Englishman in South Korea – Part 2

Boy oh boy, do I have a lot to talk about this week (and having written it all now – it’s a lot so buckle up). These are written and then posted the week after I write them so forgive the confusing days coming up. On Thursday (that’ll be the Thursday before Part 1 came out) Chloe and I traveled to another city, Iksan (익산) for an open house that she had to staff over the weekend. The previous time she had been away, while I was over here, I was bored out of my skull so we thought it would be better for me to come with her and see a new city for a bit.

I didn’t see much of Iksan, despite spending a day walking around it, as, unbeknownst to me, the short car journey we took from Chloe’s office to the open house was enough to take us into a neighbouring city called Gunsan (군산). I didn’t learn this until after exploring on the second day and this rendered all of my Iksan research useless when I came to try and show off. Having Googled (other search engines are available) Gunsan, it looks absolutely nothing like where I spent the weekend so I’m not fully sure whereabouts I was but all the buildings said 군산 so I remain confused. Nevertheless, wherever I was is very interesting (although possibly for the wrong reasons). Huge 7-lane high streets mark out the city plan with very little in the way of buildings separating them. It’s as if some Simcity player has done the roads and then given up.

36062843_10204669515653744_2945313555974455296_n
See what I mean about it looking unfinished?

After two days of entertaining myself, largely by chilling in a cafe and playing Kingdom Rush on my phone, I was invited out for a meal with Chloe’s workmates to celebrate their open house. I have heard a lot about the famous Korean work-outings and it did not disappoint. Luckily, and surprisingly considering the amount of alcohol I consumed, I remember nearly everything. Nearly.

We got a car journey out to what seemed like the middle of nowhere to a restaurant that served duck. To keep with tradition, I’ll post a photo of it below. Not much to say other than it was incredible.

36176916_10204669515253734_3757391025815945216_n.jpg
This is the duck being cooked! 존맛탱!

I’ll assume you’re reading this without knowing much about Korea so I’ll quickly tell you about the double-edged sword that is Soju. It’s a spirit, that, when drunk neat, tastes like a less strong vodka and is often mixed with beer to make a punishing cocktail called Somaek (소맥) – literally just the first syllables of soju and the Korean word for beer, Maekju. This was what was going around a lot on Saturday night. I feel like now is a good time to mention that I have heard and experienced a lot about how nice the Korean people are. From my holiday last year, feeling incredibly welcome, despite not being able to actually communicate with anyone, and this year, I have got a very good impression of the Korean people. This night was obviously no different. I said afterwards, in a mix of alcohol and happiness, that I hadn’t had a night as nice for years and sober me agrees. There came a few times in the night when I, with Chloe, was called up to sit and drink with the bosses of the company. It is part of the culture that you can’t turn a drink down so every time I did, meant more saying cheers and downing soju. With the alcohol loosening me up, I even managed to have a good time when Chloe left the table, being taught the phrase 존맛탱 which roughly translates to “fucking delicious”. The managers loved my reaction to the duck and soju after I learnt that. To top off the evening, (which, other than what I have mentioned, involved more drinking, eating enormous amounts of duck meat and talking about music to the guys of the company) we were given a lift home by the owners of the restaurant while everyone else stayed! I have never heard of that happening anywhere in the world and it really summed up that Korea is a country of lovely people.

35963614_10204669515493740_3937760831701254144_n
Enormous amounts of somaek do not make for a good photo of me

The next day was much the same as before although, of all the days to suffer with a hangover, it was the day we had to leave our hotel room. So my usual 2 o’clock wake from my alcohol coma had to be cancelled and I then went and died in a cafe instead.

Now we can return to familiar post territory as I come back to food. Chloe and I were treated by one of the managers to a meal that night. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m not the biggest fan of seafood but I am slowly coming round. It’s lucky that I am or else I may not be here to write this post. We stopped at a sashimi restaurant and, over the next hour or so, gorged on more raw tuna, prawns, wasabi, tuna head(!) and side dishes than you could imagine getting for how cheap it was. If you haven’t tried sushi or sashimi and you are similar to me (in that you’re not really big on the whole seafood thing), I really recommend going to a good sushi restaurant and trying it. Chloe dragged me to one in Winchester, back home and it was one of the nicest meals I’d ever had. If it’s good sushi, it won’t have the trademark fishy taste that you find in cheaper stuff and, if so, it’s deliciously succulent and to be honest just great. Below is the banquet we had on Sunday and below that is a photo of the sashimi I had in Winchester!

36002914_10204669515773747_4173295871846252544_n.jpg
This is the sashimi we had in Iksan…
36040232_10204669531414138_263957982658691072_n
…and the sashimi we had in Winchester! I seem to remember the price was much the same.

But it doesn’t stop there! As we still had an hour until our train back to Seoul, we went and stopped in a cafe and had a traditional Korean dessert called a Bingsu (빙수). It’s better described by the photo but the basic gist of it is crushed ice, with ice cream and some sort of bean paste on top. The beans are a great choice. I would never have thought of adding them but they add a delicious savouriness to what would be a fairly standard ice cream dish.

34962606_10204669516133756_7888084039016382464_n
Beautiful.

I had one before, when I came here last year, in Jeju Island (absolutely incredible place if you get the chance to visit) which was green tea flavour and that was great as well.

36046871_10204669543294435_8226109699062235136_n
Instagram filter aside, it still looked great.

Back in Seoul for the next day we went to a little place called Bauhaus which is a dog cafe. I have to confess we actually visited a cat cafe the week before and I didn’t write about it here or even take many photos so to make up for that I will post one that I did take below!

35949107_10204669516253759_7282692700539715584_n
So grumpy.

But anyway, Bauhaus. It was a medium size room with about 15 dogs in it, ranging from Poodles, Bichon Frises and Chihuahuas to Golden Retrievers and I believe one was a Malamute (whatever he was, he was a beautiful beast – in the absolute best sense). It was great fun. I’d done some research about these cafes online to find one that looked like the animals were treated well and Bauhaus seemed quite good and it was also the highest rated online. I spent far too long cuddling with what I think was a little Miniature Schnauzer who jumped up next to me and rested his head on my leg. See below.

36002900_10204669516453764_2546932953900908544_n
Me and my new best friend 깜비 (Gambi(?))

And that brings us pretty much up to date! I hope you’re enjoying reading these posts; I’m certainly enjoying writing them and reliving everything I’m doing. If anyone has any questions about anything that I haven’t mentioned here about Korea, feel free to comment below or contact me some other way! I’d love to talk to you about it!