The Chinese seem to have an immeasurable ability to lay roots and prosper everywhere in the world, even in one of the most homogeneous societies on Earth: South Korea. I had the great pleasure of visiting Chinatown, Incheon and I can say without a second thought, it was a very eventful experience. I felt as if I had just been transported to China. Now, I can understand how one might think that China and South Korea are similar in many ways but that is oh so false! These two lands are worlds part in terms of culture, etiquette, architecture, basic manners, basic hygiene, culinary arts, and more. The only qualities these two countries have in common are chopsticks and rice, and that is probably stretching it. Nonetheless, it was a remarkable cultural juxtaposition to experience because I did not come from The USA to Korea or to China, I went from Korea to China. After being outside of my home culture for over a year, this quick trip from Korea to China brightly highlighted the idiosyncrasies between these two culturally rich countries.
Red, Red, Red. Upon entering the Chinatown gates, the colors flowed from a stale grey to a bright red finish. The writing system transformed from the scientific Hangul system to artistic traditional Chinese. The spoken languages meandered from sharp and dragging Korean to the tonal and high pitched yelps of Mandarin. The food went from spicy bulgogi to sweet and sour pork. The booze from soju to…hell even stronger lighter fluid. Chinatown has a lot to offer and a lot of play around with. There are a great amount of historical sites among the restaurants and souvenir shops. There was a grand statue of Douglas MacArthur, in honor of his help in liberating Korea from Japan. There were memorials for the soldiers lost on both the American and Korean sides during the Korean War. The main strip of Chinatown was very crowded with a lot of people pushing and yelling, but that is practically identical to the Wild China!
After sightseeing Chinatown, I took a walk over the Wolmido. Now, Wolmido is a very cute and touristy part of Incheon. This little district offers delicious raw fish, charming scenary and the most ridiculous small amusement parks I have ever seen. The park was quite typically with the usual “Viking”, ferries wheels, bumper cars, but then there was an extremely unique ride called The Apollo Disco. This ride is set up as a ride to be enjoyed from the inside as well as the outside. All of the visitors sit, stand and laugh as they seem the participants flailing, falling and fumbling around the circular ring. The ride is a huge circular ring that has no straps to hold you down, instead you must grip the walls and rails yourself. Once the ride starts you spun very quickly and then the unexpected happens: Hydraulics. The ride begins bumping and thrusting up and down to throw you off onto the ground. But that is not the end, there is also a very hysterical DJ making comments and dealing out death to all that attempt this beast. I, being an obvious foreigner, got dealt with accordingly to say the least.
The best days are those when you can enjoy the simply qualities of life. I was able to enjoy the simply joys that make life so great. Laughter, joy, good food, interesting culture, and wonderful friends. On top of everything, Incheon was a beautiful getaway from the hustle and bustle of Seoul. The city is still quite large at 2.6 million people but does not compare to the 10 million people of Seoul. Incheon is rich with history, culture and fun. I must say though, the Apollo Disco was absolutely insane and I do hope this ride makes its way to fairs and parks in the USA. I was still sore days after the ride, because of all of the thrusting and bumping. My arms were killing me as well as my pride. Push it!