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(continued from part 6)


Ignore the date at this point, let’s just get this done.

The night before, amongst the talk in the common room, I mentioned how I would love to do karaoke. It’s so different from the UK that I always make an effort to wrangle some people into joining me if I can. Hanna was keen, even with her sprained ankle, which she insisted was healed enough to leave the hostel. As it turned out, quite a lot of people were on board with the idea; more than I had even talked to. The plans beforehand were different, but everyone’s now ended with karaoke. My plan, along with Kelly, an Israeli called Tal, and the German from Mecklenburg, was dinner first. Kelly asked whether it should be BBQ or bibimbap. I immediately said BBQ, as I’d just had bibimbap with Yoomin. Perhaps I said it too quickly in hindsight, it could have come across as a bit rude. Everyone was fine with it, so maybe it doesn’t matter. The place we chose was just up the road, s I got to see more of the area. Lots of small buildings with restaurants and bars, but very quiet.

One Korean man, arm in arm with his girlfriend, said to me, “hi! How are you?”

“I’m good, and you?” No response. That was either all he knew, or all he wanted to say. We arrived at the BBQ place, the ground floor almost entirely empty. We had a choice of only about six cuts of pork. I don’t remember exactly what we chose, but they were good, and were not filling enough to only order one. It’s cool how the staff come to cook it for you. Although, I remember there being more rice and cheese before. Still nice enough, and everyone was too polite to eat the last bit of meat. Eventually I was polite enough to break the stalemate.

Now we were finished, it was time to meet up with everyone else and head to karaoke. Everyone arrived at different times, but eventually we gathered to walk up a street full of neon lights and club music. Unfortunately, we were not headed to the parlour that had glass walls overlooking the street with different shaped rooms, although I did do a little dance for them from the street. Our parlour was empty when we arrived, so we got a fancy room. For the next hour and a half, and with help from alcohol, we had the best time ever. The only blemish was when the friends of someone else showed up and were complete buzzkills. They complained at the choice of songs, how they’d been waiting forever for their song, and then at the end one of them left the room because they hated ‘Under Pressure’ just that much. It was the only song we scored 100 on, by the way.

Lastly, a quick drunken trip to my second photo booth of the day, a ‘quick’ drop into a nightclub where they let you smoke indoors, and a half-run home through barely familiar streets when I realised how desperately I needed a wee. Successful evening all round. Did you know that the bedsheets at the hostel are the same as I found when I moved into my flat in Hong Kong?

I did have one more day in Seoul, but I think I’ll keep that one for me. The important thing to know is that Yoomin is an amazing friend, and I don’t deserve her. This trip was excellent. When I came back to Hong Kong, one of my flatmates said I was noticeably happier, and I could have believed it. I don’t think there was anything bad about this trip outside of the insane stress I had arriving at check-in (ad the money issues of the second night).

I honestly couldn’t have enjoyed myself any more than I did. Who knows, maybe next time Yoomin and I meet will be in New York? Reckon I should give my bank account time to recover before then.


(continued from Part 5)


I caught covid. This feels like a good time to finish off the the journal. Unbelievable I’d catch it in Hong Kong of all places.

Once we were done, Yoomin took me up the same road Kelly and I had walked along the day before. We then took a different route through the same architecturally preserved area, and this one was quite pleasant to pass through. There’s something so nice about being in that part of Seoul, it has a very calm atmosphere. There are no big loud cars or horns or music, no bold advertising that strings your eyes; it’s just pleasant streets with two-storey buildings at most, and a stylistic cohesion. The soft lighting of the mid-Autumn afternoon certainly didn’t hurt either. Even the parked cars felt like they fit in.

But this wasn’t where we were going. However, this part of Hanok Village felt like walking through a small town’s high street, except in a mega-city. On top of that, it wasn’t too crowded, and was rather qiet to boot. It was just a generally pleasant place to be. Yoomin picked up some jewelry from a shop, whilst I look at the faded grinning faces on newspaper cutouts and promotional material for nearby food places. I wondered if they were still as excited about their food as they were in their photos.

Finally, we came to Samcheong-ro, a street full of cafes, clothes, and art galleries. I liked how many art galleries there were, fitted in wherever there was room. Clothes shops too were all around, but the cafes felt all-consuming at times. Everything was independent. They were free to have their own look, which complimented the ideals of the art galleries nicely now I think about it. Halfway up, we paused for some huge churros. We both chose cinnamon because good taste is good taste. She spent a long time picking out a hat from a shop opposite, and after deciding there wasn’t much worth looking at, we turned back on ourselves to find the café Yoomin had recommended. She’d actually been there just the other day, so it was fresh in her mind.

It was back on the main road opposite the palace garden gate Kelly and I had exited the day beore. At first, we again walked into a car park, before finding the entrance. The café itself was nice. It had an open, grey stone aesthetic. Very modern and hip. The reals reason Yoomin brought me here however was for the outdoor seating. We had a choice to sit in the square they had at the top of a small ridge behind them, the grounds of another classic-style house and grounds. Skirting the square were a few rooms where. If you chose, you could sit in and enjoy your food and drinks on a low table, the same way Kelly and I had had our orange confrontation.

However, I preferred to stay outside, as there was a screaming child occupying the room next to the only vacant one. Besides, the sun was nice in the increasingly cool evening, so why not enjoy the last of it? It gave me a reason to grip my tea tighter.

