So it was with intensely mixed feelings that I embarked on my second trip without Sophie-doll – this time to Seoul for four days with my younger sister D.
I was practically self-flagellating with the guilt of leaving her and K behind in Singapore and nearly backed out of the vacation a few times, but everyone kept telling me that I deserved some time off and a short break.
I think they were right – a part of me has been yearning to just have a few days where my mind and body are not completely tethered to her needs – something which I think, now that I’m back, have helped me to become a better mother to her. I feel less frazzled, more focused and although every day is still exhausting, my mind is clearer now and the resentment over losing my sense of self for the past six months is slowly but surely dissipating.
We flew in to Seoul last week and were really puzzled when we found that almost every shop except the convenience stores was closed ! I checked in with my Korean hairstylist friend and he told me that it was the Autumn Solstice / Chuseok in Seoul, or one of the most important festivals in the entire country.
So we spent half the day basically not doing anything much, which turned out to be a really good thing actually, because we were able to totally recharge for the flight and were raring to go by mid-afternoon when the shops finally started to open !
Our hotel provided these traditional hanbok costumes for their guests to try out and we decided to ham it up for the camera, Chuseok-style !
These hanboks are amazing at covering fats up I tell you. I swear I’d be able to hide a full term pregnancy under them. In fact, I was musing very irrelevantly to myself that they would make awesome maternity clothing.
After a fantastic nerve-tinglingly boiling shower involving copious scrubbing to rid myself of the staleness of cabin air, D and I set out for the streets of Myeong Dong with the aim of basically gorging ourselves ill on fatty, oily, very possibly unhygienic but undeniably delicious street food.
And then we saw this:
Pastel. Rainbow. Cotton. Candy. I held it. I felt like a unicorn. I was suffused with well being. I may have rubbed my face against the divine fluffy cloud with abandon.
How do you even make cotton candy like that?
Apparently it has to be painstakingly done by hand – layer upon layer is added and its even harder to make it cone shaped. We watched in fascination was a lady made another one of these unicorn cotton candy sticks in their perfect, fat raindrop forms and then saw a few other men try to replicate her art form and failing miserably.
And because its so pretty it deserves its own photo:
It was quite delicious indeed.
We kept things free and easy for the rest of the afternoon – this is like my n-th time in Seoul and I’m never in a rush to hit any tourist attractions or landmarks.
And ended with a home-style BBQ dinner (but of course) at a Mom and Pop hole in the wall restaurant along one of the quieter streets of Myeong Dong:
Home-made bibimbap – not very glamorous looking but so very, intensely satisfying when mixed all together with a dollop of gochujang. This, ladies, is break up food. This is sit in front of the TV with tears streaming down your face as you shovel carbs into your mouth kind of food.
D went kind of nuts over the meats, which were really tasty indeed. I always go for the samgyupsal (pork belly) and the beef shortrib, non-marinated. I think that marinade should be reserved for more inferior cuts of meat.
For samgyupsal, you dip the grilled, fatty, quivering goodness into a little bow of ssamjjang (bean paste dip) stick it into ssangchul (fresh lettuce) and shovel the whole thing very enthusiastically into your mouth.
For better cuts of beef, simply dip into the salt/pepper/sesame oil dip and then consume. The meat is so tender, smoky and flavourful on its own that the dip enhances it just so without masking the beefy goodness.
If I had any doubts about travelling with D before this trip, they were almost instantly assuaged. I was constantly marvelling at how lucky I felt to have a sister who is emotionally so close and so tied to me. We don’t Skype every, sometimes not even every week but when we are together the chemistry is instant and the understanding complete. We were practically finishing each others’ sentences by the start of the day and we craved exactly the same things to eat.
And I think this is why family is so important – they are probably the only people I am ever 100 per cent comfortable with and comfortable with taking for granted (trust me, its mutual). It gets so tiring always managing expectations, second guessing, and doubting myself that within four hours of just spending time with D, I could feel all the tension in me just ebbing away.
The next two days were equally awesome. More to come !