Tuesday was my only fully free day. Thus it was the only day to get some shopping done and to visit my high school friend Jason, who lives and works in London.
Here’s a traveler’s tip. When traveling abroad, some of the best souvenir shopping can be done in a local grocery store. That’s true in Korea. I did that in the Philippines. And I did it here.
Within walking distance from my hotel is a Sainsbury’s. It’s just your run-of-the-mill florescent-lit cold supermarket. But I really stocked up there. Marmite, Marmite XO, jams, lemon curd, Jaffa Cakes, brown sauce. I even found an amusing t-shirt of Darth Vader playing soccer.
I met Jason in Brixton. I arrived early to explore Brixton Market a bit. The market has a strong Afro-Caribbean vibe. It’s a reggae version of Ansan. Since my food obsession before Korean was Jamaican, I made sure to stock up on Jamaican ingredients, since you absolutely can’t find them in Korea. I met Jason, whom I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. We had lunch at a Jamaican restaurant.
Then it was off to Piccadilly Circus for some souvenir shopping. I’ve said many times I’m a slave to kitsch. I love touristy things. I love to visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums wherever they are. And I like Made in China souvenirs. I went to two of the powerhouse souvenir arcades. Got some magnets for co-workers, a Paddington Bear for Jian, and some toys for her. I then went to Fortnum & Mason, the famous tea emporium. The goal was to snag a nice tea set, but as predicted, they were formidably expensive. I did get some tins of teas and some local honey.
On the way there, in front of the Eros statue, was a dance troupe performing to “Gangnam Style.”
I can’t escape Korea, huh?
I then walked to Soho to meet Dahae and Gizzy. I think Gizzy was doing some photo or video shoot. I got to the area early and popped off to Norman’s Coach and Horses pub, which turns out to be London’s first vegetarian pub. I was there for the beer and restroom. Dahae met me there, and we had a great conversation. She and her husband run the Busan Galbi street stand on the weekends.
Gizzi texted us, and we met her at the legendary cocktail bar Dean Street Townhouse. She looked great as always and had lots to talk about. Our goal for this short meeting was to decide what to do for our presentations together. I told her I felt like I was standing on the tracks with a freight train speeding toward us. I was just closing my eyes and bracing myself. She felt similar, so we decided to just roll with it. We’ll see how things go.
Gizzi had to leave for another engagement, as did Dahae. I picked up all my heavy stuff. Dahae directed me over to this sign.
Dan and I planned to meet a Leicester Square. On the way there, I noted this sign–a little tribute to Clerks.
If I lived here, I’d be going to that theater often. It is the type that shows cult films and participatory films, like Rocky Horror and the sing-a-long version of Frozen. I met Dan, and we had dinner in Chinatown. I tried to track the steps my sister and I took there from memory in 1993. I remember that Jurassic Park had just come out in theaters, and I wanted badly to see it. My sister didn’t want to waste time seeing a movie she could see anywhere else. When she and I went to Chinatown, we looked for the restaurant with the least white people. It turned out to be another one of those life changing meals.
Dan took me to a similar place, where we had crispy duck, char shiu, and baby bok choy in oyster sauce. When we sat down, my jetlag started to hit. Dan pointed out I hadn’t taken my obligatory nap. I did all I could to stay awake for dinner.
But there was much more to do that evening. Dan had gotten us and the office tickets to this club to watch the Korea vs. Russia World Cup match. When we got there, I met Moses and Hanbit from The Galbi Bros.
The gang from the office met us way downstairs, along with some people from Korean food companies who had just flown in. It was packed. It was surreal. I was in London, and it felt like I had not left Korea. To make it even more surreal, the jetlag continued to pound me. There was nowhere to sit, and I was carrying my increasingly heavier bag. There were points when my knees buckled. Towards the end of the game, I told Dan I was getting hallucinations.
It was a good game, but I was really zoned. I stopped watching what was happening on the field and watched the clock instead. Only three minutes left. Two. One… Oh no! Four extra minutes?
I survived, though. Dan got us a cab, and we rode back to Colliers Wood. I was still hallucinating. I tried to speak, but rubbish escaped my lips. I got home at 2 o’clock.