Sunday, January 15, 2012

Escapism

I needed a chance to get out and get away. Having my own business was fun, making my own hours, deciding where I would work for the day. All good things, but after a bit you tended to see the same walls over and over again and you began to wonder what else you were living for. With that in mind I decided it would be a good time for a trip to do something else. Seoul was a good way to do something else and would get me out of the same place I felt like I'd been forever.

Traveling alone can be fun, but for this trip I thought it might be more fun with friends, so I sent some messages to the Artist, who agreed that a trip to Seoul might be just the thing. With that all settled we met in Seoul for a weekend of frivolity.

What I really needed was a vacation.

I got to Seoul early, checked into the room we would share, and finished up the end of my work for the day. The Artist managed to get herself across town to Gangnam to meet me and then we took some time out for a heated discussion about what exactly it was we were going to do for the evening. We thoroughly explored some potential options, before finally deciding that it would be useful to get ready to go out, and meet up with a buxom redhead for the evening. We had a lovely walk along a river in the night looking at an unexpected light show, a fabulous dinner at the one and only Margaritaville, and finished the night off by languishing in dance bars until we had officially shaken our  bottoms to a point of near exhaustion and had to adjourn back to the room for some much-needed sleep.

Gangnam was a bit of a departure from my usual hangouts in Seoul. This was a good thing as I still had my unending hatred of Seoul to deal with and really needed something different. Granted the problem with something different is that it came with not knowing where anything was. When we managed to get out of bed the next morning we thought it might nice to find some brunch. I used my new Korean smartphone to locate just such a place, but after a good hour and a half of walking and at least two taxis, we decided to call it quits and just find something, anything, to eat. The general problem with smartphones is they often tended to actually be smarter than the user, or in many cases, outsmart the user entirely. Such was the case with brunch.

The something we did find turned out to be a really nice sushi lunch in our own little private room. Up a flight of stairs we found ourselves cozily seated in a small room, with a tree, bamboo table, and pleasant light music. We had several dozen plates of sushi and were spoiled by the favorably lavish décor. While talking we made plans for the rest of the evening. The Artist knew of a little art/shopping district in Gangnam and we thought that might be a good way to spend the rest of the afternoon.

We used a variety of smartphone applications to figure out where to go, and a hop, a skip and a cab ride later were in Songtan, a small part of Gangnam and a perfect little street for exploring little boutique shops, jewelry, fabric, and fashion. We walked leisurely in and out of a variety of shops, enjoying the hand crafts on offer.

At one point we stopped into a little tucked-out-of-the-way art gallery to admire some interesting photo manipulations. The pieces were designed to give a sort of fish of a particular part of a landscape scene like a park. While fascinating, there was this part of me that couldn’t let go of a seeming lack of purpose in the work.

“It’s corporate art.”

“But it feels meaningless. What is the point of it?”

The Artist and I continued our art discussion as we wandered in and out of a variety of shops. Songtan had a nice variety and selection of stuff. I was really impressed by one ajjuma on the street that was making silver and bead jewelry. She was using various different precious stone beads to weave into her necklaces and bracelets. The works were absolutely exquisite, and also expensive. Had I had some excess of cash I might well have bought something, as sitting on the street and making jewelry all day is not exactly fun. Perhaps next time.

Songtan was interesting for its laid back, Soho-esque atmosphere; lots of places that sported a variety of handmade materials, a few things that were expensive imports, and lots of places with a variety of food, western and Korean, some of which could be termed expensive, a few that were not.

After some hours of perusing we decided to stop for a coffee and a wine. We sat to face the street and watch as a variety of people walked by. Discussing fashion choices, life in Korea, and sometimes just being still, enjoying that quiet company and lack of pressure that was sitting in a small café in Seoul with nothing to do and not a care in the world. The world existed to amuse us and we let ourselves be amused.

Eventually we also realized that we were hungry, so we began to explore with our magic technology dinner options in the area. With a place in mind that we weren’t sure how to find, we walked away from the café, to arrive, two seconds later in front of “Cork for Turtle, Mug for Rabbit.” I think it was the name that allured us more than anything else. Sadly after looking through the menu and the wine list we decided this was not exactly what we wanted.

What we wanted was a place where we could share a couple of dishes, get a bottle of wine for less than 35,000 won, and be generally pleased with the atmosphere, food, and décor. It was the perfect kind of mission for a lazy Saturday afternoon where we didn’t really want to have to settle on anything, but rather enjoyed the adventure of trying to find just the right place in this little unknown area.

We wandered back around the streets, in and out of the turning little alleys, asking for menus and wine lists, and then leaving when things were not to our tastes. It felt utterly snobbish and the height of hedonism, which made it even better. Sometimes it is nice to just reflect everything on a whim, or on a desire, because you can. The feeling of being able to bend life to your will is an alluring control, and one that, when life seems to spend all it’s time controlling you, is absolutely necessary.

Several menus later we stumbled across a small Italian place and walked in. I talked to the waiter (who was duly impressed with my Korean) and we found exactly what we had been looking for.  A place with a nice wine menu that wasn’t overpriced and two dishes we were both interested in sharing. We had a chicken salad that was absolutely perfect, accompanied by a nice cheese and dried meat plate that was absolutely huge! There were several different kinds of cheese, all in abundance, and the meats were a nice adornment for the red meat eaters. We were absolutely stuffed by the time we left, full of good food, good wine, and good company.

Having accomplished our goal we enjoyed the end of our evening chatting over a final glasses of wine in the hotel room before finally submitting completely to our whims, and our exhaustion. We both slept that wonderfully divine sleep of absolute fulfillment.

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