Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An exciting weekend in Jeju!


I'm not too sure about the legality of this, but you probably have to be 18 to see this post. Why is this post not safe for work? Go ahead and scroll down if you need to know immediately. But I recommend that if you are reading this at work, or where someone might glance over your shoulder and form an opinion of you based on what's on your screen, you hold off until you've got a little more privacy.

Let me begin by saying, whoops, I lied in my last post, when I said that [this] post would deal with “go[ing] back roughly a year in time to talk about some of my past adventures that haven't yet been mentioned here.” Unfortunately, I haven't yet dealt with the necessary Photoshop work to post anything from Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam (January - May 2012), and the more I think about it, the more likely it seems that it will be another couple months.

But I have no shortage of things to write about from life on Jeju, my new island-home. For instance, this past weekend, November 17th and 18th, I was visited (again) by my friend Katie, who lives on “the mainland.” She landed at Jeju International Airport at 2PM on Saturday, and I was there to pick her up on my new motorcycle.

And thus the derailing of my stories begins. I purchased a new motorcycle less than a week ago!

A stock photo of a 2003 Hyosung Comet 250.

Me riding my new bike just outside my apartment.

I didn't realize how small the bike looks with me on it until I saw this photo.  I can't imagine how silly I must have looked driving my previous bikes.

It's a 2003 Hyosung (shockingly, a Korean company) Comet 250. While those of you reading this in America might laugh at a 250 cubic centimeter (cc) engine, this is actually double the displacement of any motorcycle or scooter I've owned, or for that matter, driven. So to me, it feels like a 1000cc Kawasaki Ninja or some such thing. Bikes with engines over 125cc are pretty rare in Asia. In fact, I only know of one other foreigner on Jeju who has a 250cc bike. There is the occasional Harley Davidson, but they're extremely rare.

I suppose the ownership of small-displacement bikes generally makes sense. Most people who drive motorcycles or scooters here use them only to get around town, where traffic speeds are low, and steep hills aren't terrifically common. I knew; however, that I wanted a bike that I could drive around the whole island, which includes a lot of steep, mountain roads, and highways, and I wanted to be able to do it with a passenger. Additionally, I'm pretty sure that on my summer vacation, I will do a trip around the mainland. Neither of these goals would have been realistic on a 125cc bike. So after doing a bit of research, I ended up purchasing my new baby for 1.1 million Korean Won, or almost exactly $1,000 US. For reference, my previous 125cc bikes cost ~$350 and ~$250 in Korea and Vietnam, respectively. The nice part about this purchase is that, unless it is stolen or destroyed, I should be able to sell it to someone else for nearly the same price when I finish my contract and depart Jeju. So the thousand bucks is pretty much just a deposit.

Back to the main story. At 2PM on Saturday, November 17th, I picked Katie up at the airport, and we returned to my apartment to listen to some “Gangnam Style” and get ready to go on an adventure. After bundling up in a rather absurd amount of warm clothing, we were on the road at 3 or so, and intended to drive down “Mysterious Road,” a road I'd been wanting to check out since I first saw the sign for it, a couple weeks ago. But first we needed some alcohol for after the drive. I was (and always am) all for soju – cheap and dangerous Korean rice liquor – but Katie wouldn't have any of it. We were going to have whiskey, or nothing. So we stopped at Lotte Mart, which is basically a Korean Wal-Mart minus the horrible labor-history, and picked up a bottle of Jameson's. By the time we'd finished shopping and found Mysterious Road, it was within maybe half an hour of sunset. The sun sets here at about 5:30PM in mid-November. We decided to at least cruise a few kilometers up what appeared to be a peaceful 2-lane road through a forest of deciduous and coniferous trees.

Within about a kilometer of leaving what I would describe as “town,” we saw a big, fluorescent sign for “Jeju Secret Love.” I'd heard of “Jeju Love Land” before, and had also heard that there were competing attractions elsewhere on the island. From what I'd heard of “Jeju Love Land,” it was something like a theme park, but dedicated to sex. Curious, we pulled into the parking lot and saw what, from a distance, seemed to be a botanical garden decked-out in Christmas lights. Katie was overjoyed to see something Christmas-related, so we decided to pay the 9,000 Won (~$8) entry fee, and wandered in. Rounding the first corner in what still appeared to be a Christmas-themed botanical garden, we found this 8-foot tall statue waiting for us:

Yup, it's a big statue of a flasher with a huge erection.

