Sunday, September 14, 2014

Weekend (8.23 - 8.24): Muuido

Deciding on another inexpensive, nearby beach destination was easy; I remembered that, last year, all of my coworkers talked about Muuido and how it's basically waygook spring break all up in that bitch. That part didn't interest me, but after looking into it and having vaguely considered going several times since first hearing about it, I was like, that's where we're headed. 

It's supposedly a popular day trip destination for Seoulites at the height of the summer season, though none of the Koreans to whom I've mentioned it have ever heard of it, and surprisingly, that season had already ended by the second to last week of August. We got our little beach hut for the low low price of 30,000 a night, and trust me, it was worth every meager penny..

(derping intensifies)
So, we set off from my apartment later than we wanted, at 10:11 A.M. (I totally remember looking), to take the green line to Hongdae and then the Airport Railroad to the end of the line. Once at Incheon International, we found the bus area on the third level, and commenced waiting. All I could find online was that the bus came anywhere from every 20 to every 50 minutes, and the official signage simply read " *Times may change", without indicating what any of those times may have been. 
Eventually we stopped counting how many passes certain other buses made and how many times we saw yet others with extremely similar numbers to the one we needed. We ended up waiting for the maximum unlucky stretch of 45-50 minutes and it nearly killed us. At least it wasn't hotter and more humid out.

At the last of only four stops - the edge of the island and a simple ferry port - we hopped off, got tickets, and took a jaunty ride to the absurdly nearby island of Muuido from the main island of Yeongjongdo. 
...Why don't they just build a bridge?

There's only one bus on Muuido, so it's pretty hard to get yourself lost. Just wait until it actually stops at the beach parking lot; we saw a few overzealous foreign women get off at the midpoint stop somewhere out in the boonies and caught the looks on their faces and their uncertain shifting back and forth that smacked of "We've made a terrible mistake.." as the bus looped around to continue on its way.

We finally got our little hut a mere 3 1/2 hours or so after setting off. Good lord. With that kind of timeframe we could have almost literally gone anywhere else in the country. 
But, that's okay. 

Obviously a small wooden and metal box sitting in the sun all day gets pretty hot, and we tried to change in a hurry, because opening the little windows to let air circulate through would also mean the roving gazes of curious beachgoers could pass right through as well. 

"Ach, mein delicate compleksion!"

After thoroughly sunscreening ourselves (paying special attention to the ankles), we set out to find food, and the little restaurant conveniently close by had lovely refreshing nengmyeon, or cold buckwheat noodles. The thick slice of fresh tomato was a nice summery treat. I also introduced Hannes to the unexpected miracle of patbingsu (milky ice flakes with sweet red bean); it was one of the tastiest and undoubtedly the cheapest one I've ever had. 
And the very basic general store directly across from the restaurant had alcohol of course, so that was also taken care of.

Now came the time to approach the swarthy local beachmaster, baked to the consistency of the corner pieces of a pan of brownies, to see how much he wanted to extort from us for the valuable commodity of shade this time around. It went like this:

20,000 again? Well, what about those simple beach umbrellas that are just sitting there in a bundle, leaning against a metal thing? 


... But they're just sitting there. Even if they're not yours, no one would know if you made money renting them out and just pocketed it all. 

It's hot and sunny and there are umbrellas right there, and you're the beach rental guy, but we can't pay you to use one for a few hours.

Okay, fine.


Going without shade concerned Hannes deeply, and understandably so. You can only absorb so many harmful rays that your body converts into lobster-tinted skin cancer before it starts to.. itch? My solution was to go into the water. The similar hilarious experience of him freaking out because his delicate European ginger body can't handle extreme temperature fluctuations - or, indeed, any temperature outside a very narrow range - repeated itself, much to my enjoyment. 
This time, though, the water was... not so good. I noticed quite a lot of seagull feathers all over the surface, and then I noticed the ramen noodles. Keep in mind, too, that the Yellow Sea is very silty and that its water always, naturally looks like what you dump into the bathtub once you've finished mopping.

"Uugghh. This water is filthy", he complained while scrunching his face and making sure to hold his hands above the dingy waterline. While we were fooling around in it small swells were coming in, and I was like, "Don't let any get into your mouth!"
"Baaawwwwgh!" was his predictable reply when one lapped against his head.

He resolved that he wouldn't be going back into the water and picked me up to carry me back to the beach, but was penned in by a whole green onion floating to our right and a dead crab with hilariously visible droopy limbs floating to our left. 
"Baaaawwwwgh!", he tossed his head back dramatically in frustration and distress.

As we were coming out of it I was mocking him: "Ohhh, I'm from a developed nation, I don't like industrial waste in my ocean water.. We have central heating and safety standards! Boo hoo hoo!"

We laid on the beach talking for a good long while, as I picked the very tiny spirally portions of shells out of the sand and poured many paper cups of soju and cider. 

Hannes: I made something!
Me: No you didn't.
Hannes: It's a pillow.
Me: No, it's not.
Hannes: -thunk-

We both noticed that the tide was going out quickly and receding to an impressive distance, but neither of us would've guessed how far it'd actually end up going. I swear, it exposed like two miles of mud flats. 
After venturing forth alone and fiddling with some newly-accessible sea critters, I wanted to go for a walk through the alien mudscape area at sunset to a rocky outcrop at one end of the beach and take some pictures, but wouldn't you know it: not only had I forgotten my camera but a certain someone forgot to charge theirs. Now I can't share with the world (the ~12 people who read this blog) what the reflection of the waning light on the neat wavy patterns in the squishy mud looked like. 
First world problem, yes, but it was actually really pretty and kind of surreal.

