With the kids away at Robin’s, there’s no need for me to get up early. Or even at all.
The “Do not disturb” sign is out and I’ve a great big bed to stretch out. This is wonderful. And I can see the Seoul skyline through the window.
I drag myself out of bed around midday and start fiddling on my laptop. I get a message from Alexei: they’re just leaving. Which gives me an hour or so to potter around, brush my teeth, have a shower, get into stupid arguments on the internet. All the usual morning stuff.
Just after one, there’s a rapping on the door. Thankfully, it’s the kids and not a hitman from the provisional BJCP. They seem to be reasonably intact. Though Andrew is his usual cheerful morning self. No change there.
“How are you this morning, Andrew?”
“Did we really spend all of yesterday either eating or sheltering?”
“I suppose so,” Chatty Andrew isn’t, early in the day. And 1 PM counts as early in the day for him.
“Robin suggested we take a look at the Korean military museum.” Alexei says.
“Sounds good to me.”
As the journey requires going outside and taking a couple of metros, we stock up on food and drink first.
“Dad, what is it with you and soju?” Alexei is getting quite aggressive again.
“It’s the traditional drink here. I’m just being traditional.”
“You keep saying that. Traditional pisshead, more like.”
There’s a metro station just around the corner from the hotel. It can’t be more than 150 metres. Yet we’re still close to collapse – at least me and Andrew are – when we reach its comforting air-conditioned embrace.
‘Have you noticed that kids?” I say pointing to a cabinet. “They must be expecting the worst.”
It’s full of emergency equipment: gas masks, water and other stuff. There are also torches attached to the wall.
“Those torches would have been handy in the King’s Cross fire.” I suggest to Andrew.
The museum is pretty close to the metro stop. But far enough for the walk to turn into a hell march. We just manage to drag ourselves inside before dying of dehydration. But no time to hang around. They’ll be closing in a couple of hours.
It’s very educational. Makes me realise how little I know about Korean history, Andrew.”
“Me, too.” Both the kids are, like me, very into history.
Korea has had an awful lot of wars. Meaning there’s lots for the museum to discuss. Which they do rather well with objects, texts and audio-visual displays.
Most of Korean history seems to consist of fighting off Chinese or Japanese invasions. With the Mongols joining in occasionally, just for variety. Oh, and the odd period when the Koreans were fighting each other. Nothing much seems to have changed. Currently, Korean politics is all about the external influences of China and Japan and internal conflict between different parts of Korea.
We don’t have time to get around all the displays before the museum closes.
Outside it’s still maddeningly hot. The square in front of the museum is lined with flags. On closer inspection, they mark monuments to each of the countries that took part in the Korean War, listing how many troops took part and what the casualties were,
“I didn’t know Holland took part in the war.”
“Neither did I, Dad.”
“Where’s the Chinese flag?”
“They were on the wrong side, Dad.” Alexei says scornfully. “You know that.”
“Still a bit mean, leaving them out. They had more killed than anyone.”
There’s a weird rally going on by the side of the road.
“I wonder what that’s all about?”
“Probably something to do with Japan, Dad. That’s what most stuff here is about”
Andrew is looking close to fainting again.
“Shall we find somewhere with air-conditioning for a beer?”
“Yes. Just get on with it.”
A couple of little places do seem to have just opened. But their doors are wide open. Not a good sign. Sure enough, no air-conditioning. This is frustrating.
Then we spot an Italian pub/bar. That’ll do. Especially as it has air-conditioning.
We're dead lucky. It’s happy hour and a half litre is just 2,000 won - or 1.50 euros. Result.
“We can wait until rush hour is over.” Andrew suggests.
“That’s fine by me. I’ve a beer in front of me and it’s nice and cool.”
We have three pints each, watching the traffic and waiting for rush hour to end.
“Have you noticed how many German cars there are? Mercedes and BMWs. You didn’t see that in Japan.” I’m so observant. Occasionally.
“They’re probably made over here.”
“Do those insects bite?” Alexei asks, pointing at the dragonflies darting about outside.
“No. They’re dragonflies. Some of the good insects. Ones that don’t bite you, pass on horrible parasites, weird you out, wake you up at night with their weird noises or lay their eggs in your ear. They’re the pretty looking type. Like butterflies.”
“No need for a lecture, Dad. I just wanted to know if they bite.”
When the traffic has calmed and we’ve cooled, we venture out into the furnace again. It doesn’t feel any cooler. At least the metro is well air-conditioned.
Andrew doesn’t feel like venturing out tonight. Instead we shelter in the kids’ room. Grazing on snacks and soju.
I noticed a little hole in the wall takeaway right next to the hotel. “I’m off to get some food. Anyone want anything?”
The dish described as “fried things” is off. Instead I get some fried dumplings. They’re dead good.
Alexei is still fretting about my drinking habits. "Don't drink that bottle of Soju, Dad."
"Fuck off Lexie, I'll do what the fuck I want. I'm the dad here."
So much fun travelling with the kids.
War Memorial of Korea
Tel: +82 2-709-3139
104-1 Hangangno 1(il)-ga,
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