Asia | Korea, Republic of – A case of sensory overload
I was supposed to fly straight from Moscow to Seoul, but there were some eh technical difficulties, so I ended up having to go round by Dublin. Which wasn’t so bad, because I got to see Ireland hammer the Dutch in a football game. Which meant that my trip to Korea could act as a reconnaissance for the World Cup next summer.
If you include the time difference, my journey took more than 24 hours. It was my first journey long enough to warrant a little TV in the seat in front of me, so I was delighted. The films on offer weren’t the most impressive [The Family Man, Antitrust] so the thrill soon wore off. I took to going for long walks up and down the plane, much to the delight of the comely airhostesses, but deep vein thrombosis wasn’t going to get this traveller.
When I’d got through customs I wasn’t overly surprised to discover they had mislaid my bag. Again. But I was too tired to get angry. And the bags came the next day.
The plan was to stay with a friend of mine from Ireland, Eoin, who is living and working in Taejon, one of Korea’s newest and biggest cities, and explore Korea from there. He met me at the airport and brought me bAck to base camp.
After a quick nap he suggested we go for a swift half down the local. Soon I found myself in the middle of a going away bash in a western style bar with pool table, pitchers of beer and lithe and lovely korean ladies. It was late when I got home. I think.
Eoin works as an English teacher so weekdays I was left on my own. I got to work exploring Taejon. It’s all bright colours and plasticky skyscrapers. Downtown every bit of wall is covered in bright red or green or blue signs. I hadn’t a clue what any of them said, with they’re all being in Korean script. After dark the whole place lights up. Kindof garish but quite stunning.
The streets are jammers with people screaming and traffic blaring. Overhead are hundreds of ginormous tower blocks in slightly less startling colours. The streets don’t smell so good, it seems there is a bit of a sewerage problem. For a while I went down with a case of sensory overload and had to spend a lot of time in bed. Either that or I was jetlagged.
Taejon is built on top of a bunch of hills, and the tops of the higher ones are densely wooded. The city is surrounded by much taller mountains. Which gives a slightly surreal look to the place with tower blocks seeming to pop up in the middle of a forest. Or the other way round. I’m not sure. It’s hard to explain, ok?
What with Eoin being at work a lot we do most of our eating out. As do a lots of Koreans. Restaurants are inexpensive and the food is very good. There’s lots of decent, cheap, rice and noodle joints. My chopstick technique was dreadful when I arrived, but it’s coming along with practice. Slowly.
Once a friend of Eoin’s, Debbie from Canada, took us out to a traditional place where you sit on the floor. They give you loads of little bowls of salads and sauces and you take a piece of bacon or beef, roll it in a leaf, and add from the little bowls to taste. The taste was really good. You wash it all down with the local tipple of choice: soju. Soju tastes like powerful stuff and doesn’t hold back on its promise.
Then the weekend rolled round again and I was back on the ex-pat trail. We went to a poker club with two Korean doctors [Dr. Kim and Dr.Lee] and two North American friends of Eoin [Richard and Terry]. Terry was quite a character. He taught the two doctors loads of new English words which they hadn’t learned at school. They looked a little bemused. Even I wasn’t sure what fuckstick meant.
The poker club was classy. The lithe Korean serving girl was a stunner. The beer was very expensive. Outside Terry tried to get handy with two glitzy promotional girls who were having none of it. We all had to scarper pretty quick fast. A couple of streets away we had to pull Terry along cause he reckoned two Korean guys in a restaurant window had given him the finger.
We ended up at the Zoo bar, where there were more north americans, pitchers and pretty Korean girls. Terry wanted to bet 50,000 on one game of pool, but as he was having trouble holding the pool queue straight time the offer was declined. We went home soon after. It was an enjoyable evening, Terry is a fun guy. We’re supposed to be going round to his place for a quiet get together next weekend. We’ll see.
On Sunday we relaxed at a local sauna. It was very relaxing.