So, we left Myanmar and had a 24-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, which has become a sort of base-camp for us in our SEA travels. We had reservations at our favorite hotel, we had plans to get our fill of our favorite Malaysian food (and by that, I mean Chinese and Indian food), and we were headed to Korea the next day, which we were very, very excited about.
Things turned out to be more lackluster than we had envisioned: our dim sum breakfast was in name only, our highly anticipated lunch at Sri Ananda Bahwan was just gross (but the restaurant’s branch in Penang remains one of the best places that I have ever put food into my mouth, ever), and I began to feel the twinges of something foul in my stomach. To cap it all off, I had a run-in with some vendors in Chinatown who essentially took my money and ran. This culminated in a shoving match between my gallant hero, R, and a very angry Chinese man who thought that I should have less emotional attachment to my cash. We had to leave right on the heels of this incident to catch our flight and I have to say that, although I love Malaysia and have no particular beef with Kuala Lumpur, we couldn’t have been happier to be leaving just then.
We got to the airport nice and early, which was lucky since the security screening was the most stringent I think I have ever been through. The officer screening me took a look at my passport, noticed how many countries we had visited in the past year (12, for the record), and then asked how my ‘mission’ was going. I almost screamed in protest. R was kept for a while because the security guard who checked his documents did not believe that the person in the photo and the man standing before her were one and the same. R blamed the confusion on his hip Burt Reynolds-style mustache that he had been rocking since Nicaragua; I thought that perhaps it was the fact that the photo was taken before he was able to buy a beer. In any case, we made it on with minimal trouble and I immediately conked out for the overnight flight.
By the time we arrived in Seoul, I was a green-grey version of my usual sunny self. I can’t say whether it was our last meal in Yangon or the dredge that we were served for lunch in KL, although I had hardly touched the stuff, feeling sick even then. We headed to a friend’s house in the heart of Seoul, where we would be staying for an indeterminate number of days during our stay in Korea and terrified him by letting ourselves in with the key-code he had given us after he didn’t answer our knocks. Turned out he was still groggy from the ‘business dinner’ the night before, which included copious amounts of soju- a cultural quirk we would become very familiar with in the coming weeks. While our friend, Attila, and R toasted our reunion with a morning beer, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open and my stomach down. Lucky for me, after a coffee and a quick lunch, I got to roll out my sleeping mat and shut out the world on Attila’s kitchen floor. Welcome to Korea!