Midnight Train to Seoul (and a ferry ride to Japan)
I’m writing this post re-telling events from a few days back. I needed that much time to decompress.
Spoiler alert: In 48 hours I attempted to scale a moving train, was assumed an international thief, scolded for dodging traffic outside of Seoul Olympic stadium, drunk at baseball game, drunk at dinner, met a lady (Korean), drunk at a club, shared an evening with said lady (Korean), returned to Daegu, took a train at 6 AM to Korean coast, took a ferry to Japan, hoodwinked customs, received Japanese passport stamp, returned to Korea, hoodwinked customs, received Korean passport stamp, 90 day visa renewed, fed pet Turtles Walter and Jesse, bed.
That, in as concise form as I am able to manage, is what happened. I wanted to tell you first so you didn’t think this would be just another post of prosaic substance that I stretch for 1500 words because I’m good with adjectives. No, it was a cool 48 hours.
The rest will be written in narrative form. I’m not very good writing like that so I want to practice. I also think the events will be most optimally presented in this manner.
Beau rose early Tuesday morning. In a matter befitting of a physically elite human, he took to the floor immediately exiting bed and performed 50 pushups. He walked to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and he liked what he saw.
After breakfast Beau prepared his traveling suitcase. In an hour he would be departing for the train station, where he would travel to Seoul, South Korea. It was a short trip, both in distance and time, but Beau always preferred preparation. Beau is a blogger.
“Ok, guys, you take care of each other.”
He was leaning over the turtle tank as he spoke. Walter and Jessie, his two pet turtles were his best friends. Leaving them was always the most difficult part of travel. Beau had not been with a woman in over four months.
“Jessie, Walter, be good and no fighting!”
After a few subdued sniffles, Beau left his pet turtles and he left his apartment.
Within minutes he had arrived at the Imdang metro station. From here, after he paid his fare using a Korean metro card, he was to travel to Dongdaeugu station. From Dondaegu he would take a KTX train to Seoul. This morning, atypically, the subway car did not arrive on time.
He stood idly, leaning against a wall and fidgeting with his travel bag. He checked his watch (phone) and noted that he had been waiting for ten minutes. Five more minutes passed. He bowed at a Korean man as he sauntered by. Another five minutes passed. He had not anticipated a delay like this. His KTX train to Seoul was scheduled to depart at 10:05. It was now 9:25. Beau was starting get nervous. He was anxious as he waited. He kept leaning over the guard rail to peer into the black tunnel from where the train should be coming. It didn’t help. He walked back to his travel bag, performed a couple dry karate kicks, and looked at his phone–9:32. Finally, at 9:33, the subway car arrived.
There were no further delays once he was aboard the subway car. But it was still a lengthy trip with several stops. At this point, after fastidious watch (phone) glancing, Beau was aware he may miss his train. When his car began to slow at Dongdaegu, it was 10:02. He had three minutes to exit the subway station, which was crowded, cross the street, enter the train station, and finally locate and board his train. The doors opened, and he ran.
First, he knocked over a young, timid looking Korean kid–oops.
Then, he side stepped a middle aged couple and the female dropped her coffee–dang.
Nearing the exit, his bag swung wide as put a swim move on a trash can and it leveled a frail old man–shit… That one made him feel bad.
Across the street he approached the bustling train station. There was a large electronic clock, upon entrance, that read 10:05. He located a sign for track 12, where his train was departing. Towards the sign, down the escalator, through the arms of a couple, seeking the train he sped. In haste and in sweat, he saw his train. It was a few yards away. It was also moving. Beau, who watched a lot of western films as a child, figured if he ran alongside the locomotive, rattling the side with his fist, he would be able to toss his bag and grab the extended arm of the train attendant who had opened the door. He ran and he rattled and he disregarded the little Korean men waving their neon flags, but the door never opened. The train never stopped. At the end of the track, when he ran out of real estate, his train left. He turned back towards the terminal where a clock read 10:07.
In this situation, if you were a person of means, you would simply buy another ticket; catching the next train to Seoul. Beau, not a person of means, didn’t want to do that. He had the funds, if necessary, but his wealthy friend had purchased him the ticket on the train he just missed. So, he sat for a few moments, ignoring the vehement and impassioned threats/flag-waving of the Korean station attendants, and he thought.
