Cancelled tours, drinking binges and will i miss my ferry?

Seoul Travel Blog

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Entrance to Itaewon

People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip: Engin (Turkey), Joon (South Korea)

Unfortunately my flight from Jeju-do arrived into Incheon airport, so i was still left with a fair distance to reach Insadong. I checked with the airport information desk about the new subway line that i heard had been built and was pleased to hear that i could catch this to Gimpo Airport and from here take the normal metro all the way to the station nearest to Beewon Guesthouse. What surprised me was that after all the money they had spent in building this line, the information desk still kept telling me that it was inconvenient and that i should take the bus!

I felt physically and mentally exhausted on the metro and also stank to boot, having only slept a few hours in the car the previous night.

Building in Seoul
However, when i got to the hostel and had taken a shower, it felt nice to be back in familiar surroundings and Joon invited me to sit and chat with him in reception. I had to book my DMZ tour for the following day, so took him up on the offer and went to get a bottle of soju from the local store.

I met a Turkish guy called Engin and an English girl, who were also looking to do the tour, so i began ringing the companies with 24 hour booking lines, to reserve our place. The first person i called confirmed our booking and i even got us a decent discount, which was a bonus. 5 minutes later and the reception phone rang, it was the man telling us that there wasn't actually room on the trip for the following day, so we were back to square one.

I tried several other companies over the next hour and all were full.
Engin and I enjoying a beer in the middle of the pavement!
It seemed a little coincidental that all the operators had the same pick up, schedule and drop off and i figured that they probably were just agents, who are all booking a place on the same tour, although i never found out if this was the case or not. I wasn't too disheartened, as i still had the day after tomorrow spare, so figured that i could do it then instead.

No longer having to wake up at the crack of dawn, i went back to the store for another 1250won ($1,25) bottle of soju and sat with Joon chatting and drinking until his shift finally ended at 01.00. I went to bed a bit tipsy, which wasn't surprising saying what we had drunk and how little I'd slept. More than anything, i was just happy to be back in a bed for the night.

Thursday began at 10.
Anton, Marsha and I having some great food on my last night
00 for me and as i checked on my emails, i spotted that i had received some bad news. A tour company i had emailed the previous day had responded saying that Friday was a holiday, so the DMZ would be shut for the entire day, and thus there was no way that i could now do it. I felt pretty upset and angry, as this was the one thing that i really wanted to do in Korea and now down to USO Tours canceling at the last minute, this had destroyed that ambition. To add to this problem i got the news that the hostel i had booked in Beijing had also cancelled my booking with little reason. That was annoying, especially as the money had already been taken off my bank card by hostelworld!

Not to get too downhearted, i went out for the day with Engin. My main priority was to buy the ferry ticket from Incheon (Korea) to Tianjin (China), and this proved to be incredibly easy, as there was a ticket office very near to the metro and i even got 20% (around $25) off with my phony student card.
Joon, Engin and I getting a little bitout of control in reception

Engin was keen to check out Itaewon and as I'd also never been, that appealed to me too, so we hopped back on the metro and arrived soon afterwards. The area is inhabited by expats and English teachers and has quite an un-Korean feel about it. English signs were everywhere and Western faces, which were normally a rarity in Korea, were far more common.

Having visited a couple of bookshops for postcards, which proved to be fruitless, we made a move to get some lunch and ended up in a Turkish restaurant that was tucked away, off the main street. I left the ordering up to Engin, as i was sure that he knew what he was doing, and shortly afterwards a coupe of good sized dishes came out. Meat, pita bread, salad and traditional Turkish milk made up our meal, which i really enjoyed, although Engin assured me that the music that was playing in the background was not as authentic as the food!

It didn't take long after lunch to walk Itaewons main drag, so we decided to go and have a look at a shopping mall, where there was a huge bookstore that we were sure would sell postcards.
Our Aussie drinking buddy plays catch up!
It was a 20 minute ride on the subway, but it proved to be in vain, as the only postcards they had was of fruit and weird irrelevant items. Not to let the trip go to waste, we sat out in the sun and enjoyed an ice cream.

