Things have been moving quite fast now, as they always tend to at the end of a trip. Ugh, “the end” of the trip is very difficult to say right now. But back to Seoul. We had a great time in Seoul, of course although it was somewhat hindered by the still getting over the pneumonia thing. We got tired quite a lot faster and probably drove our roommate nuts with all the coughing but we are now almost entirely better.
We didn’t really have anything more we wanted to do per se in Seoul so we revisited some of the places we enjoyed the most when we were there last time, at the beginning of the trip and checked out some new places as well. We had a great guesthouse. It was actually just an extra bedroom in a Korean woman’s apartment and she was never there so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We did some much needed clothing shopping to replace all our travelling rags which are pretty much disintegrating at this point…
At this point we kind of started dealing with the emotional inevitability that soon we’d be back in our own country and how we really didn’t want to be, although we knew it was the best decision for now. Small bouts of feeling shitty about this were kind of scattered throughout our trip to Seoul, although we tried our best to “live in the moment”. May 9th was M’s birthday and it was a great day all around. We had breakfast and then went to look for the huge Kyobo bookstore. We had seen the paperback copy of Haruki Murakami’s new book 1Q84 in Bangkok and we were starting to think it was released early by mistake. When we went back to pick it up, all paperback copies were gone. Anyway, I suggested to M that he get this for his birthday as he’s wanted to read it for a while. This book is a massive tome by the way, and he refuses to buy it on Kindle, Haruki Murakami being one of his favourite authors, he wants the real paper book. (I’ve now just noticed it’s being released tomorrow in a three volume set, which is quite cool! When we were in Seoul, we were admiring the Japanese copies which are in about 6 tiny volumes. So much more convenient to carry around. Anyway!)
From there we headed to Myeong-dong to find a Uniqlo as Mike wanted to get a bunch of clothes for back home. We love Uniqlo from our Japan stint and we don’t have one in Canada so M stocked up on T-shirts, a pair of pants, pretty much a bit of everything. He was quite excited.
(Incidentally, I’d just like to point out that WordPress has been driving me crazy lately with all their lame changes that I hate to things like posting links etc. and I haven’t quite had the time to figure it out yet, so apologies for bad formatting and links etc. I’ll figure it out eventually).
From there our plan was to head to Loving Hut for their huge vegan buffet. Loving Hut is an international “chain” of religiously affiliated restaurants, started by a Taiwanese spiritual leader and business woman (always a good combination). Despite her dubious reputation, we have visited her restaurants a few times while travelling because, quite frankly, Korea is a meat lovers mecca and it’s bloody hard to find something to eat at a restaurant there. The buffet has a fair bit of faux meat, of which I am not really a fan, but it’s otherwise quite fantastic, all you can eat, and cheap! But by the time Uniqlo finished hemming M’s pants and we finished shopping etc., it was too late to head out there. Quite tragic as we were looking forward to it, but we ended up going the next day. Stuck with no vegetarian restaurant options in the area, we settled on Pizza Hut, but we were so hungry by that point, it was actually quite good.
After Myeongdong it was time to get our drink on! First day without antibiotics and first beers in a long time! We headed to Hongik University which is a very active student area with a tonne of pubs, restaurants and noraebang or karaoke bars. Stocked up with a bag o’ beer, we asked someone where we could find a noraebang with English songs and wandered around looking for it. We finally found one, and the older married couple owners spoke no English. He did, however, speak a few words of Japanese, and this saved us as we figured out the price per hour etc. I thought karaoke would not be fun with only two people. I was wrong. With enough alcohol, anything is fun! Ahem. Anyway, it was fantastic, I got some good video that I’m probably not allowed to share with you all, but let’s just say it involved a little Toto, and a little Africa. Wee!!
