two days, and two days of business wear at that). 11am to 4pm is a long time of shopping ... in return for a new pair of jeans and a T shirt. (Total damage: $60 USD.)

Then I wandered through the northern Bukchon area with two coworkers (who are from the Korean offices) -- Finnish dude JH and Korean girl JY. She found us a quaint old-fashioned restaurant that served semi-Korean / semi-Japanese fare and we chatted the afternoon away on the contrasts of Korean dating/marriage/work culture against our own, over Cass beer.

Walked to the National Folk Museum just in time to see them closing, but JY's charm softened the security guards enough to score us a few pictures of the outside of the museum, which is adjacent to Kyeongbuk Palace.

Then off to Topaz Bar to watch JH's Canadian friend's band do a gig. We were joined by two more colleagues, and then joined further by more beers and laughs.

'Round 10:30pm, we cabbed it to Abgujeong and piled into An, a popular underground joint that serves specialized fruit sujo. Like sujo infused into a carved-out pineapple with its juices, or apples dug out into cups and then refilled with apple juice sujo concoction. Presentation was thrilling, and conversation flowed smoothly (though a little more slurred).

Wee hours saw us lining into NoReBang, a karaoke space, for an hour to wail out pop hits way off key. Get this: they give you tamborines and marracas along with the mics so the non-singers can play along too!

A couple of coffees and iced teas caffeinated us for the next stop: BeerGirls, another basement bar that looks more like a cafe. (Note: there are no beer girls at BeerGirls. You can be sure I will be writing to the Korean Better Business Bureau.) At 3:30am, another pitcher of Cass is not really the first thing on your mind, though it did manage to make its way to our table with a half loaf of bread smothered in cream and honey.

Ignoring my assurance that I was totally sober and awake, and my pleas that everyone not worry about me and just head home for some rest, my new-found Korean friends insisted on staying up with me until the shuttle busses started running at 5am.

A taxi ride to the hotel, some heartfelt goodbyes and sincere words of gratitude, and I was off to the airport (fell asleep the whole way there). Freshened up in the airport bathroom -- shaved, washed my face, brushed my teeth alongside the security guards -- and fell asleep in the seating area until I could check-in for my early afternoon flight.

I'm back in Taipei now, after such a taxing "ingenious plan". And I feel like a part of my Seoul was left there. Will have to visit again soon, or figure out how to move there.


Momcy said...

Sounds like you are enjoying yourself. It's good to travel while you are young. :)

Mike said...

You know.. D and I have been talking about your experiences and we both agree that you should try to live there for a short term. You might not love it as much as you do now.

To both D and I, it's nothing special. We would both like to visit Korean sometime next year but that's just because it's been ages since I've been back and we have to visit relatives after we get married.. In any case, you can tag along when we go. We will probably spend 10 days or so in Korea. and majority of it in Seoul.

Ben said...

I was thinking about that too: whether my warm-and-fuzzies for Seoul were just because it was nicer than Taipei, and because it was the first real vacation I've had to explore something new in a long time.

And in my justification, I think that the basic things one notices about a city are still true. The streets are clean. The air is drier and more bearable. People generally seem more than willing to help you out. The city isn't as crowded-feeling as Taipei's.

True, it's not quite as cheap to live in, but then neither is Canada. You pay for some level of quality of living.