A Day at the Races, and assorted other randomness…

The end of my time in Korea is creeping up on me. In many ways I’m ready for the end: more than anything else I need a break from the terrible working hours at Berlitz, and time with the family is long overdue too, not to mention a certain young lady waiting for me in Ireland.

With days remaining slipping below two dozen, time is starting to feel increasingly precious. People are talking about leaving parties, and suddenly it seems like there are a million things to do in Seoul that I just haven’t got around to doing yet. There’s the view from the top of the ironically titled 63 building (it has 61 floors and two basements), that bungee jump in Bundang and the long promised but never quite delivered Ice Bar challenge. And that’s before you even start on the people.

Of course, it’s the people I’ll miss the most, and I’m trying my best to ignore the various random attractions that I haven’t got round to yet and just hang out. This week has involved so many random dinners out, trips to the bar and overpriced coffees that I’ve totally lost track, and it’s starting to make a serious dent in my bank balance. No doubt it won’t feel like enough when I get home, mind.

After a very chilled out Saturday (Lonely Planet tours aside), I headed to Seoul Racecourse with a group of friends on Sunday. I’ve never really been into horse racing, but the chance to sip beer in the sun and throw small change at long-odds decrepit beasts is too good to turn down.  I do have an amazing ability to pick out a loser, though fortunately I also have the restraint not to throw too much cash on them, and it makes for an entertaining day.

Seoul’s racecourse is run almost entirely my machine. If you want to gamble you feed your betting slip into a complex cash machine, press a few buttons (the correct ones if you’re lucky), and then watch the odds collapse to nothing before the race starts (you can’t ‘take the odds’ in Korea). Afterwards – if you’re someone other than me – you can then claim your winnings back by feeding the ticket back into the machine and take out the cash. The whole thing’s extremely efficient, technological and… well Korean, though it does have the annoying tendency of causing mistakes with people betting on a race at another location. Which you then have to watch on TV, which is nowhere near as entertaining.

A good afternoon, but it has to be said the company was far more entertaining than the racing; the attraction of the sport still eludes me. The smoky stands filled with old men studying form papers and comparing notes strikes me as the adult, money focused version of a high school maths club. But then each to their own, I guess.

It turned out the evening was far more entertaining. Sunday evenings seemed to have become a time to have a few drinks and dinner with friends, and a far more fun and less alcohol fuelled alternative to Saturday night (I seem to have abandoned Saturday night recently, it just got a bit too samey… ) . Collapsing in to bed after midnight when you have a 5.15 start on Monday’s not ideal, but I’ve only got a few days left, so who cares. Twenty days to go, leaving’s starting to feel very imminent. It’s going to be emotional!

J x

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