A social whirlwind

I thought I would have more time to blog and catch up on uploading pictures when I got to Seoul last Friday, but instead it's been a steady stream of friends and friends-of-friends and new-friends-just-met inviting me out. Which is great, don't get me wrong, but the days are just whipping by and I go home in three days and it all just seems too soon yet not soon enough at the same time.

My travel karma's been particularly strong in Seoul. A very dear old friend from college was in town for a business trip --- his first business trip here in several years, so what are the chances, eh? We met in the very first quarter (term) of our freshman year, making it almost 16 years that we've known each other. No, we didn't drink to that. We had a late lunch at the Park Hyatt, followed by more dawdling around COEX Mall, copious drinking of Korean bottled iced teas (more him than me) and lounging in his hotel room eating grapes (more me than him). Note to self: find more writing assignments that throw in five-star hotel rooms.

Yesterday I met again with the trio of ultra-fit 60-year-old men whom I met on my second day in Korea. As promised, they took me for a bona fide Korean hiking experience, i.e. bring on the steep slopes and makgeolli (rice wine). I think I acquitted myself pretty well, considering that they hike three times a week (and one of them cycles 50-60 km daily). Over lunch later at a restaurant they knew well, the ajumma owner reminisced about a young man from Singapore many years ago whom she might just have had a thing for, showed off 1970s Singapore currency in almost perfectly crisp condition, bought some current Singapore currency off me (she insisted on paying me) and gave me three little bottles of Korean liquor to bring home. I can start my own Korean minibar now.

In between all that, there's been, er, shopping and wrapping up the last of my research work and watching indie films and also Terminator Salvation (meh for the latter, and going to a cinema in Seoul is pretty much the same experience as going to one in Singapore) and, er, more shopping. Today I'm off to peruse the DMZ. We'll see how the tour compares to viewing North Korea from afar at Goseong and Cheorwon.

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