Hannes casually informed me that the convenience store was probably going to close, from what he'd gathered, before we could walk back to it. Launching little fireworks are as much a part of the Korean beach experience as being drunk on soju, so this news was quite disheartening. No pictures, no shop, and... 

No showers? Oh god. 

When we got back we found out the one public shower had closed already. And we felt sooo gross. BAAAWWGH.

He was wrong about the shop, though, and we purchased our liquor and explosives with relish. But then we also attempted to purchase two small plastic cups and everything fell apart. It was a lot like the shade debacle:

So... We're buying several things, including drinks, and we can't buy these little plastic cups.

Oh, I see, you're saying they're only for these instant drink mixes over here. 

And we can't even offer to pay you the equivalent of a dollar each for them. 

They can't be used for any other drinks or bought for any price. 


Okay, well, whatever, back to little paper cups and back to our box. It was only once it'd gotten dark, as one might guess, that I noticed the single lightbulb in our box didn't work. Audible sigh. That was the ONE amenity it had. You had ONE job, lightbulb!

It was fairly cool and breezy, though, and being in the dark (not to mention being totally sand-coated and grody) just made it more of a genuine camping experience. 

Kyle, Elaine, and Sergei, the loud drunk stereotypical Americans in the box next to us and the stray Russian they'd found and adopted, however, didn't add a whole lot to the overall ambiance. When we returned from splashing a little water on ourselves in the kinda-nasty outdoor public sink in lieu of taking an actual shower, they wanted to chat with us - well, with Hannes, let's be honest; I was hiding inside straightening things up and hanging things to dry. Then they wanted to have a war where we shot Roman candles at each other.


"You don't want to start a war with Germany," was the ominously amusing reply.

We all agreed that it'd be a terrible idea for anyone to start a war with any of our countries, but that just encouraged the waygook spring break mentality more.

Hannes and I dallied, wasted time, and then I said I didn't want to launch any until he came back from the bathroom, so they started without us, launching rockets here, there, and everywhere. Into the air, into the ground, into the boxes, right past the heads of small children. On a boat, in a moat, with a goat. My whole body cringed. 

Then the police came.

Two cops marched down the beach, one blowing a whistle, and they opened with, "Hey! Are you crazy?!" before transitioning to Korean. If what they were saying wasn't obvious enough, their gestures were more than comprehensible, but the two makers of trouble just decided to play dumb. The cops stood there angrily, with their arms crossed (and probably each with one foot tapping), just staring at them for an awkwardly long time. It was pretty funny. 

Sergei had also been cringing at the whole thing and had, I guess, retreated to the comparative safety of the shadows. 
When Hannes got back I told him what'd happened, and then we shot some of our Roman candles off from our box - at a safe trajectory, of course. Then I suggested we walk further down to where the beach once was to launch the last ones. Hannes didn't understand why until we crossed paths with the agitated police officers on our way down. They started yelling and Kyle and Elaine again, assuming they'd done it when they'd told them not to launch any more. Not ashamed. Problem solved. 

Dejected and completely trashed, the destructo-twins had decided to hit the sack, to bother us no more. Then, just as Hannes was leaning in for a romantic kiss, I interrupted him with, "Hi, Sergei". This time Hannes' whole body cringed.

Welp, he'd decided that now he wanted to chat. Trouble is, he ended up chatting for a good hour and a half if not more and drinking a good portion of our little remaining soju not even like it was water, but as if it were air. He told us all about his divorce and his daugher, who's just a couple years younger than us, and his business and competitors. Turns out he was not just an average drunk Russian, but a laser optics engineer. Real fuckin' neato.

We asked him a bunch of stuff about lasers, but his responses were understandably limited and a bit disjointed. Mostly he just ended up praising Germany for basically inventing his field and then kicking everyone else's ass at it, consistently, up to the present time and place. From what he said, there's not even a remotely close second or a ghost of a chance of anyone else catching up, not just as companies, but as nations. 
Guess you really don't want to start a war with Germany, 'cause if you didn't know, they've got a fuckton of awesome lasers. 

When at last he took his leave of us, we were free to enjoy our dark, grody, sandy, sweaty little box in peace.

The next morning, a shower was the first order of business. We wandered around and asked for help for, I want to say, about twenty minutes before finding it. The blog post I'd been reading and using as a guide had finally, well, misguided us. If people want to know and manage to read this far, the shower warehouse building thing is on the side of the beach with the zipline tower and cute little minbak/pension room thingies that look like tiny houses.

We found out it cost 2000 to shower, so I sent Hannes back to the box for cash. Then we found out that the big, minimalistic, prison-like shower warehouse (perhaps predictably) consisted of a powerful frigid blast of icy water that I can only assume is freshly-dredged from the depths of the Bering Sea at an obscure hour each morning. 
But seriously, if you can tolerate staying under it, it is so refreshing. I instantly felt better, brighter, happier, more awake, et cetera when I finished, and so did he.

I wanted to venture out onto the mud flats again and try to walk to wherever the hell the ocean had gone, but they had become quite icky. It was very hot and sunny that day, and it kind of felt like the tide hadn't come back in and gone back out again, but rather stayed out and let everything cook.

Trust me, it's much better fresh and raw than baked.

After squishing around senselessly in the hot sun and trying in vain to video call my mom on Google Hangouts, we retreated to the other little restaurant on our side of the beach and its assemblage of bright plastic chairs and umbrellas, for fear of spontaneously bursting into flames.

We had an ice-cold "Coke" (cue immature snickering), were entertained by a katydid, and soon decided there wasn't much left for us to do on that beach, seeing as how we couldn't afford shade and it wasn't technically a beach anymore.

So, we ended up cutting our little weekend retreat short, but that's okay. We'll find much more secluded beach huts on much nicer, cleaner beaches next summer, and overall, we had a lot of fun.

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