Sunday, November 7, 2010

Peace and quiet - and sexy statues

I GOT off the bus from the airport and listened. Something was different - I wondered was I still in Korea at all. It didn't sound like it. It was quiet - almost silent. Where was the rush of traffic, the petulant "Oppa!"s from girls to their men, the incredulous "Chincha?"s, the cascade of feet? Where was the neon buzz, the R'n'B ringtones, the welcoming bells of convenience store doors opening and closing, the sizzle of street food stalls?

Seoul was to my back. This was Jeju island. There was salt on the air - not kimchi, perfume, sewage or household waste. There was blissful quiet - and few people. After Seoul it seemed serene. Jeju island is the No.1 holiday destination for Koreans: a mecca for honeymooners, pensioners and backpacking hikers. The scenery is beautiful, the beaches clean, the pace of life pleasantly slow.

Jeju is also ostensibly the capital of Korean tack. If the teddy bear museum doesn't do it for you -- featuring, among other indispensable exhibits, teddy bear reenactments of the Normandy landings and the fall of the Berlin Wall -- then Jeju Love Land will: if a theme park filled with giant nude statues in various erotic poses "does" it for you.
I visited both. The latter was full predominately of people well into middle age and beyond. The sight of groups of Korean grandmothers guffawing at an enormous water-spouting, penis-shaped hill is worth the admission fee alone.

At the gift shop, I bought the obligatory tat souvenirs. I went for Jeju cactus tea and chocolate. The key rings would have made for a permanent reminder, but I wasn't too tempted. Suffice to say, they didn't focus on the natural beauty of the landscape. No. Their form was decidedly more corporal. I'd had an hour in a park with enough of that "beauty" as it was.

I walked out of the park, tea and confectionery underarm. Behind me, groups of pensioners giggled and whooped. Comparatively, I was as rock'n'roll as Cliff Richard. Circa "Millennium Prayer". In a white tux. On a skateboard.

The exuberance of youth?

You haven't been to Korea.

No comments:

Post a Comment