Aaron Checks In to the Paradise Hotel




What a weekend! And by that I mean I managed to lose my credit card, phone, ipod, deodorant, and half a dozen wallet-sized photos of myself, over about 30 hours.

Thankfully, I discovered that I had merely “gifted” most of these things to people I knew. Everything is back in my possession except the wallet-size photos, which is a bit of a shame since they really weren’t that flattering, not the kind of thing worth leaving around the city.

I wish I could post the picture here. Wait, no I don’t.

A few weeks ago I checked out the Paradise Hotel, a place that very few have checked into over the last 10 years or so.

That’s because it hasn’t been open to the public for a very long time. However, that doesn’t stop the westerners on the island from hopping over the fence and snooping around. I’m fairly (40%?) certain, however, that I had one of the most thorough searches of the grounds.

The Paradise Hotel used to be home to some of the nicest accommodations on the island. The grounds are still beautiful, in a very eerie, Secret Garden sort of way. The problem with not knowing Korean is that best you can’t get any information on the hotel or why it closed down.

In fact, when you google “Paradise Hotel + Seogwipo + abandoned” the fifth entry is from this very blog (!!!). I know they changed the algorithm or whatever so this was a “unique” search result, but even so!

Here’s an old review from Lonely Planet of the hotel:


“Three cheers for a rare-as-hens’-teeth genuine boutique hotel with a dramatic adobe design…the five eclectic room styles all share the striking combo of barn doors and gold taps.  During the 2002 World Cup, Ronaldo slept in room 209 and David Beckham slept in room 302. The extensive garden has superb coastal cliff views as well as a popular restaurant and bar.”

That “popular” bar? It currently looks like this:

But hey, at least it’s busier than the fitness club:

By the way, that spectral figure manning the bar also happens to be the same person who works the phones in the building that houses the “honeymoon suite”:

His name is Dakota McKee and in that picture he’s playing around with some empty jewelry boxes he found in the cabinet which he wasn’t supposed. There were also a bunch of stickers in there, which might have been used for people who payed to see the “Syngman Rhee Museum.” The museum, by the way, is the best part of the hotel, because the exhibits are all still completely intact, but the funny part is to get there, you have to be particularly curious, as the only entrance is past the restaurant/honeymoon suite area and then AROUND onto a balcony lined with wooden floorboards that are falling apart, since the doors that lead to the museum the “right” way are all locked. You also can’t see what’s in any of the rooms ahead.

The museum has a bunch of stuff about South Korea’s first leader’s fondness for Jeju and the hotel area, which I wasn’t really paying attention to. The suite that may or may not have been where he slept there (I really wasn’t paying that much attention) is probably the most well-kept room in the hotel these days, with the exception of the honeymoon suite-there are rumors that they’ve put new flooring in there. Could the Paradise hotel be making a comeback? They’ll have to do something about the pool area first:

The hot tub still has water in it:

It’s a real shame that nobody stays here anymore. The grounds really are spectacular. The hotel is situated on a cliff overlooking the ocean. You can also catch great views of Seogwipo and one of the waterfalls.

Anyway, here’s some more pictures of the hotel:

Here Charlotte uses the spooky lights as an opportunity to show off her bloody toe:

It’s too bad we couldn’t get a crow to land on the post! Here’s Dakota again multi-tasking at the bar:

Perhaps this hotel was always better suited to be abandoned. Check out this truly grisly sculpture. It’s a little hard to tell but thats an arm and in the middle of the chair is a giant spike.

Someone needs to get some cameras rolling in this place. Someone can make a Korean version of “the Shining.”

“Your stay in Paradise…has been extended indefinitely.”

I’ll probably be back there later this month.




Indian Restaurants and A New School Year

Today’s haiku:



There are two Indian restaurants on the north side of the island, Baghdad and Raj Mahal.

Baghdad’s is named after a Bollywood film. It’s the lesser of the two places. The menu is pretty limited and the samosas are soggy.

Their best items are the tandoori stuff, other than that, the menu is basically one flavor of curry/stew and some salad stuff. The naan is okay, I guess.

Baghdad’s big selling point is its location right near City Hall, which is where a lot of the foreigners go to party on the weekends and hang out in general. City hall is where the foreign newspaper hq and the immigration building  is located as well, so I’ve spent a lot of time in that area.

Also, the restaurant has a nice atmosphere during the daytime, and the hookah pipe is fun to play with. Here’s a picture of me using it:

The other fun thing about Baghdad’s is that the owner ends every sentence with “brother.”

An example: “Welcome back, brother. What are we going to eat tonight, brother? Can I get you anything to drink brother? Would you like to smoke the hookah brother?”

Raj Mahal is in “shin-jeju”, the newer suburb, and that owner is even more entertaining, since he sounds like that guy from The Simpsons (I don’t watch the simpsons, I’m only writing that because people here say the owner sounds like the guy from the Simpsons). He’s from Nepal and he met his wife in Japan (maybe), but somehow they both ended up on Jeju Island, and the place is better for it.

