I went to Korea for Schoolies Week and I loved it. A long time ago we offered both kids a choice. They could take themselves off to Schoolies, or we could take them overseas. They’re not dummies. They took the travel option.
I got Thomas, who chose Hong Kong (I know, right) and Seoul.
We flew into HK the weekend of the big campus showdown (bows and arrows and molotovs vs sound cannons and tear gas).
It was fine. I thought it would be. Having done a lot of reporting on riots and political violence when I started out I know that as intense as the scenes can be on TV, you get a block away from the action... nada.
Still, you could see the damage from previous street battles most places we went. And beer was very expensive. I was happy to fly up to Seoul after a couple of days.
I know Murph had a terrible time in Korea, but I blame his hosts; the US Army. We had a great time. We stayed in a cool hotel, the L7 in Hongdae.
It had a boss level lounge and bar, a well equipped gym, and it sits on the edge of a groovy part of town, next to Hongik University. The uni used to be the old Defence Headquarters (I think) but it’s now an art/design centre. The streets around it are full of student bars and cafes and there’s this sort of winding mall where would-be K-Pop stars perform every night.
It was a carnival space, really. You could have your fill of cheap beer and fried chicken, check out half a dozen acts in the space of five minutes, and just hang with the crowds.
I thought the Korean kids were awesome. Seoul is a 24 hour city, but everything accelrates after dark. Most places don’t seem to fire up before lunch time, but when night falls ... boom!
I’d get up most mornings and go hunt out a coffee. It’s true what they say about cafe’s in Seoul. They’re everywhere. These guys are obsessed with the bean. I’d walk up to a 24hr place where the old boy working the espresso machine baked fresh madelines every morning.
It meant walking through a night club district just as the doors were opening and the revellers spilled onto the streets. You know what a shit show that can be.
Except it wasn’t. I don’t know that getting blotto is a big part of their culture. The kids would appear blinking in the dawn, but also smiling and tired. No aggro. Not once. The whole city had a really chilled vibe like that.
Maybe it’s because all the young blokes have to do two years in the army and they all know taekwondo or something. Or maybe K-Pop is just cooler than bogan culture.
Either way I walked that club district every day for ten days and saw nothing but good vibes.
Pics and stories to come.