Another train was leaving for Seoul at 10:35. It was leaving from the same track. He would ride on that one. If anyone offered him resistance or made inquiries, he would make an “X” with his right and left hands–signaling “no speak the Korean”–and he would smile and bow. He also decided that he would still ride in the first class cabin, for that was the type of ticket his wealthy friend had bought him on the train he missed. He would look the part, act confident, and he would be in Seoul in under two hours.
The first time the train attendant walked by, as they had just began to move, Beau faked sleep. Convinced, she left and went into the next cabin. Sweat formed upon his temple. That was close. He did not remove any books or electronic apparatus from his bag. He thought he may have to fake sleep again. He was right. Fifteen minutes later she reappeared. Beau let a bit of drool hang down onto his shoulder as she passed by. Again, she seemed convinced and did not wake him. She did not appear for another twenty minutes. At this point, he assumed safety. That assumption must have been exactly what she wanted. Within minutes, as he was pulling out his medley of books and notepads–because he is a blogger–the attendant returned.
“Tick-ee. Tick-ee.” The attendant verbalized, accompanying her words with hand gestures miming the signing of a check.
First startled, Beau became nervous. He defaulted and tried to feint sleep. The attendant was wise to his act; and savvy. She prodded him, forcefully with her index finger, and again demanded proof of “tick-ee.” After a few minutes, it became obvious that playing dumb–despite hand-signals and amiable gestures–was not going to save him. So, he presented his ticket for the train that had left thirty minutes prior to the one they were on.
Initially, there was fear. The attendant beckoned another Korean transit worker, via intercom, and together they conversed. With their backs facing Beau, they spoke in muffled tone. He could not hear them. He also couldn’t understand them. After a few tense moments, the two workers turned and brought forth a phone. On the screen, through a translation app, Beau read: “passport.” Interpreting their request and their hostility, he shuffled through his bag and provided the correct documentation. The attendant snagged the passport, in controlled, disciplined movement, and performed another about-face with her coworker. There seemed to be some audible and visual scrutiny being thrown at this passport. Beau grew more nervous. He tried to go back to sleep. He ate a snack. He fidgeted with his phone. He thought of running. Ultimately, he waited; perspiring in his first class leather seat.
“Fine, pay 60,000 Won. Thank you much.”
That was what was displayed on the phone Beau read after the two attendants determined that in fact he was not a domestic threat.
Begrudgingly, he paid the fine. Once his credit card, and the international fee associated with the transaction, was processed, the workers turned friendly. They smiled, offered him an efficiently packed bag of cookies and nuts, and skipped into the next train-car.
Beau ate the cookies and slept until Seoul.
With no delays or difficulty, Beau arrived at his hotel in Seoul. It was a nice hotel, as it was favorably reviewed, and the concierge and door-men were congenial AF. Upon check-in, after establishing that he was Samsung Lions player Anthony Ranaudo, Beau received a room key. Now cognizant of the room number, he went to the café before heading upstairs. He ordered six Korean beers, individually selecting the bottles that appealed to him most, and charged them to #803. Within minutes he was in his room, on the balcony, naked, drinking Korean beer. Beau had recovered nicely from his turbulent morning.
After a few hours of leisure, wearing hotel robes and slippers and such, Beau quickly prepped himself. He shaved (torso) and washed and he went downstairs. Rather adeptly, if this narrator may add, he hailed a Korean cab and departed for Seoul Olympic Stadium. His friend, Anthony Ranaudo, whose credit card was on file for room #803, was pitching at 6:30. Beau arrived at 6:25. He was a little drunk.
Thanking the amiable cab driver, Beau bowed and exited the vehicle. It was when the car sped away when he realized he was on the wrong side of the street.
The street was large, comprised of 8 lanes, and it was bustling. He seemed unable to discern a legitimate break in the traffic. The anthem began to play from the stadium and it reverberated through the Olympic grounds until it reached him at distance. He knew the game was starting. So, in dramatic fashion, he ran.
Surprisingly agile and definitively drunk, Beau rushed towards the median. Only two cars honked and only one seemed forced to brake. Standing atop a crisp, well-manicured row of flowers, Beau heard whistles. He felt the cars and buses rush by and he heard whistles in cacophonous form. The whistles were meant for him. He needed to make one more dash, just four lanes in distance. The whistles persisted and he ran towards them. He didn’t get hit by any cars. He made it. Four security guards circled him. They made demonstrative motions, pointing at him, then towards the street, then back towards him. He smiled, hoping to convey apology, and a whistle was blown, imparting the rejection of said apology. Equal parts frightened and equal parts amused, Beau said “sorry”, in English, and jogged towards the stadium. Guided by inebriation, he found his seat as the whistles faded, right before his friend delivered the first pitch.
