Week 4 Seoul, Republic Of Korea

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Somewhat sad to be in Seoul tonight as there’s so much to explore and no time left in this hi-tech and enigmatic city.

And yet,even as I am composing this at the table outside the CU convenience store beside the Noble Hotel, drinking soju and reminiscing who joins me but Kartik, a cheery fellow from New Delhi. We chat about his work in the oil business in Kuwait and then we get down the serious business of storytelling. I tell him about a Hindu temple I visited in KL and he tells me his name is also that of Ganesha’s brother. Then he shares a tale about the comic wise fool of Indian folk tale – Birbal.

We swap business cards and bid each other farewell.

What a great time it’s been. Have seen some fabulous sights and have met some wonderful folks and I’ve collected so many tales from KL, Jakarta, Manila and here on my Asian Adventure.

As well as finding story gold to share with the very young I’ve collected some spooky Asian tales for Halloween. And yet the story that stands out from all the myths, legends, fables and folktales I’ve learnt here is a true tale of what happened when a tree was growing in the wrong place and needed to have its branches trimmed because it was spoiling the view.

This poplar tree happened to be situated in the DMZ at the border of North and South Korea. Two of the men who went to sort out this arboreal matter were hacked to death with their own axes by North Korean soldiers.

A chilling tale but a thrilling day.

When the tour bus returned to City Hall in Seoul there were thousands of riot police poised for action surrounding a political rally. One cohort with riot shields ran by me as if they were about to enter the fray and crack a few heads. A few seconds later one of the policemen returned, tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a piece of paper.

It was my Visitor Declaration that must be signed by all visitors to the Joint Security Area at the Korean border. This is so that if a nuclear bomb falls on your head you can’t sue the Koreans. The document had fallen from my backpack as I’d taken out my i-pad to film the riot police running by.

I thanked the young fellow and went on my way.