Saturday 24 August 2019

Seoul day two

It’s going to be a slightly strange day. We’ll be meeting Robin. Andrew’s South Korean friend from university. Be odd seeing him on his home turf.

We start the day by picking up breakfast bits and bots at the convenience store downstairs. It’s nice not to have to venture outside. I’m assuming it’s still ludicrously hot. Any chance to remain in the civilised, air-conditioned world I’m going to grab hold of, run all the way to the try line and then way up into the stands. It’s that effing unpleasant outside.

I head straight for the soju section with Andrew, while Alexei stares at the sausages. In a slightly worrying way. Not sure I’d want to be a sausage right now.

After a while he trundles over, seemingly unable to decide on which meaty treat to devour.

“Dad, don’t go mad with that soju stuff.” He says.

“As if I would?  Sane is my middle name. Or at least not-crazy.”

“Can you stop with that crap sometime?”



Andrew seems a little uncertain of which soju to get. Unlike me. I know exactly which one I’m going for.

“Getting the strongest one again, Dad?”

“The most traditional. You know I’m a traditional sort of guy.”

“Right. Just keep on believing that.” Cynicism is so unappealing in the young.

At midday we get a message from Robin: he’s setting off. It’ll be a while before he gets here. He lives way out in the suburbs. In a city as large as Seoul, that means a long way.

Giving me a chance to try out some soju with my breakfast sandwich.

“Dad, really, can you stop with that shit? It’s still morning.” Alexei is starting the day in good nagging form.

“Not technically. It’s ten past twelve.”

“Just stop with that shit.”

“I’ll just finish this bottle off. Bad luck to reseal one, once opened, you know.”

“That’s vodka and Russians. Not Koreans and soju. I’m not stupid, Dad. Stop with that bullshit.”

I sip my soju in a chastened silence. Still get to drink it, mind.

Just after 1 PM we get a message from Robin that he’s downstairs.

“Just in time for lunch. I expect he knows some good places to eat.” I’m being very positive today.

“What would you like eat – chicken or seafood?” Robin asks us.

The consensus is chicken. And with that he leads us off into the maze of tiny streets opposite the hotel. We nip down various alleyways, lined with tiny, specialist shops, then through a covered market, packed with rolls of material and heady with the smells of exotic food being. Dead cool. Except that it’s boiling hot.

After five minutes of intoxicating exotica, we emerge at our destination. A rather well-known chicken place, according to Robin.

We get a table upstairs and Robin explains how it works. There’s a big pot with two chickens and some bits of veg. That bubbles away until cooked, then we eat it with a sauce we assemble for ourselves from chili paste, soy sauce and vinegar.

Cooking will take a while. And we’re hot.

“What would you like to drink?” Robin asks. “I usually drink Terra.” Robin tells us.

“Four of those, then.”

Made from 100% Australian Golden Triangle malt, it says on the label. What the hell is that?

A man comes and cuts up the chickens with a pair of scissors. None of that deboning crap.

I mix my sauce up quite spicy. I do like a bit of heat. We fish out lumps of chicken with chopsticks, dip them in sauce, then try not to crunch up too many bones. Not so successfully, in my case.

After lunch, Robin asks: “Would you like to see some traditional houses?” Sounds like a good idea. “We can take the metro.” Even better.

I always like to give public transport a whirl when on my hols. Especially one as exotic as this.

“Did I mention that I’ve been on trains on five continents?”

“Stop showing off, Dad. It’s so boring.”

The Seoul metro system is enormous. Just looking at the map makes my head spin. The ticket system isdead easy. You buy a one-shot card, for which you pay a deposit. After exiting you simply pop the card into a machine and it spits out your refund.

Our destination, from where we exit the metro, is a few hundred metres. Within ten, Andrew is having a sweat bath. I’m not joking. His T shirt is totally soaked. How does he sweat that much that quickly?

“There are a lot of women in traditional dress. I wonder why that is?”

“Could be something to do with all the places that rent it out, like that one, Dad.” Andrew remarks, pointing at a nearby shop. “But stop with the chatter and find where we’re going.”

“Just trying to enrich the experience.”

“Go and experience your arse, Dad. I’m burning up.”

I’m impressed Andrew can still talk, as he seems to mostly consist of liquid. By the time we get to the houses, half of him has run away down the drains.

An old woman is holding up a sign in several languages. “Silence!” is the English. An intriguingly simple message. Un-nuanced, direct and readily comprehensible. I understand what she wants, but why?

A few metres further. All is explained. A sign reads: “This is a residential area. Please speak in whispers.” Bit of an anti-climax. I’d expected way more exciting reasons. Power of the imagination, I guess. Life is so much more mundane than the reality in my head.

“Dad. I’m feeling really hot. Can we go?”

“Nae probs, Andrew.” I often drop into cod-Glaswegian, when under stress.

“Stop with that shit, Dad.”

“Let’s get a taxi.”

“That’s the most sensible thing you’ve said all day.”

I feel so proud. I’ve said something sensible today. And it’s only 7 PM. The kids are finally appreciating me for the super dad I am.

“Dad, can you stand somewhere a taxi can actually stop. Remember they drive on the right here. You’re so dozy.”

Yes, still appreciating what a super dad I am.

We hide away the hottest hours in the hotel. But browse the downstairs shop before. For essential provisions.

As the soju labels are all only in Korean, Robin’s assistance is very much appreciated. He can finally explain what they all are: traditional, modern, flavoured.

“This is the most traditional one.” He says picking out the one I’d been drinking.

“Told you, Alexei. Not just the strongest one.”

“The more modern style isn’t as strong.”  Robin explains.

“Always been big on tradition me.”

“Especially when it means stronger, eh, Dad?”

“You’re such a cynic, Andrew.”


Once the sun has gone down – as have my bottles of soju (only the most traditional type) – peck is in the air again.

“Any suggestions, as a local, for somewhere to eat this evening, Robin?” Putting no pressure on him at all.

“There is a Korean barbecue place. Would you like that?”

“Is my pope a barber?”


“Don’t worry. Dad talks in gibberish like that. He means: yes.”

“Why doesn’t he just say yes?”

“Because he’s an annoying twat.”

The Korean barbecue is down another set of alleys I’d not like to retrace my steps along. Like those ones in my dreams. Where they’re never the same on the way back. Though, after enough beers, all streets are like that. Even when I’m awake.

The food is very nice. Pork with all the fiddly bits. Including a small crab I wasn’t sure how to deal with. Very nice pork. Kimchi not quite as good as Dolores's, dare I say. Hers is dead good.  Though the kimchi soup to end is dead good..

We don’t stay out late. Well, I don’t. The kids go back to Robin's for the night. Who knows how late they’ll be up? Don’t know, don’t care. There’s a pillow with my name on it.

I trundle off to bed. No need to get my arse out of bed too early tomorrow. No way the kids will be back before noon.


Mike in NSW said...

Golden Triangle malt. No doubt from barley grown in the prime grain growing area North of Moree in New South Wales, the so called "Golden Triangle". Most Australian malt is exported to Asia.

Anonymous said...

That food looks tremendous and I hope you recognize how lucky you are to have kids who are OK with rolling the dice as far as what is on the menu.