The game ran long, as seems custom in Korea, and Beau was ready to leave by the seventh inning. He finished his third 24 ounce beer, beautifully priced at 4,000 Won, ruffled the hair of the Korean child next to him that was now a friend, and left. Again, he skillfully signaled a cab and arrived at his hotel in ten minutes. He put on robe and slippers and sat on the bed as the ceiling began to move. He had two hours(ish) until his friend would arrive. Beau napped, giving way to drunken stupor and unhealthy dreams. Beau is a blogger.
The three friends sat at a pub in South Korea. Anthony, Beau’s friend, did not have his best outing. In response, they left the hotel to have a couple beers and talk about chicks and pertinent nuclear tension. Alex, Anthony’s translator, and friend, completed the trio.
The friends ordered Moscow Mules. Moscow Mules are their preferred drink back in the States and this was the first Korean establishment where upon hearing Moscow the server didn’t become hostile. They were not very good, and they deduced that Red Bull was used in place of ginger beer, but it still served as a respite of familiarity. After the fourth drink Beau told Anthony the ginger beer was too strong.
During the evening meal Anthony and Alex enjoyed a couple entrees a piece. Beau concentrated on drinks. This happened for a few reasons. As a narrator of events, it seems that Anthony did not drink as much as Beau because he is a focused athlete and has a lovely lady back in the states that seems to occupy his time. Alex did not initially drink much because he loves food.
Beau drank because there was a nice looking Korean lady sitting by herself at the bar. He sought liquid courage because he assumed there would be communicative difficulty. To avoid anecdotal drudgery, now that it is established Beau was intoxicated, here is how the evening went down:
- Beau approaches attractive Korean women. He says “hello.” She says “hello.”
- Beau turns towards Anthony and Alex, delivers thumbs up.
- “Beer pong”, Beau says, pointing at the area of the pub where there are two tables set up for precisely that purpose. Attractive Korean women says “Yes”.
- Beau and Ann (attractive Korean) face Anthony and Alex in beer pong. Beau has been overtly kind and friendly to Ann. Now, he points to Anthony and says, “I no lose.” Beau is a competitive drinker.
- Ann laughs, then attempts first shot. She misses the table. Ann makes cute gesture, expecting Beau to keep things light and fun. He has a hard time looking at her.
- Beau makes a cup. Ann hits a ceiling fan.
- Anthony and Alex take commanding lead. Alex drinks all beer because Anthony is a focused athlete.
- Beau loses.
- Ann apologizes to Beau. She asks if there is anything she can do to.
- Ann buys Beau a Moscow Mule.
- No more beer pong.
- Beau is friendly to Ann again. Laughter resumes.
- The three friends, plus Ann, visit another small pub a few blocks away. They are joined by another friend and Alex’s girlfriend.
- Beau orders shots. Unable to charge shots to room #803. He endures uncomfortable silence until Anthony pays.
- Friends leave pub and head to club.
- Pleasant club with American music (Despacito).
- Beau reminds Ann of her beer pong performance.
- Ann buys Beau beer.
- Friends leave the Korean club.
(Beau’s mother reads this stuff. Infer what you will from the next bullet.)
- Beau retires with Ann and shares a pleasant evening.
Things took care of themselves the next morning in Seoul.
After waking early, Beau spent the next few hours in leisure. He had three hours until needing to depart for the train station. He decided to spend his time with friends, namely Henry, the son of Darin and Libby Ruf.
The American friends walked around Seoul, visiting some nice shops and sharing a meal. Walking, Beau told Henry about all the stuff he did with Ann last night. Libby shielded her 18 month old son and Darin told Beau to leave.
The train ride back to Daegu was uneventful. Both Beau and the train were punctual. Logistics unfolded seamlessly. Aside from an evil looking kid peering over the back of his seat–obviously taking a pretzel to the face when his dad went to the bathroom–nothing irregular occurred and Beau was back at his condo by 7 PM.
He told Walter and Jesse he loved them, dropped food into their cage, took some expensive protein powder from Anthony’s room since he wasn’t’ home, and then retired to sleep. He was awake for 5 AM the next morning.