Raj Mahal offers a bunch of different types of curries and other fun stuff like aloo gobi and vindaloo and basmati rice etc blah blah blah.

There’s also a little electric piano.
The food is tastier there and the samosas are crispier on the outside, although they are smaller and more expensive.

Both places are legitimately decent in the sense that if you place them in a competitive culinary environment, such as Albany NY, they would probably still survive. IE, they are not just “good for Jeju because they’re not korean food.”

However, I have fond memories of cheap Indian lunch buffets back home, places where you could pay seven bucks and then eat twenty pieces of naan and that sort of thing. Indian food isn’t just supposed to be good, its supposed to be cheap. The expensive Indian restaurants in America are like TOTALLY FUCKING AMAZING, and they had better be.

The places on Jeju are a la carte and it adds up pretty fast. I spent 37,000 won (on two meals, admittedly) last weekend. For a similar price, the places back home are much better. But that’s what you get on this island: if you want food that isn’t Korean and isn’t horrible, you have to settle for something. At the very least, the Indian restaurants offer actual Indian food, as opposed to the “mexican” restaurant which is really just a noble attempt by Koreans to produce tex-mex food.

It’s a new school year here on Jeju, as of early March. That meant massive shuffling of classes as every student advanced a grade, some new first graders arrived, and some old students who were hogwon ‘shopping’ discovered that Yale Academy is the only hogwon in Seogwipo that can deliver an Ivy-league education, or at least an education with Ivy league posters in the lobby.

I’m still pretty confused about how and when the placement process occurs, so I was merely happy that I got to keep a few of my more beloved classes/students, and merely horrified to discover that I was keeping my evil seventh graders, who now are evil eighth graders. The K-pop band beast is no less popular with the change in grade. They also took a rather low blow at my ability to teach them, more on that later.

Some of the parents on the island are insane, and a little pathological in their insistence that their kids study 10-15 hours a day. But that discussion is for another time, perhaps after I leave Korea. However, one parent lashed out at her kid because of a “horrible” report card comment I had written. My Korean co-teacher came in one day to tell me that the girl was crying and it was very messy.

The only problem was that I hadn’t written a bad rc comment. In fact, from my memory, I had written a glowing report of the student, whose hogwon name is “Isabella.”

My comment read something like this:

“Isabella is a really nice girl and she’s very smart. She studies and does well, even though sometimes she gets a little distracted. I enjoy having her in my class.”

The d-word was the instigator here. Apparently distracted is too strong a word to use because its going to cause a parent to flip out and bring their child to tears. Oh well, lesson learned I guess. Nice to know that there are people who understand how to accentuate the negative and ignore everything else.

I do that all the time myself. Unfortunately, there is nobody whose life I can (legally) make miserable except my turtle, and I love my turtle, so I would never do anything to hurt my turtle, except to forget to feed him for two weeks.  (not that this would actually hurt my turtle. nothing can hurt my turtle. my turtle is invincible. he has a new tank, new ‘gourmet’ turtle pellets that he doesn’t eat, and yet he’s as lively as ever)

I had the rare opportunity to teach two students one-on-one in two different one-man classes. One of them was learning “base camp 1”, which is the first in a series of silly books that teach the kids essentials like the timless song “WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TOY? ROBOTS. ROBOTS. I LIKE ROBOTS. HOW ABOUT YOU? I LIKE ROBOTS TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”

The other kid had never studied English before and was learning phonics and the alphabet. This was a lot of fun because I had never taught this before, and I was really excited to see him making progress every day. I went to Home Plus, the korean equivalent of Wal-Mart, and bought a bunch of magnetic English letters to place around the room and we did lots of games with those.

Then Peter and Jack (those were their names, respectively) both got moved to a different class, because Yale generally likes to consolidate classes when it can. The only problem is that NOW I’m teaching a four-student class, with the kids at three different stages of learning the material. Poor Peter is learning “words” that he can’t even spell. I imagine his understanding of the material to be something like that this.

Me: “What’s this?”

Peter: “That’s a teacher.”

Me: “Why is that a teacher?”

Peter: “Because yesterday in the computer lab the computer said that this picture was a teacher.”

Me: “What letter does teacher start with?”

Peter: “Let’s see here…w!”

Stay tuned.

Apparently it’s springtime, because by the end of the day I have a manly man’s odor, at least according to my 8L class. It took three weeks, one boss, and two co-workers to deliver this message to me. It’s nice to know that even in the Internet age a passive-aggressive culture will find ways to delay and obscure such material.

Also, it was nobody’s fault but my own, but HOLY SHIT WHY IS THERE EGG IN MY HAIR???????????????????????????????AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

If anyone ever asks to test an egg to see if its hard boiled or not, do not volunteer your own. All I’m getting out of it is a free beer tomorrow, and I discovered soon thereafter that it is not worth it. Not even worth six beers, IMO. Someone said it was good because it made my hair look “shiny.”

