8.16.2013

Kanghwa-No.

I should have been making updates all throughout vacation, because there are a lot of topics that I want to hit, as a result of the things that have gone on during this time. But you know, that's the thing about life and blogging. When you're living, you mostly don't have time to blog it.

I guess I'll start with Kanghwado. This is not going to be an optimistic tale, my friends -- I'll warn your right up front. But it gets better after this one.

Let me just start by saying, if it is within my power to prevent it, I will never go back to Kanghwado for the rest of the time I am alive and in control of my senses. I've been before, four or five times, but almost always accompanied by an older Korean male who owned a car. That might not sound like an important determining factor in whether or not you enjoy a place, but I assure you that it is. One of these other times, although accompanied by an older Korean male (B), we were left to our own devices with public transportation and finding our way around. That was the trip where several people refused to take photos of us when we politely asked, we got iced out on the beach, a handful of people were rude beyond all reason when asked for simple directions (including people whose fucking job it was to give directions), and we got called 양키놈 by an old crusty taxi driver for no apparent fucking reason.

The time after that was when B and I went in the dead of winter, booking a nice-looking (and fucking expensive) pension ahead of time, only to find out when we got there that the photos on the website were completely fake -- rather than looking over a beautiful ocean view, we were able to glimpse a trash heap and a winter-dead mountain in the distance, the pension itself actually being a 20-30 min walk from the beach (or anything else). There was also no heat, and we spent the entire time wearing all of our clothes at once and huddling under the covers.

I thought maybe these were just outliers, just a couple of bad trips. After this recent trip, however, I can say that Kanghwado is beyond all measure the absolute rudest place I have ever been in Korea, and possibly the world, save for Paris. And it's hard to imagine why when, after all, they are for most of the day the proud owners of a fucking enormous mud pit. I don't mean to be ugly about it, but let's be real -- it's not exactly one of the seven wonders of the world. No matter how "seaside" they would like their town to be, the sea is hardly fucking there.

I won't get into all of the details, because I don't really feel like reliving it, to be honest, and a big part of the problem would have been solved if we had taken the 성수기 seriously, and booked ahead of time, instead of showing up to scope it out for ourselves (reasoning that it was a Wednesday -- there had to be something open). But after my last trip, you can't hardly blame me for being suspicious of online bookings and wanting to see a place in person before I paid any money for it.

It took a while for one of us to say it. The friend I went with has been in Korea for six years, and we're both considered to be generally well adjusted to life here. One of our favorite subjects are all of the things that happen to foreigners here 'because they're foreigners'. Convenience store clerk is short with you? Because you're a foreigner. Taxi driver gives you shit about where you're going? Because you're a foreigner. Little old grandmother running a tiny restaurant speaks to you in 반말? Because you're a foreigner. Guy you had a date with doesn't call you back? Because you're a foreigner.

I can't even think of the last time either one of us attributed something to being because we are foreigners, unless we were joking. Mostly because things usually either are because you're a foreigner, and obviously so (someone shouting English at you on the street, the butcher giving you a 3 thousand won discount on your chicken because you speak Korean well -- thanks, Butcher Ajeosshi! -- etc.), and therefore don't need that kind of commentary, or else they are just generally not because you're a foreigner, but rather because someone's being a dick. And most of the time they'd be a dick to a Korean person, too, although perhaps in a different way.

However, I think it was around eight pm that evening, after 3 hours of hot and sweaty summer public transport, and nearly two hours of searching on foot for lodging while hulking around our bags, that one of us finally said it. And I think it was my friend who broke down first. And before she could even finish the sentence, I started to nod vigorously, in relief that one of us had finally let it out.

I believe it was after the guy who quoted us a price of 200 thousand won for a basic minbak-style room, after the woman who told another woman to be quiet when she tried to direct us up the hill to a place she knew still had rooms open, after two different men asked if my friend and I were staying "alone together", and then did a disgusting pig laugh about what that implied, and just before the woman who told us her pension was so beautiful that of course she wouldn't have open rooms for months, because, look how beautiful my pension is! What are you even thinking trying to get a room here? Hahahaha!

That last one, for the record, was not because we were foreigners. It was because that lady was a cunt. 

Story after story, incident after incident. In some regards, I get it. It's the high season. They can charge whatever they want to stragglers without reservations who are clearly desperate. They also get spooked by the idea of "dealing with" foreigners, aka dealing with English. But it's important to note the only time either one of us spoke even one word of English during all of this, was when the one lady told the other to be quiet about the open rooms, and I lost my shit and told my friend to pick up her bags and come on, because these people don't want us here (which severely embarrassed the lady who at that moment realized that I had understood the exchange).

It just went on like that. For three days, it was that way.

In between, there were two lovely minbak owners, some cutie pie kids hanging around to play with, two coffee shop owners who were first class (one grandpa and one ajumma), a kitten, a puppy, and some seriously good barbecuing.

But then there were the ajummas at the minbak who used the opportunity of encountering Korean-speaking foreigners to grill us over how much money we make (which we were apparently lying about, because they know we make much more money than that) and what qualifications we have and why Koreans have to learn English (not something I'm in charge of, but a great issue to take up with both your government and your society), to then flip it and try to push us into teaching their children illegal privates, and to cackle in my friend's face about how she would never get married, according to her palm. They drunkenly crashed our final evening's dinner, which we had specifically moved away to a great distance, in order to avoid them. As we finally got tired of being fucking harassed on our vacation by people who had, frankly, no fucking business speaking to us in the first place, we gave up on our own evening out under the stars and went into our room and locked the door. And it was a good thing, as one of the ajummas (three sheets to the fucking wind) spend the next ten minutes banging on the door and shouting at us about going to noraebang.

Unbelievable. Guess where that bunch were from?

And maybe that's the issue: Kanghwado is where Incheon goes to vacation. Maybe Kanghwado is where Incheon comes from. I don't know. All I know is, it was by far one of the worst experiences traveling I have ever had.  The only thing we could manage to say to each other throughout this trip, while enduring these situations, was that we didn't even feel like we were still in Korea. We had never, ever been treated this way by Koreans before. We had never been made to feel this unwelcome in Korea before -- I mean, actively un-welcomed. Not like the foreigners who get upset that their co-workers don't throw confetti and blow a horn every time they walk into the office and not even the way that you do when someone shouts remedial English in your face when you've spoken to them in clear, adult Korean, but some real fucking foreigner-go-home type shit. Some real hillbilly stuff.  

After all was said and done, we were standing, sunburnt and bug-bitten, soaked in sweat, at the bus stop for the final bus back to civilization. It comes once an hour. It was the heat of the day. We'd been on three buses and a ferry already. We were beyond done with this trip. We were standing, waiting for that bus with the very last bit of sanity we had in us. We were still holding it together, but barely. The bus was five minutes out. It was almost over, and soon we could stop being fake-positive and just admit out loud how bad it had been. And then a family got out of a car at a restaurant across the street. The little girl spotted us on the other side of the trafficless road, and pointed, tugging on her mother's shirt. And this full grown bitch setting an example for her child threw back her head and guffawed. I mean, she shrieked with laughter. She pointed and she heaved and she fucking laughed. Looking us dead in the eye. It was just the funniest fucking thing she had ever seen in her life, two foreigners waiting for a bus. And then she waddled her hillbilly ass into the restaurant, with her child who she's in charge of raising to behave like a human being right behind her. And at that moment, we both knew we would never, ever go back to Kanghwado. 

1 comment:

Helen said...

this reads like some kind of movie. in a good way (if your experience there is in any way recuperable).