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Silky Smooth Seoul

SOUTH KOREA | Tuesday, 19 May 2015 | Views [517]

I knelt before my Korean super toilet repeatedly vomiting with such violence that the blood vessels in the corner of my left eye burst open. How could it be, I thought to myself between retches, that my first significant case of food poisoning on this entire trip happened in perhaps the cleanest country I had visited?


Due to the fact that my preconceptions of the Korean Peninsula were largely shaped by M.A.S.H., South Korea initially didn’t even register as a blip on my travel planning Radar (O’Reilly). None of my Hawkeyed trip research ever focused on South Korea. To be Frank (Burns), it just didn’t seem like a tourist destination. Sure man (Potter), I’d known people who’d been to Korea for business or on military deployments, but not for pleasure. So how was it that I found myself Trapped in a John with my Hot Lips, spewing half digested Korean BBQ into a toilet that probably cost more than a used Hyundai? (...Hey, at least I didn’t attempt a B.J. pun).


The tragedy of the Nepalese earthquakes spawned my Korea travels. My original travel plans would have put me in Katmandu just a few days after the first devastating earthquake struck. I am extremely lucky not to have been there at the time, as at one point I unwittingly considered going to Nepal during the very period in which the first quake struck. The earthquakes also changed the travel plans of my good friends from Boston, Mark and Jim. They were supposed to be transiting through Nepal from Tibet at about the same time I was headed for Nepal. Given that we all ended up with holes in our travel itineraries, we decided that Seoul would make a convenient meet up location and we could travel together in Korea for a couple of weeks. 


Not only did I get to see my friends, which was fantastic, but I could not have been more wrong about South Korea. The country offers fascinating cities, amazing outdoor activities, well preserved historical sights and clean beaches. All of these are connected by an excellent transportation infrastructure, highlighted by bullet trains that’ll whisk travelers across the small nation in just a few hours.  


The best part of Korea is the people. They are extremely friendly, and most of them speak English. It’s one of the few places I’ve been where I don’t feel a bit sheepish admitting that I’m an American when people ask me where I’m from. Perhaps because South Koreans rely so heavily on American troops and American military technology to protect them from the monstrous regime across the 38th parallel, South Koreans seem to genuinely like the United States. 


Koreans are also extremely clean, polished and tidy. Especially when it comes to skincare. It seems like every other store in Seoul is a lotion joint. The whole country smells like a Body Shop franchise. As a disturbing corollary, not coincidentally I'm sure, I read while I was in Korea that 20% of Korean women have have undergone plastic surgery (compared to less than 5% in the U.S.). 

Furthermore, not to get off on one of my toilet rants again, but Korea really does have the best toilet technology I've seen thus far on the trip.  

So, given its sanitary nature, it was pretty shocking that I got sick while in Korea. After an awful night, I seem to have recovered fairly well. As long as my flight out doesn’t go down over the Sea of Japan, my trip to Korea should have a happy ending. 

Tags: bbq, beaches, bullet train. seoul, busan, busan, food, hiking, korea, mash, toilet

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