Probably after midnight by the time we left here and we were starting to wane given that we were still sick, but we plowed on because we were determined to drink some makkoli before we left. Makkoli is korean rice wine. It is kind of like sake, but I would say more like amazake which is sake with the lees left in or dregs? Kind of hard to explain. But its milky, alcoholic and sweet. It’s slightly carbonated and varies quite widely in taste depending on the manufacturer. We were sure it would be hard to find it in Canada and being carbonated, and in plastic bottles, we were sure we couldn’t bring it home on the plane. Problem is, it’s not really a “pub” drink, more of something you drink with food at a restaurant so we didn’t find it. We did however stumble into this fantastic cluttered run down student pub that I had been wanting to go to and have some more beer. There was no one in there practically and the owner gave us shots of rum. Cockroaches abound(ed)! It was great! I have some photos of the bathroom in this place that I will share later.
We finally walked home, picking up the bottle of makkoli at the store on the way, of course, had a couple drinks before bed and went to sleep.
Going home to stay with M’s parents for another summer, going back to Canada in general and turning the big 35 has made this birthday a bit hard for M. He sets really high standards for his self progress with his writing career as to where he should be by what age etc., and this can cause him a lot of stress and pressure that he puts on himself. So he was kind of dreading this birthday. But in the end, I think we did alright.
Before long it was time to head back to Canada and we took the long, long 10 hour flight back to Vancouver. I was fortunate that I had a really nice woman from Calgary beside me who had been volunteering at the elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. We talked about Thai food, volunteering, her dog. Everything. I kind of regret not getting her Facebook contact so I might try to track her down actually. She was lovely.
And now we are back. For the second time after being away longer term, we breezed through customs, without even a bag check. Sooo happy as my bag was packed JUST so and could not be ripped apart or nothing would EVER fit again. Speaking of fortunate, I am so lucky to have the friends that I do that always come through for me when I need them. We were kind of looking at hotels with kitchens to save money by cooking for ourselves a bit, and everything in Vancouver is super expensive. Even a private room at a hostels is going to run you well over $120/night. At the last minute, I found out my ex-coworker was going away for business and he offered his apartment. Yay!! Sparkly new apartment right downtown with swimming pool (that I’ve been too busy to even look at). I am so lucky. My friends are awesome.
Jetlagged and slightly delerious, I’ve been visiting with friends and family non stop since I arrived. Today I am visiting with three separate friends from lunch till evening. I haven’t really had time to think about what it all means to be back here yet, but I expect to have it hit me by the time we get to Saskatoon and things calm down and slow down a bit. Some things that struck me as soon as I got off the plane:
The air: clean and clear and so not like Seoul which is probably the most polluted city I’ve been to, next to New Dehli. Seriously.
The temperature: Holy mother! From 40c to 11c in a matter of days with no winter clothing. The weather here has been non stop gorgeous since we’ve arrived. Very uncharacteristic, but I’ve been soo happy it hasn’t been raining. It’s in the low twenties during the day. I’m still cold, but I can handle this.
The mountains: Beautiful as always.
Fat people: Everywhere.
The Canadian Accent: For all of you Canadians that say we don’t have one. It’s not true. We do. Especially anywhere east of Alberta.
Space: We have green space between buildings. Don’t take this for granted!
Junkies and Chavs: I guess we call chavs “white trash”. Both terms are a bit harsh, but I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to call them. “Lower income people from suburbs with loud voices and no social graces”, perhaps would be more appropriate? Not trying to be a snob, but maybe I am one? I don’t know. Let’s just say I’m in more danger on a Skytrain at night here than I am wandering around the back streets of Bangkok by myself in the dark. No joke. Yesterday my Skytrain slammed on the brakes, halfway into the station, locking us all in on account of a fairly large “police incident”. This kind of stuff is a daily occurrence here. Anyway, I could go on, but you would all hate me.
So that’s what’s been going on so far. Tired and mildly confused, I’m stumbling around from place to place, hanging out with people, getting on long public transit trips to see friends and family and coming to terms with where I am for the next 4 or 5 months. So happy to see my loved ones, not much happy to see everything else. I’ll probably be able to sort out my feelings with a bit more clarity within the next coming weeks so thanks for sticking with me and thanks for sticking with such a long photo-less post.