It was already the dregs of the day by the time I made it out of ICN and into a taxi. I asked the driver to bring me to the W Walkerhill. I had never stayed there before, but the prices were more reasonable than the Park Hyatt, I would only be in town for about 14 hours anyway, and I needed more Starwood stays to progress towards Platinum.
The ride probably took about an hour, and by the time we pulled up to the W, which is about a 15-20 minute taxi ride from Gangham, it was nearly dark. The W is part of a complex that contains a casino and a Sheraton. The lobby is open and bright and has a bar with floor to ceiling windows that offer great views of much of Seoul. As I mentioned, it was late afternoon when I arrived, so I went right to my room. I dropped my bags off, changed and quickly went to the gym. The W’s gym is enormous and fully stocked with top of the line, high end equipment.
If you remember from my earlier posts, I was searching all over Asia for size 13 running shoes that would fit in my carry-on with ease. Unsurprisingly, I was unable to find shoes in my size anywhere. However, during my brief stop back in NYC, I picked up some New Balance Minimus running shoes. They are amazing, as they are incredibly collapsable and pliable. They take up about as much space as a pair of flip flops and provide adequate support for running.
After the gym, I showered, changed, had a cocktail in the lobby bar and then caught a cab towards Gangham to meet my buddy at a metro stop near his office. It had been drizzling when I left the W, and by the time I got to the rally point it was full on pouring. I had no umbrella, and I was wearing a sports coat. I figured i’d just stand under a ledge, but my cab driver insisted I take his umbrella. I tried to explain to him that it wouldn’t be right for me to take his umbrella, but he motioned that he was wearing a rain coat, so it was ok. I tried to pay him, but he wouldn’t accept anything for the umbrella. Hell of a nice guy. Perhaps ten minutes later, my buddy showed up and from there we traipsed down some back streets and settled on a restaurant he had been to before.
I am not sure exactly what the type of cuisine would be called, I think it would fall under Korean BBQ, but I’m not sure. At each table you have your own stove. They bring a plate of marinated meat (beef in our case) as well as a large selection of lettuce, vegetables and sauces. You cook the meat yourself, then put it on the lettuce with whatever sauces you like. You wrap the lettuce up and eat it all in one bite. It seemed a bit unwieldy to jam the whole thing in ones mouth, but I was assured this was the only proper way.
Before the food came, we ordered a small bottle of soju and beers. We started reminiscing about the last time we had been out in Seoul and my friend who had since married implored me
“we can have a couple of drinks, but I can’t go home wasted to my wife, she’ll be pissed off.”
“we’ll see” I said.
As we ate our food the beers and soju started going down very quickly. We were both a little bit drunk by the end of the meal, and resolved to find a place to continue to drink. It was a Monday, so there was next to nothing going on. After checking out the places in the immediate vicinity of the place we’d eaten dinner, we hopped a cab to Itaewon.
First we went to a pub my friend used to frequent, but it was almost completely empty, we finished our beers and hit the streets again. Just when we were about to give up and scrub the evening, we found a lounge called “B1” that looked to be decently crowded.
We started in on the hard liquor drinks and the bar began to rapidly fill. We made friends with some girl who was having her 20th birthday and started to get properly inebriated. Finally, near 3am, my friend tried to smash glasses with me when a new round arrived. The ensuing “cheers” was so violent that both of our glasses exploded into shards, and quickly a bouncer was onsite telling us it was time to leave.
My friend tried to get into it with the bouncer in both English and Korean, but I advised him that drunkenly tussling with bouncers would likely lead to serious injury. He realized the truth in my statement and we both hailed cabs. He promised me his wife wouldn’t be too angry or blame me for his current state and we bid each other adieu.
Back at the W, I slept well and woke to another gray Seoul morning, ready to head onwards to Japan.
ADDITIONAL HOTEL PHOTOS: