Friday, March 12, 2010

I got Seoul, but I ain't no Soldier

I'm surprised it took as long as it did for me to make it to the great South Korean capital. I never really had a reason until the lovely Joanne turned 22 and though it would be fun to go for the weekend.

We caught the rocket-ship attached to rails known as the KTX (4 hour journey in less than 2!) on a pleasantly sunny Saturday morning. As it can sell out, I bought my ticket along with everyone else in advance to assure a seat. However, I made a staggering miscalculation of how long it really takes to get from my door to the train station and after sprinting a gagillion steps up from the depths of the subway, I made it to the platform with only 2 minutes to spare. Phew...

In a repeat of the Daejon Christmas crew, it was Diana, Joanne, Handsome James and I kickin' it. The gals booked a hostel in a district called Hongdae. Near Hongik University, it had a fun/young/university/faux-hipster feel to it. Since Koreans tend to take the 'hipster' look in different directions than we're used to (the innocently ridiculous can soften the pretentious) I was feeling it. Our hostel, Beebop House, turned out to be a really nice place. Only having opened 6 months ago, everything was pretty new, the staff was helpful and energetic, and breakfast complete with eggs was included (a rarity considering that I expected no more than burnt toast).

After dropping the bags, we made a trip to Subway for my second "real" sandwich in three months or so. Complete with obnoxious pictures plastered everywhere of evil Jared Fogel, it was just like home. James and I split from the gals afterward, as Joanne was itching for some shopping and we wanted nothing more than to wander. We saw hats:
BOSTON EST. 1600? FALSE!!!! I would later learn that credit should be given for getting the century right. It was 1630 for those keeping score at home.

Wandering eventually turned into a search for silly things to wear out that night.
James fashions some, as he calls them, "novelty glasses." I wish you could hear him say novelty in his handsome British accent.

There were quality goods abound, but the highlight was definitely:

James thought we had a show stopper. I mean what a thrill, to drop your pants on the dance floor to reveal neon colored "legalize gay" undies...

The price tag (33,000won/$30 or so) was discouraging. We settled for the less expensive, more dignified, but sadly not-neon colored headbands and wrist bands. Aviators were thrown into the mix as well.James's response the practicality of sunglasses in dark bars: "the sun never sets on a badass." Ha...

Added Joanne's birthday hat...

As Uncle G would say, we were feeling pretty nicked up the next day, so rather than strain ourselves with maps and walking, we sought out a bus tour.
The square where it left from. Also nearby:
The American Embassy! God Bless

The bus trip was my first, and hopefully my last. It was truly awful. The weather was lousy, there was heavy traffic wherever we went and most of the headsets with English translation of the sites were broken.
My large Starbucks was hardly taking the edge off. Nicked may be understating it.
Some famous shopping street.
Stefan, acting pretty much how we all felt. Note Burger King in the background.
There was a really cute baby in front of me though!
A fortress thing. After sitting in traffic staring at shitty buildings, we sped past this. Sweet.

Afterward, we tried to meet up with some friends on the other side of the city, but we didn't really know where we were going and the taxi dropped us in a place that was clearly not right. Unfortunately, when Korean cabbies ask you for clarifying information, the only thing you can really do is say "nay" (yes).

Standing on a random street corner, a elderly Korean man approached Stefan and started to strike up conversation. The next thing we know, we're following this guy to a Japanese restaurant bar at his insistence that he buy us a round. These arms, per usual, needed no twisting.

His name was Lou (at least that's what he told us to call him). His English was excellent as he had served in the air force and was stationed with US troops in Saigon during the latter part of the Vietnam War. He also lived in the US for 3 years while working as a consultant for the Boeing Company. He was 73, but boy was he sharp. I swear Koreans have some sort of anti-aging thing going for them. And I was under the impression that downing soju bottle after soju bottle would be the anti-fountain of youth...
A toast to Lou!

He seemed really enthusiastic to use his English and talk about his life to a bunch of young carefree dudes like ourselves. I'm not sure what to make of it, but he singled me out as a "playboy" and repeatedly expressed his "concern" for me. Maybe it was the head band.

We especially enjoyed his story about a Hooters t-shirt he brought back from the States that he handed down to his son. Of course, his son immediately consulted his Korean-English dictionary and was puzzled to find no entry for "hooter." We gathered that this led to a special "talk" between him and his son. After we had our laughs and jokes over this, Lou mentioned there was in fact a Hooters less than five minutes from the place we were sitting in. For old time's sake, we went.
Seriously. The people we were supposed to meet up with hours before texted us:

"Where'd you guys disappear to?"


"At Hooters with a 73-year-old Korean guy we met on the street. Explain later."