Tuesday 16 May 2023

Off to Pohang

I'm in no rush to rise. Our train isn't until 12:38.

Our train to Pohang, that is. Where my other son, Alexei, is currently studying. Did I explain that visiting him is the point of our trip? No? OK: we’re in Korea to visit Lexxie. South Korea, obviously. I’m not insane.

I don't have much in the way of packing to do. As I didn't unpack yesterday. Other than my laptop. I soon get that in its bag. Despite it putting up a bit of a struggle.

We stop off at a shop on the way to the station, picking up provisions for the journey.  Sandwiches, cola, soju, beer, whisky. Just the essentials.

Sitting on the pavement close to the station, some blokes are enjoying a morning soju. How sweet.

“That’ll be you in a couple of years, Dad. When Mum finally gets fed up with you.”

“That’s an inspirational thought to start the day.”

“No need to thank me, Dad.”

“I wasn’t going to.”

The train is very long and not that full. We speed along, wooded hills and greenhouse-packed paddy fields smearing past the window. Then packed cities, surrounded by protective high-rise bristles.

Everything goes very smoothly. Including the train itself. Which is based on the TGV. I do sleep for quite a lot of it. Maybe the special drink I assembled is partly to blame. Diet cola and whisky. 50-50. Well, more 40-60, if I’m being realistic.

They’ve got this train stuff so wrong here. You can blame state control for that. Clean, modern stations, a network of high-speed lines, toilets cleaned during the journey, reasonable ticket prices. It’s clear that nationalised railways are a total disaster. Thank god the UK avoided that route.

“What would a South Korean think of UK trains, Andrew?”

“That they were surprisingly cheap, clean and efficient?”

“Don’t take the piss.”

I'm disgusted when the train arrives in Pohang a full two minutes late. I thought KTX was better than that.

We immediately go to the counter and get tickets for our train back to Seoul in about a week. Less stress on the day we travel by doing getting them now.

We get a taxi pretty quickly. From our experience over here last time, I noted down the name of the hotel in Korean. Just as well, because the driver can't read Roman letters. We’d have been screwed.

After checking in, we lounge around in the hotel a bit. This time we do have adjacent rooms. Which, oddly, contain a desktop, keyboard, mouse and screen. Not that we’ll need to use them.

We spend quite some time searching the room for the aircon remote. Until we sheepishly realise we’ve been holding it in our hands the whole time: it shares the TV remote.

We've arranged to see Lexxie outside the hotel at 18:00. His taxi pulls up just we step outside. He’s looking rather slim and mature. Korean food seems to be agreeing with him.

“What the fuck is this? You’re two minutes late.” I greet him cheerily.

“Dad, can you just be normal for once?”

“Just bantz, lads.”

“Please never use that word again. You sound like a right twat.”

“Pleased to see you, too.”

“You started it, Dad.”

“Just ba . . .”

“Remember what I said about using that word?” Andrew reminds me.

“. . . Ba ba bloody delighted to see you, Lexxie.”

“Stop being weird, Dad.”

“I can see you’re pleased to see me, too.”

“Don’t push it.”

Food is what we need. Off we go in a random direction. We spot a place with a pig in its sign. Which is a good sign. It's a Korean BBQ place. The menu is only in Korean. Lexxie uses his phone to translate it.

So glad I made sure the kids were computer literate. Not just dumping them on the computer in the hope it would entertain the little bastards, for at least a short while. Long enough for the shouting in my head to stop.

Soon we have a big pile of belly pork cooking away. The staff are very friendly and helpful. Which is just as well. I doubt they get many foreigners in. They patiently explain exactly what how we’re supposed to eat the food.

Noticing a proper supermarket on our way back, we nip in for some provisions. Mostly drinks. Though, as they sell no spirits, we need to call into a convenience store for whisky. Well, I do. The kids won’t be drinking any of it. Why were there no spirits? Did we just miss them?

We have a little trouble finding our way back to the hotel. As we wandered off fairly randomly. And our hotel is down a tiny side street. Oh, and we didn’t pay attention to where we were walking. Luckily, there's wifi and Lexxie can use Google maps to guide us back. The wonders of modern technology.

I suppose we would have found it eventually. How did I sue to find my way around strange cities without a map? I really can’t remember. It was all a very long time ago. My memory is really crap, too. Other than for “that stupid beer stuff” as Dolores calls it.

Back in my room, we spend a few hours chatting and drinking. Just as well we got in enough booze for three nights.

Before we know it, the clock has ticked past Lexxie’s dorm curfew. It's even later by the time we go to bed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll put even odds on this being the best travel story ever, although I'm sorry Delores skipped the trip.