On an early Friday morning, I made my way to the airport for yet another flight. I was headed to Seoul, and feeling rather excited about my layover. While many crew complain about the trip and the lack of entertainment options, it happens to be one of my favourite destinations, for one particular reason: FOOD.
I have fallen so deeply in love with Korean barbecue that I almost wish that I had been born Korean. As usual, I spent the majority of the 8 hour flight discussing my plans to consume as much as I possibly could. Upon arrival in Seoul, I suffered through the long bus ride embarrassed by the sound of my stomach growling loudly over the silence. Fortunately, the rest of the crew shared my sense of urgency and we agreed to meet for dinner shortly after checking in. We met in the lobby and waited for the people who had said they'd join us and were nowhere to be found. It happens every trip. We wait around for ages before finally deciding that maybe they changed their minds, although I'm certain they never had the intent to join us in the first place.
Sometimes I cringe at the idea of going for dinner with the crew. It often consists of endless rounds of drinks, drunken stupidity, and then splitting the bill despite some of us having drank only water. This time I lucked out and ended up with only 4 others, all happy to have a quiet dinner and enjoy what we came for... food! We had a couple of first-timers, who we introduced to the culinary amazingness that is Korean barbecue. I ate until I felt that another bite would make me unable to walk back to the hotel. On the way back, the 2 of us that opted not to go for post-dinner drinks stopped into 7-11 to grab some snacks to keep in our room. I walked by the ice cream coolers several times, determined to make it through the night without my favourite green tea ice cream. When the girl I was with decided to give it a try, I caved and bought one for myself as well. We walked back to our hotel, ice cream in hand, and called it a night.
The next morning, I woke up bright and early. I lounged around my room watching the Discovery Channel before venturing out to wander the street. I grabbed a coffee for the walk, feeling a bit fatigued despite my 10 hours of sleep. It was a beautiful day, and the streets were lined with stalls selling flowers for "Parent's Day"... Apparently in Korea they share the day rather than having separate occasions. Realizing it was nearly lunch time, I returned to my hotel room to wait for a friend that I was meeting. I first met Jungrak a few years ago when he was living with my friend Jess. For whatever reason, he'd come all the way from Seoul to study in my uneventful home town of Red Deer. Every Korean I'd ever been friends with had a "Western" name as well, so I felt the need to name him. I called him River, despite never having met a westerner or any other person with that name. It stuck, and to this day our mutual friends know him as River. It just so happens that he is home in Seoul for the summer, so we made plans to meet up. I waited in my hotel room until he called to tell me that he was in the lobby. After we were reunited, we headed out to the street to enjoy our day.
After establishing that we were both extremely hungry, we decided to go for lunch, making our way to Coex Mall via the metro. I chattered away excitedly, happy to be on the other side of the world with a friend from home. I wanted to try some new and tasty Korean food, so River led me to a restaurant and ordered a yummy stew-like dish called jjimdak. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite, again eating until I couldn't possibly eat any more. Despite my objections, he treated me to lunch... Thanks River!
In typical fashion of food addict me, we hadn't made plans past eating lunch. We wandered the mall before River had the idea to go to a temple across the street. Hundreds of beautiful colour paper lanterns were strewn above in preparation for Buddah's birthday. Some of the lanterns had a paper attached with wishes written on it. We walked around the temple taking photos and talking about old times. I was craving green tea ice cream yet again, so we walked back to the mall, wandering until we found it. Sadly, I realized that I needed to make my way back to the hotel shortly to get a bit of sleep before the flight. River told me that he was going to get a haircut nearby, and I mentioned that I needed to do the same. Of course, I intended to get a haircut in Canada, but he came up with the brilliant idea of going in Seoul where they do a great job for a fraction of the cost. I was reluctant, feeling a bit nervous about getting my hair cut by someone who didn't speak my language, but River was now extremely excited and promised to translate. Well, what the heck, you only live once, and I like to think that I'm mildly adventurous. Hair grows back. Koreans DO seem to have beautiful flowing locks. River led me to an elevator in a building that didn't look like it offered much. Once the doors opened, however, we were in a pretty and modern salon, complete with a buffet and fresh juice! He translated to the staff who led me to wash my hair. As they chatted in Korean I made sure to remind River that he needed to tell them not to cut it short. Once my hair was squeaky clean I was led to the styling chair and met my stylist... a Korean man with a pink shirt, black bow tie, and perfectly groomed moustache. I liked him already. He nodded knowingly as River explained what I wanted, apologizing to me for his inability to speak English. I sipped my iced green tea as he proceeded to give me a makeover. When all was said and done, my haircut was perfect and I happily headed to the front to pay. Before I did, a lady stopped me to give me a hand massage. I love Korean salons!! After a photo with my awesome stylist, I paid and headed back to the hotel.
I hugged River goodbye after a fun reunion, and told him I'd see him soon somewhere in the world. Realizing that I had limited time to sleep before the wake up call, I crawled into my bed and got a tiny bit of rest before it was time to go. When it was time to go, the purser did a head count and realized that one person was missing. Upon further investigation, we discovered that the crew member had not checked out of her room. Her belongings were still there, but she was nowhere to be found! We waiting for awhile but we couldn't delay the flight, so we set off, hoping that she was okay. I knew that we had a long night ahead so I planned to sleep on the hour and a half bus ride. Instead, I was kept awake by the pilots talking about their yachts. What a tough life.
I struggled to stay awake for the 9 and a half hour journey back to Dubai, but somehow I managed. Back to the desert to catch up on my sleep before I jet off to Toronto this weekend!