Crazy in Korea

Sep 22, 2010

After nearly 2 weeks without a flight I was extremely excited to hop on a plane and get the heck out of Dubai. Even more exciting was the fact that I was headed to Seoul, South Korea... a brand new destination for me! I thought of all of my Korean friends that I'd met in my days of being a backpacker in Australia and figured that if the whole country was as awesome as they were, I was in for a great time.
Early in the morning I made my way to the airport, cursing the flight for having a 3 am departure time. I talked non-stop for the entire flight about how excited I was to go fill myself up with delicious Korean food, but by the time we arrived at the hotel I had one thing on my mind... sleep. Napping after a flight is generally something that I am very much against, as I know that the snooze button will always override my adventurous spirit and I'll find myself sleeping instead of enjoying my time as I'd hoped to. Despite this, I knew there was no way I was capable of sitting through dinner and making conversation with the crew in my current level of consciousness. We agreed to meet 2 hours later, giving us plenty of time for showers and brief naps.
I was starving by the time that I made my way down to the lobby. In typical cabin crew fashion, most of the people joining us showed up late. We tried to convince as many as we could to join us. Our persuasive powers brought our group total to 5, and we set out in search of a feast. We walked down colorfully lit streets lined with restaurants and bars until we reached one that our first officer promised was great. It was also one of the few that was open, as it was a national holiday in the country.
The waiter led us to a table and we sat back as the 2 crew who frequent Korean barbeques ordered for all of us. The rest of us were newbies to this form of dining and we excitedly snapped photos as the staff placed a grill over the hot charcoals in the center of the table. Feeling adventurous, I sampled all of the salads, soup, and kimchee spread across the table. We were delivered a plate full of thin sliced marinated beef and pork strips, which were placed on the grill to cook right in front of us. Once the meat was fully cooked we wrapped it in lettuce and filled it with condiments, and chowed down. It was amazing! I convinced myself that it was relatively healthy as everything was grilled rather than fried in oil, not to mention wrapped in lettuce as opposed to bread. I figured that this justified my right to eat mass amounts of the delicious food. I was quite content sipping my water when the rest of the crew ordered a bottle of "Soju"... Korean rice wine. They insisted that I have some, so I thought "Why not?" After all, I was having a brand new cultural experience. They poured the clear white liquid into shot glasses and we cheers-ed to a great night with great people... and of course, great food. Unsure of what to expect, I downed my portion and cringed. It tasted like watered down vodka! Yuck! Despite this, I found myself sipping another shot glass full to evenly finish off the bottle. I'm not sure what was in that stuff, but it made my laziness disappear and after dinner I was eager to head to the next venue. A few crew wanted to dance, and I was quick to shoot down this idea. I do not dance, especially in nightclubs in countries I've never been to. I had something much better in mind. "Guys, let's find karaoke!", I suggested, waiting for complaints from the rest. I was shocked when they actually agreed. We paid for our meals and headed out into the pouring rain in search of a place to sing. We wandered into a convenience store where we asked the first person we saw if he knew were we could find karaoke. He spoke limited English, but the word was clearly in his vocabulary. He led us down a road and pointed at a dimly lit building. We glanced at eachother with a small amount of uncertainty before thanking him and heading inside. I could vaguely hear the sound of an offkey singer and knew that we were in the right place. Karaoke is a major part of my life in Canada, so here in a karaoke loving culture on the other side of the world I felt at home. The difference between Asia and North America is that in Asia you rent out "karaoke boxes"... rooms with a TV and karaoke equipment to sing amongst small groups of friends. Still soaking wet from the rain, we made ourselves at home in our box as I flipped through the song books in search of English songs. After a terrible rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody", I was dying of thirst, so I poured myself a glass of water. Well, at least I thought it was water. As I swallowed a huge gulp I realized that it was in fact Soju and that somebody had ordered more. Blech. While the rest of the crew drank themselves silly, I ordered a much more refreshing apple juice. After a couple of hours and many butchered songs, we decided to call it a night. Half of the crew were still in the mood for dancing, while myself and another girl insisted that we needed sleep. We made our way back to the hotel, and I could barely find the energy to brush my teeth and wash my face before falling into bed.
6 hours later, I found myself awake at 7 am. I tried to fall back asleep but it wasn't working, so I gave up and dragged myself to the shower. I was disappointed when I opened the blinds to find that it was pouring rain. I wasn't entirely surprised, as a typhoon was causing havoc not too far north of my current location. Not only was it wet and miserable, but the holiday meant that absolutely nothing was open... not even the business center where I was entitled to an hour of free internet. Determined to enjoy my day, I set out in the rain to see the city in daylight. The temperature was a perfect 24 degrees Celsius as I wandered the streets, taking in the sights and enjoying the abundance of maple trees. I was in the mood for something to satisfy my hunger, so I walked into a cafe with English on the menu and attempted to order a sandwich. After many attempts and even pointing to the item on the menu, I realized that the poor employee didn't speak a word of English and gave up. Every other restaurant that I'd walked past had been closed, so I sighed and proceeded to the Dunkin' Donuts down the road with a bright red "Open" sign. I'd been eating healthy for a couple of weeks and even gotten back into the habit of going to the gym. Walking into a donut shop was cringe-worthy, but I was hungry. I settled on a blueberry bagel as I took advantage of free wireless internet to send a quick email to Ryan.
There was so much more that I wanted to see and do, but the weather and the fact that everything was closed limited my options. I took comfort in the fact that I'll likely be returning to Seoul quite often now that I'm on the A380. Feeling sleepy, I headed back to my room where I napped (waking up a few times to the sound of thunder!) until it was time to get ready for my flight. Boy am I glad that I did. It was a 9 hour flight back to Dubai. Back in the desert I was shocked to hear that the temperature was only 29 degrees!! Less than 30?! Mind you, with the humidity it felt closer to 37, and it was 4 in the morning... but I was still thrilled. It was a sure sign that the worst of the heat is over. In the comfort of my apartment I headed to bed at 7 am....craving more Korean barbeque. Mmm. My tastebuds can't wait for my next trip to Seoul!


Gio said...

love your smile. xx

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