Myeongdong, Monday 2 May 2011. I wake up, fully clothed, sprawled on my hotel bed at 6am, not knowing how I got there. The previous evening had ended in a bit of a blur, as my evenings with Yi Chul-jin tend to. It had all started off in a civilised enough manner over dinner, but half way through 2차things started getting hazy. Whether there was a 3차 I don’t know. Nor do I know how I got back to my hotel. But I was glad that I had bought my KTX ticket the previous day as I really didn’t feel up to engaging in any conversation at the ticket office this morning.
I reassemble my clothes and pack my bags slowly and deliberately. I manage to check out while keeping my stomach under control, and mercifully the taxi driver was gentle, and so I eased myself into my KTX seat at Seoul Station without any unfortunate incident. The journey to Busan is smooth, spent drifting into and out of an uneasy sleep.
I am really not in the mood for lunch, but nevertheless I am expected. I ring Judy to find out where I am supposed to meet her, handing my taxi driver the phone so that he could get directions to Gwangalli beach. En route I make arrangements for a rendezvous with James Turnbull of The Grand Narrative after lunch.
Judy is a hugely vivacious character who can hold her own in a drinking bout with Yi Chul-jin. I’m sure I have been drinking with them both in London and have been left far behind in terms of intake.
My stomach is not ready for food yet, and when asked what I wanted for lunch all I can think of is haejangguk. But before the soup arrives there are piles of sashimi which under normal circumstances I would relish.
The body has just started getting into rehydration mode, and all I really want is water. My cup is emptied faster than the waiter can fill it.
I apologetically say farewell to Judy to make my way to my rendezvous with James, waiting while he has a quick snack lunch of kimbap. We decide to head up to Beomeosa – a shuttle bus is available which takes you from the subway station to the temple itself. Buddha’s birthday is approaching, so there are lanterns everywhere.
My conversation is slow and halting as the brain is still not really functioning, so I fear in retrospect that James will have found me a very poor conversationalist.
We part company and I make a rendezvous with my friend Nam-hee in a shopping complex near the Lotte Hotel. I’m still not feeling much like eating, but force down some Italian food. We then head off to a local tea shop where we meet up with Nam-hee’s sister Min. By now, I’m flagging. My friends find me a motel near a subway station that will take me to the bus station the next morning.
The ajeosshi at the motel’s front desk does a double-take when two Korean girls ask for a room with a foreigner – particularly when they come up to check out the room with me. The room meets their approval and I go downstairs to hand over 40,000 KRW cash for the night. My friends leave, and the pull of my blog drags me to the PC which is supplied with the room. I spend an hour or two polishing off some posts before crashing out for the night.