I’ve been a bad blogger, and I apologize sincerely for the complete lack of updates on this site since I got to South Korea. I’ve been busy, it’s true, but sadly it’s not been the kind of busy that makes for particularly interesting travel tales. I’ve been drinking and living on a tiny budget; going on dates; making new friends; and finding my feet in a Korea that isn’t exactly as I’d left it. But my first pay check is just around the corner and my life is finally finding a bit of stability, so expect them to come thick and fast from here on in.
A Moon over Texas Street
As far as tourist sights go the obvious choices in Busan include Haeundae Beach, the world famous Jagalchi Fish Markets, or any of its numerous temple sites or gorgeous parks. But there’s a little known (and considerably seedier) corner of Busan that often goes overlooked by visitors to the city that labels itself Dynamic Busan.
Named after a state where everything is apparently bigger, Texas Street is a surprisingly small stretch of road across from Busan Station and smooshed into the side of Chinatown like a malignant, lascivious tumor. For a few blocks you’re almost able to forget you’re in South Korea as you walk dimly lit streets that reek of perfume, desperation, and cheap whiskey.
Filipino women wearing little more than a smile aggressively attempt to lure you into their den of iniquity whilst burly Russians seem to walk the streets looking for lonely hearts to ply with promises of sex with women who saw better days a decade or more ago.
Where the Filipino women at least disguise their wares with the unimaginative cries of ‘You want bang bang?’, the Russians instead use the universal sign of cock in vagina with their index finger thrust into a hole of their own creation.
“Hey, American,” he shouts at the two of us in an accent reminiscent of Cold War Era movies, “You want fuck my girlfriend?”
Being a Canadian and an Australia. We walk right on by. Yep, Texas Street is all class.
It’s not all pimps and prostitutes along Texas Street though. There’s Chinese and Filipino cuisine to be had in spades and you don’t need to be a trafficker of human flesh to indulge in a little of the human zoo. In a country where prostitution is ostensibly illegal, it’s on display in this particular corner of Busan in the same ostentatious way as Seoul’s infamous ‘Hooker Hill’ on the fringes of Itaewon.
On this particular night it was closing in on 3am when my good friend Byron (from Byron & His Backpacks) and I decided to make an unscheduled stop off. I’d heard tales from female friends of being asked ‘how much?’ as they’d walked Texas Street by day, and we were certainly not left alone for long as the doors flew open and women of varying degrees of attractiveness stepped out and attempted to entice us.
I’m a sucker for a new experience and Byron’s no different, so we soon found ourselves in a bar named Paradise with a menu of ridiculously overpriced drinks in front of us.
“It’s on me,” Byron assured me as he nonchalantly ordered a white martini. I ordered a Pepsi.
It wasn’t long before we each had a woman sitting beside us in our modest booth. The lights were low and generic US Hip-Hop and R&B played as our ‘girls’ introduced themselves. We were under no illusions that we were in the company of some of Texas Street’s famed ‘juicy girls’.
A juicy girl is essentially a woman you pay to tease you. She’s not going to have sex with you, but she is going to flirt with you and potentially do a little more as long as you keep buying her drinks. And while our white martinis came at $8 a pop – the girls’ drinks went for a more handsome sum of $20. The girls get to keep 4000 won of every drink that is bought for them and the remainder goes to the house.
Byron and his pretty Filipino friend hit it off, while I was more interested in what brought my Russian friend (with an unpronounceable name and more sass than I’d expect from a girl in her industry) to Korea of all places. I’m under no illusions that it probably wasn’t completely voluntary. I don’t know how long we stayed in the club, but the sun was on the rise when we stepped out into the chill morning air and decided it was time for a bite to eat and some much needed sleep.
It’s not the kind of thing I’d do again, and never as a legitimate customer, but it was an interesting (and slightly depressing) look at an often overlooked part of life abroad and life in Korea. It might be a nation where sex is a dirty word and only had in cheap love motels, but there are veins where the slime reaches the surface and it’s a stronger man than me who can turn his eyes away from it.
It’s not going to be for everybody. The Russian men can be a bit intimidating in their pitch and there’s something dead in the eyes of the forty something women dressed like Ke$ha who prowl the streets after peak hour has finished. But it’s a long way from kimchi, noraebangs, and crowded markets. Sometimes that’s worth stepping outside of your comfort zone.