Picture the scene: I want Thai food on a Wednesday evening. I post on Facebook to see if there is anywhere to obtain on the regular Thai cuisine. I am thwarted — although Austin, the proprietor of O’Briens in Changwon puts on a fine Thai Green Curry, I hear. In the last post I made I noted there was a certain dichotomy between the geographical and relative size and the actual, practical spatial properties of foreign countries that can take the unprepared unaware.
It’s easy to get lost when you don’t know where you are, have no reference points. Luckily for many ex-pats the now-ubiquitous GPS services available on most cell phones places a greater emphasis on the abilities of Google et al to be able to successfully map locales rather than the navigational fortitude of the intrepid foreigner looking to get some tasty food. It seems the only way to get lost now is temporally, perhaps, or by leaving your phone at home. But to leave at home a device that literally points you in the right direction and saves millions of hours a year when it comes to navigation (nb. I have no source for that statistic) would be akin to blindfolding yourself to see if you can work out where you are by feel and noise alone. While this may serve some purposes, I have in my head only a small number of specific circumstances and it is best that I had my GPS-equipped phone on me when I ventured out on the meandering 105 to find an Asia Mart and the Thai ingredients I was looking for.
The 105 takes a tour past my house in Dogye-dong, Changwon (a kind of between-point for Changwon and Masan and certainly not too far from Jinhae, especially when driving across the brand new highway that extends from Dong-eup to the Anmin Tunnel — I once made it to work from Jinhae in 25 minutes, less time than it took me from my house, 12 miles away). While my house serves the decent purpose of being roughly 5,000 won in a taxicab to either Masan or Changwon downtown it doesn’t quite have the same feeling of the true intersection between the three cities that falls around the Bongam area. This Bermuda-esque strip of road that falls under the general jurisdiction of Bongam-dong. Crossing the bridge over the river that provides so much of Changwon’s industrial fortitude with cooling on a bicycle during the twilight hours and returning in darkness is one of the best repeatable experiences I have had the pleasure of throughout my time in this region. The smokestacks cutting into the skyline to the backdrop of mountains is an image that never seems to stop evoking something in me that I can’t quite understand and don’t really want to.
This strip — a big, 8 lane highway either tends towards complete desertion or total stymation by traffic depending on the time of day plays host to a number of interesting stop off points. The Bongam Reservoir consistently remains one of my favorite places owing to its absolute beauty — amplified in the rain — and the number of excellent parties I’ve been to there. There’s an out-of-place Black Face (surely Black Face is out of place anywhere) and a couple of car dealerships. Before you hit the Masan Gosok Bus Terminal the sparse area will gradually fade away and become a large-scale Asian id est. non-Korean Asian market replete with a delightful selection of Asian foods. While I would normally visit the large-scale Asian id est. non-Korean Asian market replete with a delightful selection of Asian foods available near Changwon Hospital, I decided today to take the trip down to Masan so that I could stop by Pizza da Genna nee. Pizza da Gennaro and eat a Delicious Bismarck Pizza — named presumably for the German battleship. It was only proper. More on this later.
So it was that I found myself in gym clothes (huge baggy tracksuit pants and a t-shirt and my friend Khagan’s grey Nike hoodie) on bus number 105 getting off at the Jayumuyeokjiyeokhumun or ‘that stop near the bus terminal’ for short.
The 105 neglects the bridge across from Changwon and the Jinhae STX building and rather turns through Palyong-Dong and works its way ploddingly to the Gosok Bus Terminal via every side road imaginable, running parallel to the number 14 highway that navigates Masan. Having previously forced myself to go to the gym and forced myself to go to the Asia Marts later I became filled with a sense of introspection which quite effectively matched the rainy spring day I was finding my way across. A short (very short) walk in the rain later and I was at the Asia Mart, of which there are maybe four or five in the area. Due to the introspection and maybe partly the rain I wasn’t hugely interested in exploring anywhere outside of this shop so began to do what I’d come to do: get Thai foodstuffs.
This Asia Mart in retrospect wasn’t anything that special but there was certainly a good collection of Thai and other foreign beer while their curry paste selection was second to none in any Asia Mart I have visited. Their other foreign foods viz. Western bits and pieces didn’t match Costco and especially didn’t match High Street Market in Itaewon (Kraft Dinner, anyone?) but the female owner’s disposition more than made up for it. She offered me an umbrella on my way out, an offer that I refused because sometimes getting a bit rained on is just what you need on a quiet Tuesday. I left with everything that I’d wanted to get and a decent amount more besides and got it all for a reasonable price.
There is a large beckoning market sign right near the entrance of the Asia Mart that I should almost definitely have visited but given the rain and introspection in addition to not realizing this series would be written I walked away with what I had, feeling pretty satisfied. I walked over to the nearest GS25 and got myself a small can of Cass Light and sipped it as I walked to the next bus stop to head to the pizza parlor. It was here where Masan really began to permeate — I could feel it sort of soaking into my skin. The clash of industry next to the sea and the large buildings and frankly outsized highways near the five-way intersection by the bus terminal inspired something in me. It was a sense of a place that I’d never been to before. I wondered about the properties that this specific area possessed that made it feel completely so alien to me; but I didn’t wonder for long as the bus promptly came and I started thinking about pizza.
Buses serving the Masan Asia Mart area, Bongam-dong (from Changwon): 105 (it is possible to get other buses that come near, especially to the Gosok Bus Terminal)
Lunch: Pork and chicken Thai green curry in coconut milk served with pho rice noodles and an assortment of cruciferous green vegetables. It ain’t easy being green.
View Masan Journeys in a larger map