The day was drawing to a close, so it was back on the metro and home to Insadong. I had seen a couple of Koreans drinking on the street the previous night and thought it might be nice if we could have a beer outside a bar somewhere as the sun set. We went into a cafe near our Guesthouse and gesticulated to the lady that we wanted the plastic table and chairs set up for us. She duly obliged and ended up plonking them pretty much smack in the middle of the sidewalk!

A cold beer always goes down well, but when you have a good location and great company, it always seems to taste that little bit sweeter.
Thats chicken my vegetarian friend!
Our conversation had bounced from topic to topic all day, but here we just talked about how lucky we were to be sat doing this, whilst most of our friends would be stuck behind a desk at that very moment. Its moments like this that i wouldn't really change my life with anyone.

I went home for a quick shower and to get changed and then i had a Dinner appointment with Anton and Maria, who i had been out with during my first stop in Seoul. I was running a few minutes late by the time i arrived at the coffee shop where we had arranged to meet, but i was pleased that they greeted me with a smile. It felt peculiar that within 2 minutes, it seemed like i had known them for a very long time, when in fact it was only our second meeting.
Wasn't so bad was it!

They were keen to show me a good last night out in Seoul and asked what i would like to do, but as seen as they had been such great hosts the last time we had met, i told them that i would prefer it if they chose. The final decision was made to go and eat Shamu-Shamu, in rather a nice restaurant that wasn't too far away.

At our table was a large bowl of water, which was boiling over a hob and this would be where we cooked our own food. The waitress brought out a huge platter of thinly cut beef strips, mushrooms and vegetables with some side dishes including pickled Kim Chi. The vegetables went into the pot first, as the meat supposedly spoiled the water and the taste if you added it too early. Refreshments came in the form of some decent Korean wine, which was quite sweet, but tasty nevertheless.
Joon looks in shock as the night begins to fold

The meal was fantastic, as was the company, so even though both Anton and Maria had to be up the following day, they agreed to take me to a Korean style bar, to see how the locals like to drink. The meal had been more than enough, but Anton assured me that to drink beer in Korea meant that you also had to eat fried chicken, so we ordered both and soaked up the atmosphere, which included some rowdy young Koreans playing some sort of drinking game.

It felt really disappointing to have to say goodbye and we agreed that we must meet up in the future, when Julia was back with me and it would then be the 4 of us. After all, Marsha was Julia's friend from high school and i had only met them both through her putting me in contact with them! I wandered home, which took me around 20 minutes and stopped off to buy a bottle of soju on the way.
Engin with a bottle of Maccoli

Back at the hostel, Joon was working, but happy to entertain the guests in reception. Thats what i really loved about this hostel, the staff helped to bond the travellers together and i met everyone through been sat around with Joon at reception. Engin turned up shortly afterwards and after a few trips to the local shop, we had bought 5 bottles of soju, 2 bottles of maccoli, red wine, Korean wine and some Onion flavoured crisps, which would obviously help soak up the 7 litres of liquor!

A little later in the night an Australian guy turned up and also Joon got his guitar out. Just like the last huge night at the hostel, things begin to get a little bit blurry. I vaguely remember playing the guitar (i can't really play) and i think we created a song about Kim Il Jung been an unpleasant person, or words to that effect! Going by the time on my camera, we went to bed sometime after 06.
Deats livens the night up with a solo rendition of God only knows
00, although i have no recollection of this.

Must wake up... must look at my watch... i know it hurts, but just look... HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, ARGHHHHH, 15.40! I sprang out of bed, wondering how I'd got there and why i couldn't stand up straight. I grabbed my clothes and started pushing them into my backpack, why was it so empty? I stumbled around, where had my co-ordination gone? Ah, my washing, i ran up to the roof and grabbed it all off the clothes horse and staggered back down to shove these is my bag. Have i got everything? Whatever, i need to be out of here... oh God, where is my bag with all my valuables?

I ran out of the room and bumped into Engin, who could clearly see the panicked look in my eye and asked what he could do to help. I asked him to call the ferry company and ask if i could check in after 17.
Joon plays something normal!
00, as Incheon was over an hour away and it was already approaching 16.00, oh and had he seen my bag!? He went off to call Jincheon Ferry and also informed me the bag had been left in the kitchen, which is so unlike me and made me realise how drunk i must have been.

