Day 85, 86 and 87: Seoul

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I’ve been to quite a few music festivals around the world now. Every time I go to a festival in a new country I get excited about learning a new set of festival norms. Korean music festivals are dorky and cute. Typically everyone looks amazing but whether they’re dressed like polo players, secretaries or k-pop starts, most people still dance like drunk, arthritic mums. Rainbow hand sways, thumbs up train carriages, slam-dunking rap hand thingy, vigorous and exclusively vertical jumping – all these classic dorkhouse moves are staples of the Korean dancing cuisine. Dunking your hands in the air is the most popular of these – regardless of genre.

Anyone not dancing like a mum/child/drunk embarrassed-guy totally stands out. Pretty much everyone just does the same move in sync.

If you’re a pop-star you have complete power.

“Put your hands in the aaaiiiirrrr.” Ten thousand hands instantly up and flapping about like excitable fish at a high school dance.

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It’s totally adorable.

The other big difference is picnicking. In Australia we generally allocate the exact minimum amount of space required for so many people to stand in but in Korea there’s allocated picnic areas and everyone brings their own beer, watermelon, jerky, fried chicken or whatever. I love it. There’s heaps of room to dance and you don’t get sold short by greedy sandwich vendors or beer queues hustled by aggressive bogans.

I’ve just come back from Seoul Tower, a glowing spear-like building on a big hill. You go there for views and romance. I didn’t get much of either. Alice is 2000km away and I was too stingy to pay the $9 for the lift to the spear top – I was already on a hill viewing things and plus that $9 needs to go in the chicken bank.

I’ve actually done quite a lot of sightseeing. It’s very unlikely me. Earlier today I went to the modern art gallery with Bop Jo and Nicole and yesterday we strolled around Insadong annd Myeondong, the touristy and shopping districts. Before that we went to a big temple and I dressed up like an ancient Korean guard.

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I love dress ups.

It’s all been rather splendid. I didn’t think much of Myeondong and Insadong until I saw a forest of restaurants intriguingly jerking about like a michelin man who eats only hedgehogs.

Nicole and I are staying with a couchsurfer called Sally, probably my favourite host so far, maybe except for Shin’s mum. Nicole and Sally keep joking that I love everything. I don’t love everything – bread wrapped in plastic, syrup sweet coffee, most frozen yoghurts and BBQ luncheon meats can all fuck off, hate em. It just so happens that all the food I’ve eaten with Sally and Nicole has been exclusively awesome.

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This was the first thing I ate in Seoul*. It was so fucking good. I couldn’t shut up about it. The noodles were all handmade, the stock was brilliant and the dumplings were soft, full and probably better than any I’ve had from this area of the world. Some of the noodles we got were in a thick, white soy bean stock. I’ve never had anything like it. It was rich cold and thick enough to be loosely described as a paste. Super weird and great.

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This is another thing I really enjoyed. Some nice pretty girls who run a beautiful coffee shop told us to eat it. Secret restaurant only for locals or something like that. It was fermented soy bean soup. Kind of like nato for those who have tried it. I want to say it tastes like miso but that’s far too a distinct a taste. So it’s kind of miso-y but saltier and maybe more sour. It smells like cheese.

Old women keep telling me I’m handsome. One woman on the metro approached me out of the blue to tell me. She cupped her hands to her face and made herself look like a flower and then pointed at my face and said the word for handsome. I was very flattered. Then she pointed to my facial hair and made vomit sounds. I mimed shaving and she gave me a big thumbs up and touched my arm. She left after that. I felt happy but sorry for all the bearded guys in Korea who can’t get girlfriends.

I am practising being an old Korean man. I’m pronouncing all Korean words as if I’m a trailer announcer and I answer all questions with only three replies:
1. Yeh
2. Uh
3. Mm
I think I’m getting quite good at it. It’s very addictive.

*Besides at the music festival but I don’t feel like that counts.

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