Friday, 1o April, 2015
Ulsan, South Korea
So, it recently dawned on me that I haven’t actually left Taiwan since arriving on the island over a year ago – resulting in this site more or less becoming a travel account with no travel. It had turned into the web page equivalent of advertising a band as ‘One Direction’ when the members evidently move in two. Therefore, I decided it was time to book a trip away.
An aeroplane journey that would fly me all the way to South Korea, allowing a visit to that other place I once lived. The way things are going my next blog might be about an exotic trip to Leeds. While a visit to Ulsan was long overdue, it did absolutely nothing for my scratch-map; still, I was excited nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the initial transition wasn’t quite as smooth as I would have hoped – with my accidental public display of ignorance offending the taxi driver taking me to the party.
For a whole year, I have been talking to those that conduct the public transport in Chinese, which has seemingly become rather automatic. Just to clarify, that conversation is limited to greeting words and basic directions, we’re not quite at discussing our views on Lithuania adopting the euro or anything – but, the little we do speak is obviously in Mandarin.
However, when your brain shifts to lazy mode and you ramble your programmed Mandarin taxi talk in Korea – you might look like an uneducated foreigner that assumes all Asian people speak Chinese. It gets worse; flustered and embarrassed I was determined to make amends – but apparently had a sudden severe memory lapse.
I overcompensated and decided that repeatedly saying ‘thank you’ in Korean on numerous occasions would shake off the misunderstanding. Unfortunately, I mixed up ‘thanks’ with ‘hello’ – continuously saying ‘hi’ as I departed his vehicle. I don’t think he appreciated my efforts. I’m also ninety percent certain that he was driving the cab that wouldn’t pull over the next day – when I was soaked to the bone, freezing my nuts off in the rain.
He was probably gleefully doing the ‘Gangnam Style’ dance behind the wheel as he monitored my unfortunate situation. His lack of a second chance disappointed me, in all honesty, we could have been pals now – I had amended my script. Hey, even Buzz and Woody had their initial problems and look at the strength of their bond now. His loss.
Thankfully, my unfamiliarity with Korea stopped at cab chat and everything else came rushing back to me in an instant. From the young couples wearing entirely matching outfits to the thirteen-year-old kids walking around the street in their uniform at 11pm because they only just finished studying – this was the Korea I remembered. I suppose two years isn’t that long on the grand scheme of things.
As nostalgic as those little things were to see for just one more time, they weren’t exactly the reason for this trip. I was there solely to infuriate a taxi driver, and by God, did I succeed. Nah, it was to see my old chingus, obviously! I was fortunate enough to meet a bunch of people in the same stage of their life as me, that were also looking for new friends and a party – which we all found, a party that didn’t stop for an entire year and even longer in some cases.
I got there only to discover that the little bunch of merrymakers I once got bamboozled with five nights a week had jumped off the racehorse and landed on a giant tortoise (believe it or not, you can ride them in Kenya, apparently). In fact, the party had slowed down so much that one of my old pals has even gone as far as to join a knitting club. I’ll forever be grateful that you felt comfortable enough to share that piece of banter gold though, Paul, it must be said.
Regardless of recent lifestyle choice, we were all taking this weekend of drinking very seriously. We had no intention of letting a ball of yarn or some knitting needles slow us down and partied just like it was 2013 again (it appears that this phrase only sounds cool when accompanied with a year that falls before the new millennium).
The party hats were well and truly back on in Ulsan last weekend, especially Christy and Joe, they partied with me every step of the way – making this trip a particularly special one. They both claim to need a bit of recovery time now though – perhaps Paul’s ‘stitch and bitch’ knitting club will soon have two new members.
We all agreed that this visit wouldn’t be complete without drunken karaoke. A Korean night usually consists of partying until the bar you are in closes (around 4am) and then finishing your night singing like you’re on pop idol until the soju makes you pass out (usually within the booth).
I don’t think I’ve been to a karaoke night when somebody hasn’t conked out on the couch in the middle of it, this time being Nigel’s turn to grab some shut-eye. I’m almost offended that anybody could sleep through mine and Christy’s drunken rendition of Aladdin’s ‘A Whole New World’ though – honestly, if you heard our soulful performance I reckon it would now be your morning alarm, for sure.
We all became temporary rock stars until sunrise, just like the glory years. We’ve still got it, just about.
Another unforgettable experience I had the first time around was jumping in a naked sauna with a bunch of other nudey blokes – which is an entirely normal bonding experience over there. I decided the trip wouldn’t be complete without one more flash-your-willy gathering.
Now I always seem to come away with a story each time I visit one of these places – considering the setting I suppose it is hardly surprising. Last time a lad was blow-drying his pubic hair alongside me as I was trying to innocently wash my face. As it turns out, that would have been a preference over the awkward performance given by some bloke on this occasion.
Apparently, a naked sauna is the perfect place to work out for some. Oh, yes! He started doing press-ups next to me, buttocks bobbing up and down – you try your best not to look, obviously, but it’s just weird, isn’t it?
The workout didn’t stop there, nope. This fitness freak started doing star jumps. Well, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble picturing the view I had. Seeing a naked man doing star jumps made the experience less relaxing than I hoped, and with that, it was time to leave.
So, that is it – South Korea II. Such a great trip. Thanks to everybody that made it what it was! TD!