I wearily dragged myself to the airport at 1 am, as the rest of the city slept (or partied the night away). Once again, I was off to Seoul. Despite enjoying the layover and the easy flight, I was feeling pretty burnt out from a busy month. I felt a bit robotic as I entered the briefing room and went through all of the introductions. Eventually, I snapped out of it. Onboard I began chatting and making plans with crew and perked up at the thought of eating Korean barbecue later that evening. We landed and made the long journey to the hotel. Rather than napping like usual, I spent the nearly 2 hours talking to another crew member, primarily about our love for food. I felt as though I'd made a new best friend!
An hour after reaching the hotel I headed to the lobby to meet the rest who planned on joining us for dinner. There was a huge group, a change from the normal 4 or 5 of us. We wandered the streets in search of a restaurant that was open late on a Sunday night, and eventually found one. Like old professionals, we sat around the table and ordered from the menu by pointing. The few who had never experienced a Korean barbecue glanced nervously at the menu, which showed photos of raw meat. We assured them that it would be fully cooked and delicious when it came time to consume it.
The servers brought out dozens of tiny side dishes and soups for us to snack on while we watched the beef cook on the grill in front of us. Oh how I love this country and their food! Rounds of beers and Soju began flowing at the table, and I politely declined, requesting a soft drink instead. The waitress shook her head and I accepted that I would not be drinking anything non-alcoholic that evening. I sipped my tiny cup of water, trying to counteract the burning in my mouth caused by eating massive amounts of spicy Kimchee. We happily plucked pieces of meat off of the grill as they were ready, wrapped them in lettuce, topped with sauces and garlic (I was thankful that Ryan was on the other side of the world) and savoured every bite. We ate a massive amount of food that evening. It felt as though we were constantly ordering another round.
With each round of food came another round of drinks, and all but 2 of us were getting loud and silly. I just wasn't in the mood to drink yucky tasting beverages for the sake of getting a bit giggly. I was focused on the task at hand, which was to consume as much food as possible. After all, in such large groups we typically split the bill amongst us. I figured if I was funding the alcoholics, I might as well eat my money's worth. That I most certainly did. We finally finished our meals and I was practically falling asleep at the table. It was most certainly time to go to bed. On the way back to the hotel we crowded into 7-11, as usual. I sold the rest on the deliciousness of green tea ice cream, and they opted to give it a try. As we walked back out onto the street, the moment I'd been anticipating occurred. "We are going out clubbing!" Announced one girl. Myself and the only other sober one shook our heads, telling them to have fun. Of course, it's never that easy. They insisted, not willing to take no for an answer. I wasn't in the mood to stand in the cold and feel guilty about doing what I chose to do, so I told them to hurry up and go, as I turned and proceeded to the hotel. Even if I may have come across as boring or rude, they'd forget it by morning given their current state. I ate my ice cream, checked my voicemail to discover 2 messages from Ryan, and crawled into bed.
The next morning I awoke to a phone call. I was a bit disappointed to hear a girl's voice on the other end, having hoped that it would be Ryan. Instead, it was my new food loving friend. It was her first time in Seoul and rather than do the ordinary buffet breakfast and shopping mall excursion that the rest planned, she wanted to see the sights of the city. I agreed to meet with her and another girl after I had a quick shower.
We met up, grabbed a map of the metro, and set out. First stop... breakfast! I was starving, so I enjoyed a blueberry bagel with cream cheese. Bagels are so difficult to find in other parts of the world, especially with cream cheese. I felt at home as I enjoyed it with a green tea latte. Next up was the metro station. It was busy and chaotic, but after a lengthy time studying the map we found our way. We boarded the train and rode it several stations, getting off at the stop close to a cultural village that the girls wanted to visit. We found the village, walked through, took photos, and left unfazed. It was basically a recreation of an old Korean village, with a few small buildings and signs on the walls. Just another museum, really. We continued walking down the streets in search of a palace nearby. Despite the terrible language barriers, the locals were extremely friendly and quick to help us when we appeared to be lost. We communicated via hand language, and I made sure to thank them, and it is the only word that I know in Korean.
Before we knew it, we were at the Gyeongbok Palace, beautifully positioned in front of a backdrop of the mountains. There was plenty to see, as we happily snapped away.
We posed with the colourfully dressed guards who looked as though they'd been transported from another era. The flight back to Dubai is always a tough one, as it's extremely long and departs at midnight. With this in mind, we chose to return to the hotel to get some sleep while we still could. On the way to the metro station, we discovered that we were lost. Maps don't help much when they are in Korean. Eventually, through asking several confused passerbys, we managed to find a station. It might not have been the one we were searching for, but it would do. I'd decided to get off a few stations before the girls, as they were headed to the mall and I wanted nothing more than to pick up some lunch and go to my room. Upon emerging from the underground station, I once again found myself lost. I nervously glanced around in search of familiar sights, but none were to be found. Going with my instincts, I walked a few minutes down the street in the direction that felt correct, and I was greatly relieved to spot "Bang Bang Plaza". I'd giggled the first time I'd seen the sign for the clothing store, but today it was a welcome sight, indicating that I was not in fact lost in Seoul.
I slept the rest of my layover away, waking up to do the dreaded flight back to Dubai. At 9 1/2 hours, the evening drags by. We eventually landed early in the morning and the remainder of the day was a write off as I slept for far more hours than a normal human being should! Oh the famously lazy life of a flight attendant.