The bad news arrived that check in closed at 17.00, so i rushed outside and with the aid of Engin and the receptionist managed to get in a taxi. I remember giving Engin my ticket to write his email on, but after a couple of minutes in the taxi i couldn't find it anywhere. Did i just leave it in his hand? Did i drop it? Who am I? The taxi driver could see i was in serious stress and could probably smell the booze seeping through my pores. He pulled the car over and started gesturing for a u-turn...
Engin and Joon are in disbelief as the cameo continues...
'No, no, no' i repeated and he got the hint and pulled off again. The last thing i had time for was to go back on a wild goose chase for the ticket, I'd have to come up with an excuse when i arrived!

It was typical that my first experience of Seoul's chaotic traffic should come when i needed it least. Even with a clear road i knew that getting 60km in less than an hour could be problematic, but now i realised there was no chance. By 16.30, we were still in the middle of Seoul and the taxi driver began calling numerous numbers, including the ferry company. A few calls later he passed the phone back to me and i was on the line to an English translator. She told me that the taxi driver was very sorry but there was no way possible we could make the terminal by 17.
Any requests?
00, the traffic was just too busy. I thanked her, passed back the phone and tried to think of how i could lie my way on board.

I felt on the brink of passing out and needed to open the window for air. It was one of these moments where i promised, like i have done so many times before, that I'll never drink again and never get myself into this kind of predicament, if only i can just make this ferry! Around 16.45 we finally got a break and hit some clear motorway and the driver put his foot down as the speedometer touched 140km/h. I was grateful for what he was going, but feared it was all worthless.

At 17.20 we pulled into the terminal car park and now i had another dilemma, i didn't have enough money! I showed the driver my wallet, which contained only 22,000won ($22) and pointed at the cash machine and gestured I'd check in and then get the cash for him.
What a duo
I raced into the building, up to the ticket window and asked if i could check in. I was shocked that with no questioning, the lady just said yes. I was even more surprised when she didn't seem bothered that i didn't have my ticket, as long as i had my passport. I luckily had the 10,000won departure tax, which was payable in cash only.

Back outside i went to the ATM, but it wouldn't except my visa card. I have no idea why a country as technologically advanced as Korea have so many banking issues with regards accepting foreign cards. The driver looked at me suspiciously like i was trying to pull some sort of stunt, then looked at the card and his features softened. He took the card, opened his door and swiped it through a card reader he had. I signed for the 43,000won ($43) ride and rushed back inside.

There were still a handful of people in the departures room, so i dashed on to the internet to check on Julia's progress and book another hostel for Beijing. By the time I'd done this, i was one of the last people in the building, so ran to the line, only to be dragged away by the woman who had given me my ticket. She asked where my original ticket was and i explained that I'd lost it, which i told her originally. She then informed me that i would have to cancel my old ticket and buy a new one. I pointed at the non-existent queue and told her i had to get on board, i think she could see the desperation pulsing in my eyes, and ended up just taking a 10% handling fee off me and letting me board, leaving me with about 2,500won ($2.50) in my wallet. It had been a close scrape and i was so relieved to finally make it to my cabin and instantaneously passed out the second i crawled into bed.

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Entrance to Itaewon
Entrance to Itaewon
Building in Seoul
Building in Seoul
Engin and I enjoying a beer in the…
Engin and I enjoying a beer in th…
Anton, Marsha and I having some gr…
Anton, Marsha and I having some g…
Joon, Engin and I getting a little…
Joon, Engin and I getting a littl…
Our Aussie drinking buddy plays ca…
Our Aussie drinking buddy plays c…
Thats chicken my vegetarian friend!
Thats chicken my vegetarian friend!
Wasnt so bad was it!
Wasn't so bad was it!
Joon looks in shock as the night b…
Joon looks in shock as the night …
Engin with a bottle of Maccoli
Engin with a bottle of Maccoli
Deats livens the night up with a s…
Deats livens the night up with a …
Joon plays something normal!
Joon plays something normal!
Engin and Joon are in disbelief as…
Engin and Joon are in disbelief a…
Any requests?
Any requests?
What a duo
What a duo
photo by: chiyeh