When Visiting a Penis Park ISN’T The Strangest Part Of Your Day
This was supposed to be a post about the Penis Park.
You’re intrigued, right? Because if you go to a place like a Penis Park, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be the most unusual part of your day.
Well, much to my surprise, it wasn’t.
But before I tell you about that, let’s give the Penis Park its due.
First up, I should confess that it’s not officially called the Penis Park. I just really appreciate good alliteration, so I’ll keep calling it that. It’s actually called Haesindang Park, and there’s a little story behind it.
People don’t just erect penises for no reason, right? (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who liked to harvest seaweed. One morning, her fisherman husband dropped her off on a rock, promising to return by nightfall to collect her.
He didn’t come back.
A raging storm hit, and the waves were too high for him to return. These same waves washed her into the ocean and she drowned.
The small village of Sinnam suddenly had a turn of bad luck as far as fishing was concerned. They traced it back to the death of this girl, and decided that there was only one way to soothe her angry spirit.
And that was to give her phallic offerings.
Miraculously, it worked, and the Penis Park was born.
On a nice day, Haesindang is a really nice place to visit. It’s just like any other park, except for, well:
The attention to detail was impressive. It reminded me of the time I went to Hershey Park as a kid and was inordinately excited by the streetlamps, which were shaped like Hershey’s Kisses.
This was, well, kind of like that:
We came across this sign, which seems to indicate that only people over 20 years old should descend the stairs.
At the bottom was a small cottage overlooking the ocean, and here’s what’s inside:
A big fishing museum sits in the middle of the park, and it is full of satisfyingly weird exhibits.
Things haven’t changed much – women are still out there fishing for seaweed. Though these ladies were wise enough to do it from the shore, not a rock in the middle of the ocean.
That’s not what I meant when I say that things got weird.
It was after the Penis Park, when we were waiting for the bus back to Samcheok, when things got weird.
A tour bus was in the parking lot behind the bus stop. The tourists, all middle-aged Koreans wearing brightly colored hiking clothes, were huddled in a circle, eating rice cakes and drinking soju.
The bus driver came over and gave us a plate of pine-flavored rice cakes.
“Samcheok?” he asked. We nodded.
He grunted and jerked his head towards the bus, indicating that he would give us a lift. There were four of us – Jared and I, along with another foreign couple who had been on the same bus from Samcheok.
He returned a few minutes later with some cider. The men of the tour group waved Jared over, then plied him with soju and a pork knuckle.
The original public bus we’d been waiting for sailed by without slowing down.
Luckily, the coach driver summoned us when they were ready to leave.
“Noraebus,” one of the men said enthusiastically, holding a phantom microphone to his mouth. “Norae.”
That’s when it dawned on us. This was not just any bus.
This was a karaoke bus.
As soon as the engine roared to life, the ceiling panel started flashing blue, green, and pink. There was a giant television screen above the driver, and a karaoke control panel to his left.
Offensively loud music pounded from the speakers, and the four waegooks were dragged to our feet and ordered to dance.
We danced frantically, flailing our arms and wiggling our hips to the terrifying music. I tried to sit down and was instantly dragged back up.
The song ended. Relieved, we moved towards our seats.
Within seconds, it started up again.
The Koreans laughed and clapped us on the back. Then they shoved us aside and filled the aisles.
Somebody handed us a couple of oranges. A woman started grinding her backside enthusiastically against Jared’s shoulder.
“I’m frightened,” he said.
The music played on.
I had so many questions. How many days did the tour last? Did they dance between every destination? How long could they sustain the dancing? Did they get drunk and hook up with each other?
It was like Contiki for the ajosshi/ajumma set.
The man in green produced a bottle of soju and walked up the aisle handing out shots.
Right before he could offer me a shot, the bus screeched to a halt.The music stopped. Everyone sat down.
“Waegookin,” the bus driver bellowed. “Yeogi.” Foreigners! Get off here.
The bus deposited us on the sidewalk and zoomed away.
Dynamic Korea strikes again.
Getting there: The Penis Park, or Haesindang Park, is in Sinnam, a tiny town on the east coast of Korea, about 20km south of Samcheok. We took the #24 bus from Samcheok’s intercity bus terminal. It takes about 50 minutes and leaves on the hour. Check the tourist information booth near the bus terminal for up-to-date information.
For more photos of Haesindang Park and other adventures, visit the Lateral Movements Facebook page!