The heat was getting to me. It was a hot sunny day on the outskirts of Seoul as I whisked out of my grey van to explore the Bamboo Garden. Seoul is surrounded by mountains making the sights around the city all the more charming. Koreans are very hospitable and also very professional. My driver Whan did not speak much, but pointed me towards the ticket counter and asked me to take a ticket so that I could go inside the bamboo first and enjoy its cool soothing shade. It cost me 200 won and I walked up a flight of steps to enter the garden. It was full of muddy roads and surrounded with tall thick bamboo foliage. It was like trekking through a forest full of green sprouts.
I chatted with a few locals who were amazed that I came here all the way from India. Koreans understood English but don’t like to speak it as they think it is offensive to their mother tongue. I had picked up a bottle of lime soda and kept sipping it to refresh myself.
Then at a distance, I saw a group of sketch artists sitting and setting portraits of people. Some families with kids had gathered around them and were getting their portrait made. It reminded me of my days in Hyde Park when I used to stroll around the park with my father. I had got a portrait made there in 1986. It still hangs on one of the walls of my father’s room. I wanted a similar one made. So, I sat in the chair in front of the sketch artist and asked him to start his work. He took his time and merrily did his job etching and drawing the fine lines of my face. Finally, the piece was made and he showed it to me. At first glance, it looked like the Korean version of me with a thinning hairline and oriental eyes. It looked like me but was oriental in its style and structure. Well, so much for the artistic licence. He then neatly placed the portrait in a frame and handed it over to me.
The bamboo gardens were littered with wooden benches containing wooden cut-outs of male and female caricature. I took some snaps sitting on the benches and carved my name on the bamboo as if to say that I was also here. The forest is vast and dense and it could take a whole afternoon to walk all around it. I was in no hurry and sat down in one of the many resting huts to take my breath. Many families sat under the shade of these huts and were enjoying a picnic. Little kids were frolicking about in small prams.
The stroll around the forest was a delight and by the mid-afternoon, I was tired and drained out by the heat. I just reached my van and slept all the way till we arrived at Outré Overnight Motel.