I don’t need my hair to look shinier! My hair is one of the few things people praise generally about my appearance! Lots of things would make your hair look shinier, that doesn’t mean they belong there. Would you put shoe polish in your hair? Mercury? Have you seen “There’s Something About Mary”?

At least it gave me a good reason to have a shower. And if my hair smells like rotten egg tomorrow, I guess I’ll hear about it three weeks later.

Jeju City Smackdowns: Bars and Indian Restaurants

Since I am now the King of Poetry on Jeju (can a King make his own official title?), I will post at least one haiku every day this week. And maybe I’ll even write about the Haiku death battle which happened.

This morning’s haiku:





: (


A few weeks ago I wrote this:

“After a long and mostly crappy weekend, March is finally here. That means springtime, baseball, and a new paycheck…generally lots of things I’ve been waiting for for a very long time.”

Now its deep into March and I haven’t posted anything on this blog.

A few weeks I suffered severe burns from an explosion of Korean club culture so tacky the only way I was able to recover the next day was to get the song “Private Eyes” stuck in my head. Then I freaked out a friend because I texted them that private eyes were seeing their every move, and I had to apologize later.

But I should mention that I really really liked the Aromadome. The venue is in such bad taste that in the right frame of mind (ahem) it is the perfect way to spend the first hours of a Sunday.

I should also mention that I completely avoided the ridiculous cover charge (20,000 won!) by sneaking in with a bunch of ladyfriends. This dramatically helped me appreciate the experience since there was no money at stake.

The Aroma Dome is a giant four-story nightmare whose roof opens up every ten or fifteen minutes in between crazy hyper-kinetic dance “shows” that the whole crowd participates in. The Dome is the signature calling of the club, and it looks like this:

The rest of the place is decked out in horrible retro-future decor. Think lots of bright laser lights revolving around, tons of weird metal scaffolding. It would be a great place for a rave. Kind of like if people had hosted a dance party in the trash compacter on the Death Star.

The security there is also dressed up in these weird light-up business suits. A DJ comes down from this platform and makes some loud cat-calls at the audience while    on a separate stage above the dance floor, this weird troupe in skin-tight silver suits is performing a choreographed shit show.

I know it’s hard to believe considering what I’ve just wrote, but part of me wishes I could spend every evening from 1 to 4 am there. To make sure things get funky, I would like to promise myself that the next time I’m there I’m going to either:

a. going to join the performers on the dance floor

b. going to at least take my shirt off

c. demand a Korean woman from the waitstaff since apparently this is appropriate, or so I’ve been told. Maybe that’s what the 20,000 won cover charge is for.

I wish I convey with pictures some idea of this place, but the only photo I found is this:

That’s the roof opening up.

Over on the other side of Jeju, near City Hall (where most of the foreigners are hanging out on the weekends), is another bar I went to called Red Cats.

Red Cats is located just below the gutted space formerly known as the Reggae Bar, which had a really attractive Russian bar wench but not enough reggae, and closed due to the lack of a keyboard or piano to use on open mic nights.

On the night the Reggae Bar was closing, my co-worker Charlotte said she wasn’t having fun so I downed a bottle of soju (foul tasting rice wine vaguely like vodka) and then “found” the fun at the abandoned bar downstairs at Red Cats, a wasteland of dusty cement and aluminum tubing so thoroughly gutted that there was a hole in the toilet that went down into the floor below.

And at first it was really funny. One of us took a piss through the hole in the floor. I won’t say who because its not very flattering information but you have a 50% percent of being right with your guess. I tried pole dancing with the tube shit coming down from the ceiling.

But then it turned out that an empty bar isn’t meant to have any patrons. When you come from a drink at Red Cats, you don’t leave. The door only opened one way and when we were really to “close our tab” it turns out I had locked us in.

So me and Charlotte spent the next twenty minutes trying frantically to open the windows, all but one of which was sealed shut. I spent a lot of time banging on the door and screaming to try to get someone on the other side to hear me. I tried screaming through the hole in the bathroom in case someone on the floor below could hear.

At least nobody had a breakdown. Nobody cried. I’m pretty sure Charlotte kind of gave up after a while, but this could just be selective memory/dramatic effect.

Anyway, after 30 frustrated minutes in a place that was not really meant for human beings any more, someone let us out. Not a grand finish,  I know, but its 4 am and I’m supposed to play tennis in 5 hours.

The original title of this post, written about two weeks ago, mentioned Indian restaurants. That will have to come later.

At various points over this week I hope to write about: Dinosaur World Theme Park, an abandoned resort called the “Paradise Hotel”, the new school year on Jeju, some staff changes at Yale Academy, the Haiku Death Battle, and motorcycles.