BanchanI love traveling to Asia, in part because the travel is as spicy as the food.

On a recent trip to South Korea I got a chance to try new kinds of spicy. We were in Seoul on election day – South Koreans were replacing their impeached president. Various protests and/or rallies would pop up randomly, mostly calm but always with a continent of police and military overtly present to keep it that way. The odd juxtaposition of South Korean and American flags were usually a tip off that the crowd was supporting the ousted president, who happened to be arrested for corruption a few days before our arrival.

I also got to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), an anxiety-filled buffer between these two countries who signed a cease fire, but no peace agreement, sixty years ago and don’t seem capable of reaching one any time soon. [As I write this the “heads of state” of the USA and North Korea are shooting off nuclear insults to each other like children who don’t know their bombs are real] Walking through the “3rd tunnel of aggression” and seeing the two sides battling for the highest flag pole across the border was not particularly reassuring.

Returning to Seoul – a short missile flight from Pyongyang – we were need of spicy food to compensate for the spicy travel. Near Doeksugung Palace and City Hall sits a tiny restaurant perched on the second floor of corner building. Not surprisingly, the menu was pure Korean food (a KFC next door was getting most of the business). My choice – spicy octopus, of course, with the usual Korean banchan side dishes of pickled cucumber, kimchi, and danmuji radish.

I can’t wait until the next spicy food, and travel.

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Photo credit: By National Institute of Korean Language