One of my personal rules is that when someone invites you on an adventure, you never say no. NEVER. Maybe reschedule if you have to, but then that kinda takes some of the spontaneity away. So when my friend Rachael asked if I wanted to go on a special adventure, of course I said yes even though I had a final and a paper to finish (spoiler, I got the A).
It was a special adventure for two reasons:
- It was motorcycle show. First of all, motorcycles are pretty rare in Korea. At least in Seoul, not sure about the rest of the country. Scooters are EVERYWHERE, but compared to the amount of people, it’s not super common to see a Harley. There is a store, and there are the military folk who have brought theirs from home, but generally you don’t see Koreans on motorcycles. Also, I had never been to a motorcycle show so why not?
- Rachael didn’t know quite where it was. DING DONG DING! Perfect adventure set-up… off into the unknown!
Rachael had found out about the show through Facebook, but the directions weren’t very specific. All it said was the location was about 15 kilometers from Gapyeong Station, which was about an hour and a half from Itaewon. We decided to try and find the place anyway, and if we couldn’t figure out how to get there from Gapyeong, we would just explore Gapyeong. I may have mentioned this before, but I will say it again…Korea is soooo so safe. It never crosses my mind that maybe I should plan better, or have a back-up plan. If you get lost here…just walk until you find a subway or train station. Or try to hitch a ride. Can’t exactly do that in other countries… I don’t think I would ever hitch-hike in the U.S. by myself, and even with a friend I’d have an escape strategy. I just finished the show “Revenge,” so I’m pretty confident in my survival and fighting skills.
Okay so we spent 1.5 hours on the subway and arrive at a fairly large train station. Luckily, there was a giant “Tourist Information” sign right outside. Unluckily, it was a Korean holiday and it was closed (???). There was also a ton of “Nami Island” pamphlets, which we discovered was nearby and a popular tourist/holiday destination. I put that on my Korea bucket list.
As Rachael and I stood there scratching our heads and kicking some rocks, a young Korean lady approached us out of nowhere speaking FLAWLESS English. *sidenote, neither of us speak much Korean and we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere so we were not expecting anyone to speak any English*
She asked us if we needed help, and we explained our lack of planning. She hadn’t heard of any motorcycle show, but wrote the directions in Korean for us so we could show it to a taxi driver. If it weren’t for her, we would have probably walked around for an hour before heading back.
Rachael then asked where she learned English—it was that good—and she pulled out a bunch of papers and pamphlets and told us how lucky SHE was for meeting English-speakers since she had only English pamphlets on her. My “uh-oh” alarm went off as she told us all about her “organization” and how we should read everything and give her a call. I was worried she was going to ask for money, but we took the papers, promised to read them (I actually did, but now I have to relearn some basic biology), and then went off to find a taxi.
In the taxi, the driver repeated the place (in Korean) to confirm, to which we replied with a definitive, “yes” even though it could have said “please take these heathens to Pyongyang.” After about 15 minutes of driving to nowhere, right when we were on the verge of telling him to stop and take us back, we turned off the main road, drove over a maybe one lane dirt bridge, up a hill, and found ourselves in front of a banner that read “MOTORCYLE SHOW.” Okay, I can’t remember what it said, but we were there. WE MADE IT!
…and then they told us no one was there yet. It was 1pm, and according to Facebook it had started at 11am. So we walked around and took a bunch of photos and got a free Red Bull. See photos below. It was actually a really pretty place, and would make a nice weekendgetaway.
After about an hour, the thunder rolled up! By thunder I mean motorcycles. And it was so cool! Like I said before, bikes aren’t super common, so this was a sight! Not only were there a good 50 or so bikes, but they were nearly all owned by Koreans, and a lot of those Koreans had tattoos. Not like one or two, but whole sleeves. Tattoos are probably more rare than motorcycles, especially ones on visible body parts, multiple tats, and even some females had sleeves *GASP*. Also, as mentioned, I had never been to a motorcycle show before but I feel like one in the States would be intimidating especially to someone like me who can barely drive manual. I’m no dummy, but I didn’t know what a brake line looked like before we arrived (actually, that probably does make me a dummy). Anyway, it was totally cool and definitely not intimidating. And we got more free Red Bulls as well as free whiskey. Rachael tried to teach me some stuff. She did well, but I’d probably fail the test.
So after we checked out all the bikes and vendors…thrice…we decided to figure out how to get back to the station. There was no way we would walk that route. I figured the dudes at the entrance could call us a cab. Because Korea. He said he could, and then asked us to wait. We waited for about 20 minutes, and then he said, “Okay” and pointed at the fancy white Range Rover that was sitting at the top of the maybe one lane dirt road. Rachael laughed and sarcastically said, “oh okay!” and pretended to get in. But then the dude was like, “No, really!” Rachael and I gave eachother a look that said, “Ohhh, the cab is at the end of the maybe one lane dirt road so this other dude will just drive us down there.” Well, he did. In reverse. Down the winding, steep, super narrow dirt road, and over the bridge at 30mph. That’s scary in reverse. But once he made it to the road he kept going. In reverse. Until we came to a turn-off, where he SPUN 180 degrees and took off. Now at 70mph. I asked tentatively, “Taxi?” to which he responded by crossing his arms into a large “X” –the international symbol for “NO!” This guy didn’t speak much English, so Rachael and I sat silently and quite awkwardly, for about three minutes before he asked our names. We tried to converse as much as possible, and what we got was that due to the holiday, there were no cabs available so he was driving us all the way back to the station, but it was a company car so it didn’t matter, and we should visit his (camping?) company in Itaewon. Oh, and he was blasting gangster rap. Because Range Rover?? Or Korea?
When we had made it to the outskirts of Gapyeong, he asked how long the trip was. We said about two hours, he said something like, “OH NO!” and immediately pulled into a coffee shop.
Him: “You like Americano?”
Me: “Yes… Rachael?”
Him: “Okay let’s go.”
SO HE BOUGHT US AMERICANOS. This is also very Korean. They love Americanos (Americanoes? …nvm, that’s Ameri-canoe ha) and love to buy Americanos for Americans. At least in my experience. My previous hagwon boss’s dad would always buy us them whenever he went out…so like once a week.
And of course he refused payment. He said we needed the strength to make it home. Which was true.
I had already planned to give him money once we arrived at the station (cab fare plus coffee money), but again he completely refused. After the fifth, “Really?? Are you sure?” I backed off. We promised to find his camping business (haven’t done that yet, but I have his card somewhere…), said our goodbyes and thank yous and voila, our adventure was complete.
Okay, we still had to get home but that was easy peasy lemon squeezy.