We got back from our honeymoon last Sunday. We went to Vanuatu for about five days. As well as the traditional Vanuatu people there are also many Australians, New Zealanders, French and Chinese there. Many many Chinese owned shops. That’s not that unusual as Chinese people are spread all around the world. Koreans, less so. We were curious though. Are there any Koreans in Vanuatu?
Port Vila, where we stayed, is the capital of Vanuatu and it’s pretty small! The population is about 40 thousand. We started realising that many of the cars on the road were Korean. Not just Korean brand but second hand cars imported from Korea. Many still had the original hangul on them saying this mini bus was for children or old people. Someone must be importing Korean cars, surely they would be a Korean person?
Two days passed and no sign of any Koreans until one time we were being driven back to our resort and up on a hill, near a Thai restaurant, I saw a sign that said ‘Korean Restaurant’. Surely Koreans run that! I could see the sign but I couldn’t see exactly where the restaurant was. Every time we were driven on that road I looked for the sign but I couldn’t be sure if there was actually a restaurant there. There were buildings there but were they just a hotel? Maybe there was one that had shut down and the sign was old.
On our last afternoon there (we were flying out the next day) we found ourselves with not much to do. We’d spent the morning snorkeling and jet boat riding and we’d caught a bus instead of being driven in the resort van, so we had no driver waiting for us. We thought- let’s have an adventure! This was our last chance to find out if there really was a Korean restaurant there.
We knew the sign we saw for the Korean restaurant was quite far from the centre of town and we only had a vague idea of the direction it was in. We started in that direction anyway. We stopped and asked people on the way but they didn’t seem to know where it was- they weren’t even sure of the Thai restaurant we knew was near it. We walked for over an hour and guessed which streets to turn in to. I started giving up hope of finding it but my husband was adamant that we were going the right way. Normally I would not trust him as he has a terrible sense of direction but this time I didn’t argue. Maybe being a Korean his nose was leading him towards Korean food? haha.
Finally we saw the sign for the Thai restaurant and just a bit further along was the sign for the Korean restaurant. We couldn’t see the restaurant though, just a large parking area. We asked some people who were sitting around if there was a Korean restaurant here and they pointed us to the large newer looking building at the back of the parking area. Lots of people seemed to be going through a door. Balloons were everywhere. What was this?
We stepped inside and I saw a man I knew must be Korean. He was greeting everyone that was entering this large room where it looked like a party was being held. I asked if he was Korean and I quickly said “My husband is Korean” and pushed my husband forward. They spoke in Korean and soon we were ushered into the room and welcomed.
It turns out this was the celebration of the Korean restaurant opening (it opened officially the next day). There was food and entertainment and real Koreans! After trudging up stupid hills for the past hour it was amazing to walk into something like this. Apparently there was once a Korean restaurant here that had shut down but this man was reopening it.
The owner was really happy to have us unexpectedly arrive because apparently a honeymoon couple visiting for the opening brings good luck. That made me feel better about us gorging ourselves on all the free food!
There was a mix of people at the party but the Korean people there soon realised my husband was Korean (though some thought he might have been Japanese at first). There are only about 50 Koreans in Vanuatu so a new Korean face is a novelty. Most of the Korean men were much older than my husband but were so keen to talk to him. He collected several business cards.
The entertainment was traditional islander dances performed by dance troops that were really great. There was food in abundance- including a roast pig. It was amazing that we had stumbled across this just at the right time.
One man in particular was very keen to talk to my husband. We were introduced to his family and invited to his home. It turns out he is one of the people importing Korean cars to Vanuatu! He’d come here and built up his business which was so successful he had recently built a large house. They have two young daughters who speak both English and Korean but also that night two other young Korean girls were staying so we were confronted with four very loud bilingual children! I went swimming with them while my husband retreated to the kitchen to talk with the father.
We had a really nice time with this family and were invited to stay with them next time we come back to Vanuatu. I have no idea how we managed to arrive at exactly the right time for the celebrations and then meet such lovely welcoming people. I would have given up half way but my husband insisted we were walking up the right hill. I’m guessing it really was his nose leading him towards the smell of food. Or maybe there was something more innate and he could sense where fellow Koreans were?
The next morning before our flight out we went back to the restaurant (this time we told a bus driver exactly where to go) and had a meal (will post review of it.) We talked again to some people we had met the night before- including the very kind owner. All too soon we had to leave.
Vanuatu is a really great country to visit. It is beautiful and the people there are so lovely. We had an awesome time and we did some amazing things and saw some amazing things. What happened on the last night was the least expected thing though!