It was a beautiful moment of calm, once the screaming child had left. Almost everyone else were friends talking amongst themselves and watching the sunlight slowly turn across the courtyard and then dim. I don’t recall the specifics of the conversation now, but it was certainly to do with Yoomin’s move to New York. I wish I’d been able to write this sooner so I’d have it all written down. But it was a wonderful evening, one that I still remember warmly even now. Introspective conversation between friends in the last of the afternoon with a warm drink and a slight chill in the air. We stayed there for a while as we were in no rush to get up again after all that walking. I made a paper airplane out of the receipt and, as we were leaving, I tried to see how it would fly. It turned a neat 180 degrees and swooped into the lap of a man behind us instead. Fortunately, he was a good sport about it, so no harm done. He was actually disappointed it hadn’t flown better too.

One last thing for the day; Yoomin really really wanted to show me an English bakery to see what my opinion on it was, and wouldn’t you know, it was the same one as yesterday. And it was very, very popular. Packed, it was. Hardly room for me to squeeze between the scones and sitting customers to find a small side table. They certainly banked on people wanting scones because it was at least half of everything on offer. None of them came with jam and clotted crea,. The gall. Yoomin wanted me to try the Victoria sponge cake in particular which was funny. The most basic cake ever. But we bought our things and decided to leave for our homes instead.

She’d got extra goodies for her friends. A short step down the road was a photo booth, but Korea-style. I had no idea why, but photo booths in Seol was proper little spaces, with larger rooms for multiple people, props, and a slick choice of which photos you want. It was actually very cool, and I’m delighted listened to Yoomin and went inside, because the photos I now have are sone of the most favourite things I’ve ever owned. I absolutely love them, they’re the perfect keepsake from the trip.

But that was the end of it. We finally went our separate ways, and planned to see eachother the next day. One more hug, and we got on our trains. Then I spent about half an hour trying to get to the other side of the platform because I’ve been spoilt by the efficient planning of the MTR.

(continued from Part 4)


A week. A whole week has now passed. Ugh.

Wednesday was another mostly sleepless night, although, ‘Train to Busan’ did give me dreams of zombie dinosaurs. The breakfast at the hostel was surprisingly decent; boiled eggs, fruit, cereal, bread, tea/coffee, and good company. A group of four twenty-somethings made a huge stack of pancakes and didn’t offer any to anyone, nor even make eye contact the entire time. I remember I made pancakes for everyone in the hostel last time I was in Seoul. That was an excellent night.

I spent the morning trying to write in my journal as best I could, but I wasn’t successful as I planned to be. Between a new fleet of Dutch and Germans arriving and others leaving, I spent more time talking than writing. One of the people I talked to was in town to see family, and his main job was in acoustics. He was researching how to levitate objects by manipulating soundwaves. He said that although it would technically be possible to levitate a human this way, they would die long before it happened. I liked that he told me this without prompting. Everyone wonders the same things.

Another short-term distraction was another Dutchman checking in, who did not exactly make the best first impression. He was an older man, in his early fifties, and had a large rucksack with him. He began cheerfully, greeting the hostel owners as you would expect. His demeanour changed when he asked for a refund for an extra night he had booked by mistake.

“No, we can’t cancel the booking at this point,” said Juina, one of the owners.

“Surely we can work out some sort of discount then,” replied the slightly frustrated man. He was the only one who thought he held any cards, but they were all blank.

“Sorry, no. We would have to put the rooms back on availability, and it's in the terms and conditions that less than 48 hours before cancellation means there's no refunds.”

The man was visibly frustrated now but had no choice. He left with the passwords to the rooms, and I never saw him again.

The reason I had so much time to witness all of this was because I was waiting to see if Yoomin was feeling well enough to come out around town. She’d called me the day before to let me know she might not be able to as she was feeling ill with a cold, but around midday she gave me the all-clear. She’d taken a pill and was feeling well enough to venture out.

We planned to meet at Anguk station, right next to where I’d been yesterday. When I tried to go through the ticket barrier, I got an error number which meant I had ‘already’ checked out. I was stuck on the wrong side of the barrier with no way to get through. My only consolation was that I wasn’t alone – someone else had also got stuck, though trying to look casual about it. Eventually I found a help button next to the ticket barrier, and after a brief miscommunication with the man in the box, I was let through just as Yoomin appeared in front of me. It was perfect timing. Or, she had rushed after seeing all my panicked texts.

Our first stop was Unhyeongung , another former royal palace that at one point housed the king’s mother. It was nice enough to wander around. Mostly, it felt like another courtyard with lots of space and a lot of dark wood, which I suppose is slightly redundant considering it’s likely just the architectural style. Might as well say lots of Western palaces have large rooms made of marble. Still, it was nice t walk around and kill time whilst Yoomin finished with a call.

Now before Yoomin and I went any further, we agreed we should get some lunch, but only after that discussion where both of you clearly would prefer to get food but are too polite to insist. So, you both say you’d be fine with eating now, but also stress that you would definitely be happy not eating for at least another two hours if the other person isn’t hungry yet. We compromised and took the slightly less direct route to the restaurant. I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I am so incredibly grateful that everyone in the world that the people I travel with always have a plan. Otherwise, I would never do anything on these trips.

The indirect route we took led us back down Insadong Street, and as we walked, I reminisced directly this time about when we were last them together. Then, after concluding that the restaurant was not inside a car park, Yoomin was clever enough to find it inside the hotel on the other side. In fact, it ran through the whole ground floor of a building, so it acted as a delicious corridor to the main road. She asked for a table for two, and we were eld to a table of four for two.

Though Yoomin and I chose a selection of food together, she guided me in the right direction. And it was a pretty tasty direction! Of the different dishes we had, I’d have to say my favourite were the ‘Korean’ miso soup (as Yoomin referred to it) and the cold bibimbap, I think it was. The beef rib soup was different, although the stew itself was a bit thin. I also remember my glass being a bit dirty. In fact, I’d already drunk a full glass before spotting the random lemon seed inside, and the subtle crusty marks around the rim. The meal was nice, but it was also three weeks ago at this point, so apologies if I’ve forgotten some of the details.

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