Seoul, Night 1: Of Reverse Hangovers, A Different Adrenaline Rush, And Partying It Up In Hongdae







A short walk and a subway ride later, we were in vibrant Hongdae, all youthful and energetic and so damn alive so late at night that, in my “fresh off the boat” state coupled with the cold (you must understand, this was the first time in my life that I had ever experienced near-winter weather), the constant buzz of a language I didn’t understand (and the slight buzz from the beer from earlier), and the hordes of college students and party people all gathered in the streets, it was a complete shock to the senses, an adrenaline rush of a different kind.

It was brilliant.






But First, A Preamble: When Current Events Threaten To Screw Up Your Travel Plans

Our trip to Seoul started out like an episode of one of them Korean dramas, net of the romance and the cute Korean boys: tense moments, world news that were suddenly and unfortunately all too relevant to our little lives, lots of drinking, friendships old and new, and – wait for it – a climactic scene at the airport! I’ll leave all of that out of this post though, because it’s not going to make sense and it’s not going to add value to your precious time suckage activities (i.e. blog reading), and well, mostly because I don’t want to be thoroughly humiliated.

Jon and Rissee, my partners in crime on our first night in Seoul


I will say this, however – Rissee, I will forever be the United States of America to your South Korea, or the China to your North Korea, whichever you prefer. As Korean Idols would say, Rissee Fighting! And Jon, most awesome host ever (on a side note - and you all know I have a lot of those - Roxy of Singapore from our Malaysia-Bali-Singapore trip gets most awesome hostess ever!) and – thanks to the achiever in him - a true Seoulite (and Seoul party boy) in a mere matter of months, thank you so much for letting us stay at your place and taking us around, taking us EVERYWHERE, and keeping up with our crazy, even in your freezing Converse Chucks and Ahjussi socks! Kamsamnida!

Onward, then, to our night in Hongdae.

The freezing cold of Korea welcomed us the night we landed in Incheon, but that didn’t stop us from going out and starting our Korean experience with a Big Bang (pun intended. Incidentally, their faces plastered on a bus were one of the first things I saw and recognized when we landed at the airport).

After dropping our luggage at Jon’s awesome and strategically located flat in Yongsan-Gu, he thought it wise to jumpstart our trip with a bottle of Hoegaarden Beer for each of us – admittedly not Korean, but beer is awesome in any language and in any part of the world anyway, so it didn’t matter, and there would be plenty of opportunities to try the Korean brew in the coming days (and indeed, there were. More on that next time.).


A short walk and a subway ride later, we were in vibrant Hongdae, all youthful and energetic and so damn alive so late at night that, in my “fresh off the boat” state coupled with the cold (you must understand, this was the first time in my life that I had ever experienced near-winter weather), the constant buzz of a language I didn’t understand (and the slight buzz from the beer from earlier), and the hordes of college students and party people all gathered in the streets, it was a complete shock to the senses, an adrenaline rush of a different kind.

It was brilliant.



You know how in movies, when the main character’s in a new city, and there’s a shot from his perspective of the city lights and all the people whizzing past him, with some fast-paced electronica playing in the background? I might be referencing Richard arriving in Koh Samui for the first time in “The Beach”, but I haven’t seen/read that movie/book in ages, I don’t remember anymore. Or maybe Madonna’s “Ray Of Light” video is a better reference. Yes, think “Ray of Light” video. Anyway, that’s how I felt walking the streets of Hongdae for the first time, on our first night in Seoul.

Again, it was brilliant.

I suppose this is one of the most amazing – and probably surprising – thrills of travel: how the simple activity of walking down a street, because it’s so new and strange and foreign all of a sudden, can give you an adrenaline rush. Difficult to convey in pictures for sure, which is why I’m writing them down here.


Anyway, as per usual, I digress. But everything else you need to know about our night in Hongdae activities-wise is this: first we stopped by a convenience store where Jon bought us each a tall can of Cass beer (which is kind of a girly beer because it’s not too bitter, which is why I love it!) to savor while we explored Hongdae (guys are so brilliant sometimes – I never would have thought of doing that).


Then we had a taste of Korean street food – first, a chicken skewer with the most amazing seasoning and flavor, it was absolutely divine especially with the beer; and second, teokbeokki, soondae gook, and random deep-fried things, which we ate with a cup of steaming broth, and all of these we enjoyed in the comfort of a tent set up on the side of the street, which was tended to by a lovely ahjumma who was very hospitable to us foreigners who only spoke our Engrish (simplified and adjusted as necessary).





It was Club Day in Hongdae – the last Friday of the month, when you only need to pay once to gain entrance to all the clubs. We decided to check out M2, and I’m not a party person or anything and I go to clubs only every so often, and maybe it was because we were tired form our flight, tipsy from the beer, full from the street food, and running on pure adrenaline…but that was one of the best club experiences I’ve ever had, when you kind of just let go and dance. Like really dance.

Did I say that night was brilliant?

After the club we stopped at Café Bene for coffee and hot chocolate and some pastries, and proceeded to head home.


Oh! Some time that night Rissee went through what we have coined as a REVERSE HANGOVER. She was already bawling from the beer we had drunk only a few minutes into the night, and Jon and I had to (nicely) pressure her to keep up because there was still so much to do! So she went through her hangover not the day after, but on the night itself, nursing her buzz in the street food tent with the comfort of the warm broth, and walking off her buzz completely right before we entered M2, where I think she thoroughly enjoyed herself. She was so sober and in control after the reverse hangover in fact, that she even had the energy and instinct to flirt with the cute and super shy barista at Café Bene – I have a picture that paints a thousand words about this, but I’m not willing to share the joy I gain from the amusement I feel when I look at it. I’m proud of you Rissee. Charanda, or as Tiff would say, “Good on Ya”.

To cap off this post, here's some K-Pop for you to K-Party with, from none other than K-Pop Royalty G-Dragon and TOP:





Farewell 2010, Cheers 2011!







This is coming to you all a bit late, my apologies - I was preoccupied on New Year's as my family spent it at the beach!



Anyway, onward to the customary year-end post, to bid goodbye to 2010 and usher in a new year. Four countries, a handful of amazing travel buddies, and too many awesome memories to count - it was a great and memorable year of travel, one I won't soon forget! To Mabs, Eds, Carms, Ris, Tiff, Jon, J-Anne, Jona and Bom - friends who travel are friends for keeps, so thanks so much for all the travel memories, and here's to more trips in 2011!



















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