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Guest post: taking a trip with Travel Pants Korea (some pictures NSFW)

September 19, 2012 - Chris Backe

Chris in South Korea note: this guest post comes to you courtesy of a fellow blogger named Chris Hallquist. There’s a new tourist company in Korea called Travel Pants Korea, and they invited me on their first trip in exchange for blogging about them. I didn’t have the time, but they were open to letting a friend of mine go in my place. This is his story, and all opinions and pictures are his own.

Two weeks ago, I finally made it to Jejudo, a volcanic island which is basically THE place for Koreans to go on vacation within Korea, and a popular spot among foreigners too. I went with the tour company Travel Pants Korea, who turned out to be great guys (there’s no public transportation on Jejudo, so if you go, you should either have an international driver’s license or be part of a tour group that will rent a bus).

The one thing I’d heard most about before going on the trip was Jeju Love Land, a park which features many great works of sculpture like this:

And like this:

I thought this was brilliant, but I didn’t entirely grok why such a thing exists in Korea. South Korea has a reputation for conservative attitudes towards sex, but when I asked one Korean girl on the trip about it, she was surprised that we don’t have such things in the US.

One of the few really informative things I’ve managed to find online and in English about Loveland is an article in Der Spiegel, which explains how most South Koreans weren’t allowed to travel outside the country until the early 1990s, which helped Jejudo become the major tourist spot it is today, especially for honeymooners. And not too long ago, apparently, it was standard for couples to go into their wedding nights rather sexually inexperienced:

During the last few decades, many of these marriages were arranged by the parents of the spouses. The lucky ones might have had a brief chance to meet each other — under the watchful eyes of relatives — before exchanging vows. And then, after their wedding, they were immediately flown off to the south — to Cheju Island. As they got used to the notion of being bonded for life, they spent their wedding night and the following days on the Honeymoon Isle, which thereby also became a kind of “island of sex ed.”

As late as the end of the 1980s, journalist and travel writer Simon Winchester reported that some hotel employees on the island performed as “professional icebreakers.” In the evenings, the hotel would offer an entertainment program featuring lap dances and others raunchy or risqué highlights. Its purpose was to help the intimidated, freshly married novices relax — and perhaps to give them some ideas for later. Winchester remarks wryly about one of these hotel entertainers that he probably deflowered more women than any other man in Asia.

According to the official website, the sculptures themselves were made from 2002-2004 by graduates of Hongik University (South Korea’s leading fine arts school). However, I’d love to know the story of who led the effort and what inspired them, but I’ve been unable to find that out so far.

The other really impressive thing I saw on the trip was the lava tubes, specifically Manjanggul, one of the largest such tubes in the world. Unfortunately, it was dark and I was working with a little point-and-shoot camera, so my pictures really didn’t turn out, but honestly even some of the best pictures I found doing a Google images search later don’t really do it justice. Actually seeing it in person, I thought, “wow, this is the kind of thing I thought only existed on movie sets and video games,” a feeling haven’t gotten since seeing the Roman ruins in Carthage three years ago.

The thing is, it’s an enormous tunnel straight through the rock, something like a hundred feet high and almost as wide, and it looks kind of like it was dug out, but it’s wasn’t. It’s a totally natural formation. I don’t entirely understand scientifically how lava tubes are able form in such a neat, clean way, but whatever the reason they sure look cool.

Those were just the things that stood out for me. The tour schedule was absolutely packed with activities, including a hedge maze, tea museum, and hiking up a mountain that had a volcanic crater at the top. I was exhausted for a couple days after the trip, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way: like most people on the trip, I was working Monday through Friday, and I’m glad we made the most of the two days we had. (Well, I could have skipped the tea museum. I’m not a tea person, and while several other people on the trip sampled the green tea ice cream, I’d had it before and do not get that part of Korean culture at all.)

On the whole, though, amazing trip.

That was Chris Hallquist – for more information about Travel Pants Korea, check out their website as linked above or go to their Facebook page.

Agoda

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