Best First impression ever

South Korea might be my new favourite country. The day I got here I experienced a level of kindness that has been unparalleled in my adult life and that’s not even an exaggeration.

After a really long and annoying set of overnight flights I finally arrived in Busan at about 12pm. I got to the hotel I was supposed to meet my dad at 2pm and had to wait there for about two and a half hours for him to come and get me. Obviously this was not my ideal arrangement, but that’s just how it was. This particular hotel (Paradise hotel, Busan) was lovely and had great staff and all, but just happened to be exceedingly expensive, and as I had not eaten since about 7am I had to leave and venture out in search of food.

This would not ordinarily have been a problem except that it was winter and having come from Thailand I was rather bereft of warm clothes. I would say it was about 7 degrees centigrade with wind. The best I had managed to scrape together was two shirts jeans and trainers. I did bring a pashmina type scarf but the little watsit was hiding in the bowls of my suitcase, which was hiding in the bowels of the hotel bag storage facility.

Anyway, the nearest place I could find was a Japanese type tea shop called Titicaca Kitchen. It’s actually a very cute little spot and when I was there it was inhabited by four pleasant seeming ladies. They sell tea, coffee, soft drinks and beer lots of cake and one hot meal which was a Japanese style curry. I had that and tea, it was exceedingly good. I was planning to stay until I was fully warm enough and then head back over the road, so I settled in and continued writing my book for a while. I was, strangely, writing a part where my character receives some kindness from strangers that overwhelms him when I noticed that the ladies were, I don’t know, buzzing a bit. You know, when people are preparing to do things as a group.

Here is the cafe’s site, you can find pictures here:

A strange conversation ensued; it was strange because we were speaking different languages for the most part. They asked me if I was cold, why I did not have a coat, where I had come from and they tried to convey some other things but that was mostly what I understood. I was, throughout this, given extra pickles, mmm pickles. Some coconut cookie type nibbles and a blanket I was also offered more tea.

Then this thing happened, where one of them called her niece who spoke English and she kind of acted as a translator for us. Using her I was able to explain that I had just arrived in the country form Thailand and that there was no need to worry I would have warm clothes in about an hour. I was totally fine. The niece added that one of the ladies wanted to bring me a coat from her house and I kind of said something like, ‘well, I suppose she can if she wants to but really I’m fine and there is no need’. I asked her to let her aunt know that it was kind of her to worry about me but that I was totally fine, I was just going to be cold for a bit longer then I would have plenty of warm clothes and continue to be fine.

This whole thing was a bit confusing but I was really trying not to impose on anyone or whatever. So this one lady goes to get me a coat and the others ask me to wait and so on. Then the lady comes back and basically dresses me in a coat and cardigan/jacket thing like I’m about 5 years old. Then I put on the scarf and get a little applause because they are impressed that I put it on in a western style rather than an Asian one. Then they take some pictures and seem happy. Meanwhile I’m kind of a little embarrassed but at the same time sort of glad because it really is cold.

Then I ask how I return the clothes to the lady, like do I just bring them back to the café? And they all kind of start waving their hands and they say it’s a present and then I really am embarrassed because I had not picked up on that before and I’m not homeless or whatever, but, then again I am secretly kind of impressed because really, who gets a whole winter outfit from strangers at some random café?

So eventually I leave and head back to the hotel this time the journey is not so cold even though the sunlight is dimming now. Then my dad turns up with a bag of winter clothes and I’m like: Hi dad, I just got adopted by some Asian ladies who gave me clothes. And he’s like ‘Oh, really? That was nice of them. They really just gave you some clothes? That’s a pretty good first impression, couldn’t be better really’.

After that we went for a walk and I got moved into the ‘Moby Dick Inn’ for one night, while my step mom got the house ready, this is I think, something called a ‘love hotel’. That’s where normal Koreans in relationships go to spend time together because Korean culture is very conservative, it is kind of a nice place, a bit like some rich kids bedroom with a TV, Jacuzzi, even a Pc.

So yea, the whole day was great, airport people were nice, bus driver was nice and helpful, the hotel staff in both places were helpful, one guy offered to ring my dad for me if I needed it. We had some trouble finding the Moby dick inn, but some other nice ladies not only gave us directions but walked us to it. Then later, just to bring home the fact that people here are nice, I saw a street vendor type lady with what looked like a bathtub sized bucket of terrapins struggling to get her cart around a corner and then some other lady just helped her move it at random.

This means I have to say one thing about England. Once I was marooned for 4 hours in the evening in the UK for want of 30p (long story) and everyone was basically a dick to me, made me feel like some homeless piece of trash (two different things, not that you’d know it if you’ve ever been that vulnerable). So here: You can do better England, you can do better. Pull your flipping socks up.

Also, everyone should go to the Titicaca Café (across the road from Paradise hotel) and have lots of Japanese style curry, it’s very good and you might make friends with some nice ladies. Actually that whole place is exactly the type of cafe I would choose to go into quite often. it looks like the owner makes everything herself and she is a very good cook. I would have liked to try the cakes and coffee too So if i get a chance I will go back.