Our day on the bike was over, but our evening off the bike was just beginning.
It was 6 PM and the town was lit up like a disco roller derby at Christmas. Everywhere we looked, buildings were screaming their wares and offerings with flashing neon signs and bright lights, and our first impressions of Chungju were that of a Las Vegas strip with its fair share of travelling businessmen. Seedy but (mostly) harmless.
Most of the motels in Chungju seem to fall within a one-block radius on Yeonsusangga 1-gil [gil means street], and the first one we went to (Sky Motel) was completely trashy, with soft core porn posters hanging from the lobby walls and a tacky pink light à la 1990 glowing from the ceiling. We weren’t in the mood for that sort of caper, so quickly made our exit without saying a word. But luckily, the one right next door, aptly named Magic Motel, on that street sorted us out. The old lady who ran the place took one look at us, laughed (we’re getting used to this by now), and handed over a room key.
For 40,000 won a night, we got a very clean double room with a shower, toiletries, fridge with gratuitous bottled water and juice boxes, and two very odd things we had never seen before in a room: a full desktop computer (?) and an ultraviolet steriliser (???).
Chungju is famous for being the childhood hometown of Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean diplomat and politician who served as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 2007 until December 2016. It also hosts a renowned martial arts festival held each year in October, and boasts a substantial production of apples due to its varying temperatures and large amount of received daylight. Nearby, the Chungju Dam is the country's biggest multi-purpose dam that links the city and its neighbourhoods together, creating a large manmade lake. And, according to what we saw when we went out in search of dinner, Chungju is responsible for contributing to at least 10% of South Korea’s overall electricity bill. We kid, sort of.
We tend to meander away from the high street generally in search of something a bit less discovered, and were happy to come across a quiet restaurant on the corner of Yeonsusangga 1-gil and Yeonwolro that served fried chicken and hot piping stews. We were greeted by a waiter who quickly realised that we weren’t the usual sort of clientele that he had, and we were about to resign ourselves to another night of pointing and broken Konglish, when yer man took out his phone, typed something, and then showed it to us. The smart bugger was using Naver Translate (similar to Google Translate) to communicate! All three of us breathed a huge sigh of relief, and many giggles were had as we took turns typing and nodding. What a guy. Tipping is not usually the done thing in Korea (although it’s definitely appreciated, of course), but we left him one as a token of our appreciation.
Then it was back home for snacks and the next episode of our already chosen Korean TV drama. Suanbo in the morning.