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.