So, I'm sitting here, in Rachel's loft in Bucheon, trying to think up some adjectives to even begin to describe Seoul. It all seems to go by in a blur, and basically the things that surface in your memory are bright lights, smoky bars, glinting bottles of imported liquor, mirrors everywhere, tiny gorgeous Korean women in four-inch heels and rain.
Welcome to Hongdae.
So, as far as I understand it, Hongdae is sort of the University area of Seoul, and lends itself to a young, arty, bar-filled atmosphere. I had decided to be adventurous, and now armed with a functional ATM card, I was ready to take a trip up to the big city. Rachel graciously agreed to put me up for the weekend, and so I told her I'd meet her at the #1 exit off of the subway next to Gangnam Bus Terminal.
And that's where the trouble started.
I think I was conscious of my cell-phone dependency prior to coming here, but two weeks in Korea without a phone, combined with spotty internet access, has been awful. If you want to meet up with someone, you have to shoot them an e-mail with a time and place, hope they see it by then, hope they can figure out where it is, and hope that they are even free to meet up. There is quite a lot to go wrong in that equation, and Gustie and I missed each other about four times in Icheon. And that's Icheon. Icheon is miniscule in comparison to Seoul. So I really didn't understand what I was getting myself into.
[To backtrack, there are two buses that go from my city, Icheon, to Seoul. One is a bus that goes to the Dong-Seoul Terminal (which is East Seoul, crossing the Han River) and one is the "express bus" (nothing is express on Friday night) which goes to the Gangnam terminal- more on the Western side of Seoul, and closer to Rachel's surburb, Bucheon. So I'm on the route to the Gangnam. Okay, resume.]
The bus I'm on left the Icheon Terminal at about 6:30 PM, and they claim that the trip is about an hour to an hour and a half. This is a filthy lie. Maybe on a Tuesday at two in the morning. But on Friday afternoon, when most normal people actually want to come into the city, it's a nightmare. So, poor Rachel has the impression that I could be there as early as 8:00 PM, which is a fallacy. Including the time I got lost in the labyrinth that is Gangnam Station, we found each other a little closer to 10 or 11 PM. By this time I am aggravated, sweaty and starving, so my weekend vacay to the city has not had a good opening number.
And then the rain starts.
Rain in Korea is different than regular rain. You just can't get away from it. Umbrellas are a permanent accessory. It is monsoon season, and if you are caught without an umbrella, you are screwed. And soaked. Pretty much instantaneously.
So, that's what happened first. Haggard, frustrated, cell-phone-less country girl is catapulted into the hot, humid rainy hi-speed merry-go-round that is Seoul. Hilarity and tequila ensues. But more on that later. Rachel and I are about to head back to the bus station and grab some lunch.
To be continued...