In weathered fashioned, Beau walked along the river as the sun rose. Fatigue wore on his face. So did Ann. His train from the most proximal Daegu station (not Dondaeguo) departed at 6:15. It left early and it left for Busan, a coastal city. Beau walked because cab service was not available. He waived and bowed as friendly Koreans made their morning rounds of fitness. It was a pleasant morning and Beau enjoyed himself.
(Insert descriptive setting details you find most fitting here. From Daegu station to train to Busan.)
Busan International Terminal was a large, modern structure. Beau nodded approvingly, as he gazed from the floor to the ceiling, determining the architecture was sound. Quickly he made for customs.
Before entering through the security checkpoint he veered into a bathroom. Staring into the elongated mirror, after rinsing his hands, he told the mirror “I just love boats. Ferry rides are fun.” He said it again, a little relaxed, and felt better. He dropped a quick turd then proceeded to customs.
The security line consisted of a few travelers. Beau was ushered to a customs desk almost immediately.
Taking his passport, the agent inquired as to the length of his visit in Japan. Beau let the agent know he was returning today. Roused from her monotonous trance, having not yet approved his departure, the agent gave him a second glance. Beau did not want her noting that today was in fact the 90th day of his 90 day Korean visitor stay, so before she could commit further scrutiny, he spoke. “I just love boats.” He winked. “Ferry rides are fun.” Fittingly, on his 90th day in Korea, the wink worked for the first time. The agent handed him his passport and told him to enjoy his trip.
Ferries that go from Korea to Japan are not like normal ferries. You do not lean over rails to peer into the sea. You sit in your seat, with your belt buckled, and the ferry goes very fast. In three hours, Beau was in Japan.
This time the customs agent was a man. There was no restroom available for rehearsal after exiting the ferry. Quickly, on the fly, Beau had to make an adjustment as he was directed to a Japanese customs agent.
“Pass-a-porta”, the agent held his hand in receptive gesture. Beau handed him his identification.
“How long you stay?” The agent inquired.
Beau swallowed; a bead of sweat sloping his brow. “Return. Today. Just love boats. I’m a ferry.”
The passport was stamped and Beau had two hours to kill in a Japanese port.
On Japanese soil, outside of the sea terminal, Beau walked to a quaint little shopping center, fittingly named Ocean-shop. He bought some things.
- Kirin 16 ounce beer
- Sushi (California Roll)
- Samurai key-chain
- Kirin 12 ounce beer
- Souvenir shot-glass
- Cool white shirt with big red dot in middle
With thirty minutes still to pass, Beau sat on a conveniently located bench next to the station entrance. He poured his remaining beer into a souvenir shot glass and ripped consecutive pulls. He enjoyed his time in Japan.
The customs agent paid him no mind and Beau boarded his ferry with a buzz.
During the middle of the route, almost two hours in, a lively young child came and set next to Beau. Initially, the kid was cool. He smiled, and waved, and said “hullllooo” a few times in stretched English. Beau reciprocated kindness and returned greeting. Fifteen minutes later it became increasingly evident this little dude was going to keep saying “hulllooo” until the ferry docked.
Reaching into his bag Beau pulled out a samaruai key-chain. He held it aloft and dangled it in front of the kid, catching his eye. In a hook shot type movement Beau tossed the item over his shoulder into the aisle several rows back (ferry nearly empty). Seconds later the young child returned with the prize to find Beau asleep with his face pressed against his seat window.
The ferry docked an hour later.
Now, at the end of a long string of Asian events, Beau mustered his focus one final time. This next exchange, the most important and the most legally relevant, determined his future abroad.
Even after everything he had faced, he again became nervous. Suddenly repressed fear presented itself as a nauseous stomach and clenched fists. What if they didn’t permit his entrance? What if they realized the faulty Japanese excursion was a ploy to manipulate a 90-day stay rule? What if he was barred from Korea?
He assumed the worst.
The line moved forward.
He noticed Korean security watching him. They knew.
The line moved quicker. He was almost up.
He was next in line.
How would he get in touch with his family?
He was up.
Beau’s arm trembled. He extended his hand, slowly, holding tight to his documentation. The attendant swiped it.
The attendant looked it over. Beau couldn’t take it. He started to speak. “Sir, I’m just a blogg–“
“ENJOY YOU STAY IN KOREA.” Stamp! The man gave Beau his passport and the line forced him forward, into South Korea.