Korea might not be a top vacation destination, but quirky enthusiasts (and penny pinchers) should think twice before they skip over the hermit country. Korea provides some wonderfully bizarre escapes for those adventurous enough to partake.
1 – Dr. Fish
Visit this café in Seoul and emerge with new appreciation for fish. After you remove your shoes at the door, grab a cushion and browse the extensive menu. There is a wide variety of snacks to choose from, with the cheapest set being 10,000 Won (around US$7). Once satiated, customers wash their feet and it’s time for the fish to feast.
Keep your feet still and enjoy the tickle on your toes. The drier your feet the more fish you attract, so don’t get jealous if other patrons get all the attention. This cafe is not for the podophobic, but those who can withstand the suckling will be smitten. If you need some courage (and have some extra money) champagne is available.
2 – Penis Park – Haeshindang
This park was originally erected to appease the soul of a dead virgin. Today Haeshindang, located near Samcheok on the eastern coast of Korea, offers history as well as being (surprisingly) aesthetically pleasing. Along with over 50 phallic statues the park is beautiful with a pond, benches (with dong projectiles of course!) and a shrine dedicated to the young virgin. You can walk along the penis post fence or take in the view of the sea.
The park has something for everyone. Have a knack for noses? Check out the penis with a penis nose. Are fish your favorite? Size up the totem pole fish penis. For the military enthusiast, a penis shaped cannon and three penis soldiers standing guard are a spectacular site. Other anatomy-esque art dedicated to genitalia can be found at the park’s museum; full with such relics as a wang wind chime and a giant, orange joystick!
3 – Mr. Toilet House
Constructed in the name of sanitation, the ultimate throne can be found about 30 miles south of Seoul in Suwon. Despite the commode exterior (it has a white "lid" roof!), the design inside is quite lavish and modern. But the real beauty within this beast is the significance; this house was constructed in 2007 by Mr. Sim Jae-Duck, the president of the World Toilet Association, to publicize the health risks of being toilet-less.
Suwon can be reached by subway-though finding the house may be a little trickier. Tourist information can prove very helpful in a search for the ultimate shithole. Lucky visitors get an inside tour from the interior designer. Be sure to give a one dollar donation as you sign the visitors book to help Mr. Toilet remind the world that 40% of its population does not have access to toilets.
4 – Landfill Park
In Seoul, Landfill Park (which is actually called World Cup Park) is comprised of five small parks on garbage, literally! Seeking to send a message of an ecological message, the former landfill was rehabilitated and now brings in hordes of people to marvel at its new image.
Whether you want to play golf, go camping or just watch the sunrise, the reformed dump can placate your nature needs. World Cup Park’s highest point, Haneul, stands near the World Cup Stadium full of vegetation, clear paths and turbines. You will think you’re hallucinating absorbing the trippy music, life-sized statuettes and a marijuana-like leaf on one of the towers. There are various viewpoints overlooking the city at Haneul Park so take your time wandering through the maze but step off the path at your own risk!
5 – Korean Delicacies
Weird food fanatics will be busy in Korea. One novelty is eating live octopus. Served with the tentacles still moving, pop some in your mouth and chances are it will suction on. Although there are mixed reviews among foreigners, it is a popular dish in Korea, believing to bring strength.
In the mood for something limbless? Try blowfish. Just the right amount will leave your mouth numb. If seafood isn’t your thing, snack on some silkworms. The smell might put you off, but the crunch is similar to walnuts. Whatever you decide to taste, try to go with a Korean to admire their chopstick skills and unique palate.
Maybe you are penis-shy, octopus makes you cringe or toilet humor just isn’t your thing. Do not be frightened. Come to Korea anyways…it will comfort you with a nice bowl of dog soup!
About the author
Marseille Markham teaches English in Seoul. When she’s not searching for toilet houses, she’s traveling to other countries with one backpack and no hairbrush.