Howdy Travellers and welcome to my new segment, Travel Tales. And why not a little soju to kick it off.
Classic tales about true travel stories that has happened while gallivanting around the globe. Whether scary, embarrassing, funny or plain old stories that just need to be told.
It all begins with my first ever trip overseas. First trip, first day and in the end just plain embarrassing. But what’s the point of being a travel writer if you can’t take the piss out of yourself? So let it begin.
Setting the scene
My first trip overseas and I am heading to Seoul, South Korea. The year is 2005 and it’s fair to say I am a green traveller at this point of my life. I am heading to Seoul, all on my own and meeting up with my then Korean girlfriend, who travelled home a couple of weeks earlier to spend extra time with the family.
I have caught the red eye on a Malaysian Airline flight via Kuala Lumpur and arrived in Seoul mid-morning. Of course my girlfriend has arrived late to the airport and I am waiting at the terminal all alone. All the while waving off pesky taxi drivers willing to take me away. Finally, she arrives, all apologetic and we’re off.
First is meeting the family. The mother in law, sister in law and anyone else required and have some lunch at a fancy restaurant. We take it easy for the rest of the day as the first night was going to be a big one. An engagement party of some sorts is on the agenda for another sister in law. That is when the shit really hits the fan. But I’m getting to that real soon.
It’s an engagement party but the Koreans do it different. Hahm, it what the Koreans call it. A group of men on the groom’s side are in the street and the women on the bride’s side need to persuade them into the house, then onwards to the treasure. Which is naturally the future wife waiting in the house.
At this point I am a confused little Aussie as I watch these guys charge up the street and make a lots of noise. I am naturally standing off to the side of the street, watching these shenanigans go on, in the freezing cold and quite confused. Finally, after about an hour, the goal is complete. The men are persuaded into the house and it’s time to party.
Being the only English speaking bloke in a room, as well as my girlfriend, who is naturally pre-occupied with other commitments, is awkward. I take my place on the floor, around the table looking at different Korean dishes that are quite unfamiliar. The atmosphere is loud and everyone is gossiping and having a good time. While digging into the unfamiliar food that I will admit at the time didn’t look so good. Some still isn’t.
I haven’t eaten much, I am bloody tired and I can’t socialise. That is until finally the conversation comes in my direction and curiously the young Korean men in the room want to know about me. Like it just dawned on them a foreigner has been in their presence this whole time.
They bring out an alcohol drink called Soju, in fact there are hundreds of bottles of soju around the table. I get poured a glass and have toast with the guys. I remember the first taste, a smooth, sensational taste, that is easy to drink, one of the finest spirits I have ever had without mixing.
I want more and soon enough one soju turns into two, three and probably fifteen. This stuff is easy to drink and in quick time. By now the bubble has burst and the language barriers doesn’t seem to matter. Drunk only has one language.
I don’t remember much about the night except from the house, we next went to Karaoke bar. The microphone went into my hand and I remember singing Boyz II Men’s, I’ll make love to you. The microphone was ripped out of my hand before I hit the chorus. Apparently I was all over the place. But I don’t remember. There was no making love on this night.
I must have been out like a light because my next memory is getting woken by a rather large smack to the shoulder, several times. It is my girlfriends mother and I don’t think it is a good thing that I have fallen asleep on my sister on law’s bed. Great first impression hey.
Anyway we catch a taxi to the house where I am staying and when I get out of the taxi, and I remember this part vividly, the vomiting begin. I spew up in the gardens outside the apartment and the worst bit is, I was spewing my guts up for the next four-days. I had got alcohol poisoning. No one to blame but myself I suppose.
My first trip to Korea was not one for the highlight reel. Although it makes for a great embarrassing moments that can be forever retold. Oh yeah and whatever happened to that girlfriend at the time? surely her family didn’t let me stick around. Nothing further from the truth. I made her my wife and to this day we are still going strong and I have never ever had a drop of Soju again.