Upon closer inspection, the statue was of a flasher, and across the path from this … monstrosity? … was a statue of a woman, shocked by the sight of the penis. There, I said it. Penis. Get used to it, because you'll probably read that word another hundred times and see another ten of them before the end of this post. Katie's immediate reaction to seeing this statue was to start laughing so hard I thought she was going to hyperventilate.

The whole thing seemed so out-of-place in Korea. It's a very reserved society, especially when dealing with matters of sex, so an eight-foot statue of a man with a raging hard-on is not something one expects to see in a botanical garden, which of course we were now discovering, “Jeju Secret Love” is most certainly not.

We took some obligatory silly pictures with the flasher statue, and then stood on the side of the path and waited for Koreans to round that first corner so we could observe their reactions, which were comedy gold. Katie came up with the brilliant idea to return here some day in the summer with lawn chairs, beers, and a video camera, and spend a few hours taping the reactions of Korean tourists seeing, for the first time, a giant, stone statue with a rock-hard (get it?!) cock that I literally couldn't get my hand around.

Katie hyperventilating from laughter.

Katie shocked!
Well, that settles it.  I'm not running for political office.

The path continued along, weaving through trees beautifully covered with hundreds of Christmas lights and statues of transvestite centaurs with huge, exposed breasts and giant horse cocks. Weird. Then there was the bridge with arches on each end that had to be walked under. The first arch was the lower half of a man, with each leg forming one side of the arch, and, of course, a huge erection. The second arch was the same concept, but this time, it was the lower half of a woman. It was strange, because it was obvious that at the time this statue was made, her vagina should have been as visible as the man's penis. But it seemed that at some later time, a bikini-bottom was painted onto the woman. So the vagina was still carved into the statue, but it was just painted over. I still have no idea why there were so many penises and so few vaginas on display. For the duration of our walk through “Jeju Secret Love,” we were leapfrogging a group of 5 older (50ish) Korean women, and their reactions and the photos they took here were priceless.

There was a gift shop at “Jeju Secret Love” that sold Jeju-themed keychains (non-sexual), dildos, miniature horse sculptures (non-sexual), sexy outfits, candy (non-sexual), and anal beads. Back outside the gift shop, there was a statue that can only be described as a case study in racial insensitivity. There was a hall of sexual positions that was downright pornographic, and I'm not really sure it's cool for me to post the pictures I took there as-is, so I edited them a bit. And finally, there was a naked-from-the-waist-down Santa.

Korean hilarity.

Did you think I was joking about the transvestite centaurs?

Don't want to miss that shot.  Katie's work iPad has been tainted.

There is no caption that does this photo justice.

Racial insensitivity at it's finest.


Still wow.

Still still wow.

Thanks for ruining Christmas, Jeju Secret Love.

Abs sore from laughing so much, we finally left “Jeju Secret Love” shortly after dark and drove back to my neighborhood in the cold. We stopped for dinner at one of the two restaurants within walking distance of my apartment. The ambiance was nice – it was built around an old-fashioned wood-burning stove that filled the air with the smell of … description fail … a wood-burning stove. If only the owners were as enjoyable as the environment. The food was good, but the couple who ran the restaurant seemed to resent our being there. We were the only people there, but it was early, so it wasn't like they just wanted us out so they could close down. Whatever. I guess even in a place where everybody is friendly, there will be a few who aren't.

Back at my apartment, we pregamed with Jameson's and sah-ee-duh (sound it out: cider - that's what they call lemon-lime soda here) with a side of the prior week's South Park. Then we headed out, by taxi, to a pedestrians-only street where I hoped we'd bump into some other native English-speakers, or Koreans eager to practice their English. Neither happened, but we did find a dance club that was playing “Gangnam Style” both in- and outdoors. We stepped in for a few seconds, realized how out-of-place we felt, and then returned to the outdoor speakers and danced “Gangnam Style” until the song came to an end. The other highlight of the night was grabbing a ginormous crab out of an outdoor tank at a crab restaurant and chasing Katie around with it making scary alien noises. I was then encouraged by an employee at the restaurant to return the crab to it's temporary housing.

