The Bongo Stops Here

Cheju-do, South Korea. 1997

The Church Van driver and I left the crater and headed clockwise around Cheju Island. It certainly was much better than having to worry about catching a bus from place to place. And so far, it was much cheaper too. He wanted to stop at the Folk Village but I didn’t so we made for Seogwipo. We drove around for a bit just taking it all in and then we stopped at Jeongbang Waterfall. My driver insisted I get my picture taken in front of it. I flashed a meaningless gang sign. We left the waterfall and without telling me our next stop, he pulled over in front of a 다방. He seemed to know the place well and he greeted the owner familiarly as we entered. We sat. I ordered a drink; he did too. He got up and walked to the front and had a private conversation with the hostess. He came back. Pretty soon a cute young lady came and sat down next to me. She spoke only to my driver, asking questions about me and so forth. He asked her if she liked me (마음에 들어?). She looked over at me and kinda shrugged her shoulders. Of course they had no idea was following most of their conversation.

My driver, and erstwhile love advocate, had a perverted-looking grin on his face and asked her if she wanted to take me in the back and give me some service. She kinda shrugged her shoulders and said, “별로.” It’s not like I was dying to go get my service on with this little cutie, but it wouldn’t have killed her to fake it just a little.

My driver was progressively getting weirder the more time he spent with me. But I went with the flow and piled back in the van. We headed West. We pulled over somewhere in 중문 resort and took this picture of me. No gang sign this time.
Nobody was around and nothing seemed to be going on. Westward ho once more.

Our next stop was Sanbangsan. This giant nipple-like formation appeared as if you scraped it off the earth with a giant spatula and turned it upside down like flipping a pancake, it would make a great filler for the crater I climbed earlier in the day. We pulled into the parking lot at the same time as a group of tour buses. An endless stream of drunken and cackling old ladies teemed from the buses like ants from an anthill. Without missing a beat, my driver started asking them who wanted to buy ramen noodles from him. That lead balloon was greeted by more cackles and the occasional “Hello Hello” directed at me. More cackles and off they trundled.

I had a look around at the mountain and the scenery, a Buddhist temple. Nice. But I was getting tired, and getting tired of my driver so I didn’t linger longer. As we drove along, my driver decided he had set the hook and I was ready for his pitch. He thought it would be a great idea to head back to Cheju City where he would put me up and I could teach English to the church people who owned the van we were in. I had no intention of returning to Cheju City yet, and even less interest in living with this traveling Ramen salesman who couldn’t move any product. I told him I couldn’t really do that and he started asking me for money. I was grateful for the ride, and it was an experience I might not have had without my driver, but I wasn’t going to give him 100K Won like he asked.

At that moment we were entering a small town called 모슬포. This just happened to be the town in the address that the guy on the ferry from Wando had written down. I suddenly told my driver to stop the van. “Stop the van right here. Stop here.”

I got out in “downtown” 모슬포 and walked away from my driver forever.

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