As easy as my job is, each day brings along some difficulties/challenges which sometimes test my sanity. What am I doing here? When am I going home? How much longer can Groundhog Day go on? Why do people in the street still stare? Why can't people here que for up for things like the rest of the world does? Etc etc...
It had been about 10 months since I had returned to Korea and that was 10 months without a day off work and no vacation time. I badly needed to get out of town and go somewhere. This time, I went to Seoul with my girlfriend to spend two days relaxing. I needed to spend some money on myself, see different faces, see unfamiliar things and eat different food. It turned out pretty well.
Our hotel was smack-bang in the middle of Seoul, Myeongdong, close to everywhere and with some good shops to spend money in. We spent time in Itaewon, which is not a great place but the places to eat are good and there are some nice bars to drink in too. I met up with a long-time friend and his girlfriend and we ate and drank together. Good times.
We later passed by our hotel and found there was a huge demonstration/protest about to kick off. It was about the President, American beef that Korea imports which may or may not be infected with Mad Cow disease and the FTA (a big over simplification, but I don't know the story well enough to speak much about it). The whole thing was a little intimidating but not scary. I've never seen so many policemen, all armed with riot gear, in my life before. I must have seen 20-30 police vans too. The streets were packed and the vibe of the place was unsettling as this was the only time I've ever felt a little unsafe here. Korea in general is far safer than like back in England and I never feel in danger here, never, but this was different. The situation was awkward so we left quickly to another area. There must have been plenty of arrests, but the feeling I got about the situation was of people who like protesting found something to shout and complain about. They wanted a fight and found someone/something to fight against. All very strange, different and unsettling for a while but the whole thing left me feeling negative about certain aspects of life in Korea and the Korean mentality for some things.
The next day we watched some of the Olympics on TV then went shopping, more quality eating and then onto Insadong which is an area where tourists and locals can find plenty of traditional items to buy. It's a great place to buy gifts for family and friends. I've been before many times but I always come back and always buy something. This time was no different. We also saw an exhibition of a martial art I'd never heard of, Taekkyeon or 택견. This was very enjoyable and like hardly anything I'd seen before. the best description would be a cross between Tai Chi, dancing and Kung Fu. Very rhythmic, fluid and graceful. A most unexpected pleasure.
That was pretty much that as we headed home on a coach as we missed the last KTX train home. We had a good time and I got what I needed
In two weeks time my latest Asian adventure takes me to Hong Kong. I can't wait to get on that plane