The next morning, after checking that the weather would remain pleasant (i.e. no rain) for the rest of the day, we hopped on my bike and returned to “Mysterious Road,” which, according to my Jeju map, would ultimately lead us to Seogwipo. Seogwipo (pronounced Suh-gwee-po) is the second largest city on Jeju island (but is actually much more a “village” than a city) and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Korea.

The drive was amazing – perhaps the best I've been on in Korea. Mysterious Road snaked it's way up from sea level to 1,100 meters through a primarily deciduous forest. At lower elevations, many of the leaves were still on the trees, although they were often beginning to turn brown. The road sometimes would split into two one-way roads, each taking a different, curving path, and separated by enough forest that the vehicles traveling in the opposite direction couldn't be heard. It was a beautiful drive. The road reached it's highest elevation at 1,100 meters, where the temperature was considerably colder, and we found ourselves continually engulfed in and / or surrounded by clouds. Any colors that had survived the coming of fall were muted by the clouds, and the landscape, perhaps because of the limited visibility, was gorgeous, in a rather apocalyptic way. There was a rest stop here, and in danger of losing our fingers and toes to frostbite (not literally), we stopped for long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee and go on a short walk before getting back on the road to Seogwipo.

The second half of the drive was even more beautiful than the first, largely because the weather cleared up a good bit, and we found ourselves in the sun almost as often as not. A few kilometers outside of Seogwipo city, we discovered a science museum with a massive satellite dish. We stopped for some photos and because science is awesome, and I let Katie drive my motorcycle around the parking lot, which was empty, because, unfortunately, the museum was closed. But it was still cool, since there were some sciencey (I know this isn't a real word, but if it were, would it be spelled sciencey or sciency?) contraptions outside that we were able to play with.

We then got back on the road which we thought would take us to Seogwipo city, and if we had stayed on it long enough, it may very well have done just that. But we again found ourselves sidetracked, this time by a large Buddhist temple called Yakcheonsa Temple, which according to, “measur[es] an impressive 30m high and span[s] a total area of 3,305 meters squared, [and] it is the largest temple in the East.” Not too sure how either “temple” or “the East” is defined, but regardless, it was very impressive. After having lived a year in Korea, and visited a number of temples all over other parts of Asia, it's possible to come to a feeling of “if you've seen one temple, you've seen them all.” Yakcheonsa, however, didn't abide by this rule; it definitely felt quite different from many of the temples I've seen before, especially others I've visited in Korea. And as a nice bonus, it was free to visit! Here, have some pictures:

Yakcheonsa: the main temple.

Inside Yakcheonsa Temple.

Lots and lots of crows.

By the time we left Yakcheonsa it was after 4PM, and neither of us had eaten since the toast we had at my apartment that morning. So we found a Korean barbeque and had Jeju black pork, which I've talked about in an earlier post. Before this meal, I'd never seen (or eaten) meat that still had hair in / on it. Obviously, the pig we ate had been shaved, but it's outer skin was still on, so we could see the follicles of the black hairs that differentiated this pig from it's mainland cousins. It was delicious, and the only reason I knew there were hair follicles in my food was because I'd seen them. If I'd eaten here blind, I'd never be able to tell you it was any different from any other Jeju barbeques.

The service was quite slow here, so by the time we were done eating, it was probably 5PM or so. I had hoped to be home before dark, because I didn't really want to drive my motorcycle on an unfamiliar highway with a passenger after dark, but things didn't work out in our favor, so that's exactly what I had to do. Fortunately, the highways on Jeju (which have a speed limit of 80 kph) are in incredible shape, so the drive back wasn't nearly as stressful as I was worried it could have been.

The next morning, I had to have Katie to the airport by 7AM for her 8AM flight. I got her there no problem, and then went to my school, where I slept on the sofa in my office until I had to go to my first class. It's a tough job. All things considered, it was an awesome weekend, and it has me really looking forward to warm weather. I think Jeju will be an amazing place in the late spring / summer / early fall.

One more time, for old-times sake: Penis.

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