Friday, 19 December 2003

Seoul Part 1

Number 2/5: The Mental Weekend in Seoul

On Thursday evening then, it was off to Seoul, with Matt and Sangoon. No bus or train for us though, but sportscar, driven by the rich, spoily and surly Sangoon.

And not driven very well.

Korea - and not Japan - is the world capital of online gaming, and it showed in Sangoon's driving. He treats his car like an arcade game, foot hard on acceleration, revving it up and weaving in and out of traffic. During the course of the 3 hour drive, further developments in Sangoon's delightful character emerged, delivered in surly monotone. His reason for visiting Seoul was to see his girlfriend, or so it was supposed to be. It also seemed that he was to pay an old friend a visit, an old friend who had stolen 50 million Won (about 50,000 UKP) from him. With Sangoon's alleged Mafia connections, he planned to have hm beaten up or killed. "Don't kill him!" Matt exclaimed. Sangoon glowered. "Maybe not".

A spark of enthusiasm almost lit in Sangoon with his next topic of conversation - "hostesses". Beginning with his talk of having once visited a hostess, it soon emerged he was somewhat a regular at massage parlours and it seemed that every town and city we drove through brought comment from him about prices. He seemed rather pleased with the town where he was only charged 15,000 Won (about 7.50UKP).

To be fair though, Sangoon is not alone among Korean males for his fondness of hostesses. The strong, brute arm of feminism is yet to beat down upon the males of this nation.

Ok, so we arrived in Seoul and Sangoon dropped myself and Matt off at a motel in an area called Sinchon, then disappeared for the weekend to do whatever he needed to do (girlfriend/hostesses/gangland killings/online gaming). Me and Matt decided that Sangoon really is an all round bad person. He's not going to heaven. But yet, we sort of like him.

I had a wander round the area with Matt - neon-lit obviously - and a couple of quiet drinks, but we retired quite early to our motel, with the massive TV, internet in every room, and free condoms for all.

Next day, we did a little wander of the city. The World Cup Statium first of all, which I was especially pleased to see. It was one of the main stadiums of the 2002 World Cup and for those that knew me around this time, featured quite a lot in my life as I endured my World Cup marathon. This was my self-inflicted task of watching every single game of the World Cup while not compromising my lifestyle. As in UK time, the matches started frm 6.30am and ended early afternoon, this meant I suffered from chronic lack of sleep and was as unhealthy as I've ever been. A number of people commented on how gaunt I became during that four weeks of football.

Anyway, we were allowed into the stadium, and I took a number of photos, then we took a look round a nearby fish market which had crazy crazy fish. Huge mothers of fish. One which looked scarily like a penis. And huge, demonic crabs that could chop a baby into pieces effortlessly, should it be given the chance.

Next, we went by some electronics markets, which I grew bored off within 50 seconds, then to a big big tower.

When I travelled through Eastern Europe, one of the things that impressed me about a town or city was whether it had a big tower in the middle, and whether I was able to climb this tower. Seoul did not disappoint. Not only did it have a huge tower, but the tower was on top of a huge hill, I was allowed up it AND it had a revolving restaurant at the top. Wow!

We got their and sunset and the view was great, despite the smog clouds. Both me and Matt were more than happy to pay too much for crap food as we sat in a slowly revolving restaurant.

Then we headed to Itaewon, a rougher area of Seoul with a large US army base next to it, thereby causing a proliferation of bars and clubs, many aimed at army and expats. We found a motel "recommended" by the Lonely Planet called the Hilltop Motel. It's main feature was being at the top of what is informally known as Hooker Hill, a winding street with dodgy bars running alongside it, and Korean hostesses trying to drag you into their bar. "Hello!" and "Come here" became very familar sounds as we made our way up and down that street.

It was night-time now, and we were ready to hit the town properly, hoping for an entertaining evening.

Seoul didn't disappoint.

The futuristic neon-lit streets of Seoul.

World Cup Stadium. And me.

Matt standing outside the stadium. Why is unable to just smile and look normal?

Matt and I sharing a magic moment at the revolving restaurant.

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