Back to Busan

Trip Start Jul 09, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Day 19- Back to Bussan without my flip flops
  We awoke very early to find that there was no hot water for our showers.  A quick, very cold, rinse and we were in out taxi on the way to Jeju airport.  If we thought the buses could fly through the mountains, we were not prepared for the taxi ride (especially at 6:45 in the morning). Queasily we dragged our bags through the small terminal.  Our bags only weighed 35 kg this time (we were carrying most of the weight in our backpacks).  Seeing as we were flying on a prop plane, boarding didn't begin until ten minutes before the plane took off. 
  As we waited in line for security, I looked in the orange plastic bag that Phil had asked me to carry.  In it sat all of the razors we had brought on the trip (bics, gilettes, a trimmer, and a professional grade hair cutter)!!  I looked at him in disbelief.  You expect me to bring a bright orange bag full of contraband through an x-ray machine??  At this point we had little choice, so we put the bag into a plastic container and placed it on the conveyer belt.  A woman in a bright yellow vest picked up the bag as it exited the machine.  I gave Phil a death stare, but then she just handed it to me.  Although I was relieved for a second, I began to worry about our safety.
  Phil and I discussed it, and thought that cabbing it from the airport to the hostel would be the best move (we were so tired of carrying our bags).  A man standing in front of a black taxi (which read 'best driver' across the doors), offered us a ride.  We told him our destination, and as he lifted our bags toward the trunk, he said "20,000" ($20).  We would have to settle for the second best driver, because that was double what we paid going to the airport.  We found a metered cab, and made it there (in traffic) for only 12,000 won. 
  As we stepped into our favorite little fish market hostel in Busan, we were greeted by a very excited Chen (our second favorite hostel owner).  Phil says that he's just happy because we fed his family for a month (who all sleep with him on mats in the little reception office).  Phil promised me a good breakfast (of my choice).  I picked Paris Baguette.  It's a carb paradise with every different kind of donut, bread, roll, croissant, and bagel (even some with Korean fillings).  The best part is that they cut up pieces of each type of pastry so that you can try it first.
  Later on in the day, Phil's wish was to walk through the fish market (we had only seen the parts on the way to and from the hostel).  It is mostly indoor and of the size of Tsukiji, but much cleaner and less hectic.  We noticed an upstairs, so we decided to have a look.  From the moment our feet hit the top stair, we were surrounded by women yelling at us to sit and eat at their station.  We tried to walk around to see what everyone was making, but one of the women began pounding on my back.  We scurried downstairs and out onto the street. 
  Back at the hostel, I got my daily fix of Korean TV (I swear I'm getting the Korean Direct TV package when I get home).  As I picked out my clothes for the evening, I realized that I forgot something in Jeju.  And so started the flip flop fiasco.  I've never been a flip flop girl, but I found a cute pair of black Nike Air flip flops (in America, before leaving) that were super comfortable.  I was devastated, but I sucked it up and just wore my green ones for dinner that night.
  We walked to our favorite outdoor market, because Phil wanted to try one of the outdoor seafood stands.  Along with a couple of crazy drunks (who I'm sure only sat down to stare at us), we enjoyed a fabulous fish dinner.
PFS- This was the coolest, most unique dining experience we had in Korea.  The outdoor market has a section lined with free standing stalls that specialized in simple preparations of catch of the day hauled over from the fish market two blocks away.  Picture a portable sushi bar or a small refrigerated glass counter which showcases squid, clams, urchin, snails, eel and whatever else the stall-chef likes.  We started with a panchan of cucumber with kimchi sauce and a spicy blue fish like stew with garlic, herbs, chili paste in a tomato base.  Very good with a nice little kick.  A really nice start.  I stared in the window contemplating our next dish.  The left corner was lined with giant black clams.  I pointed to them and with a big smile our chef pulled four of them out.   
  After dinner we went walking through the now familiar streets.  As we walked past the massive two floor Starbucks two trendy long-haired Korean guys stopped in front of Phil.  With a look of absolute amazement, one of the guys shouted "Handsome Boy!!".  I could not stop laughing.  I'm not even sure that they were gay, I just think they were completely enamored by him.  Phil was ready to go home after that, so we finished the party in our room with some Soju and dancing.
Day 20- What to say about Gyeongju...
  We were both exhausted this morning and slept a little too late.  We got to Busan station to exchange our voucher for the KR pass (railroad).  As we waited in line, we realized that we forgot our passports.  When we reached the counter, the woman didn't even ask for them.  She snippily took our voucher and refused to give us any help or maps for the tickets.  We had to go to the information center for train information.  We found out that we needed to go to a different station to catch the two hour train ride to Gyeognju. 
  The train was very nice.  It had plush seats that fully reclined with as much leg room as the Shinkensen.  We had reserved seats, and were the only ones in the car for the first ten minutes.  At the next stop we picked up a girl who sat right across from us.  She immediately closed the curtain (blocking our seaside view) and began chatting on her cell phone.  People began to flood the train as we made all of the local stops.  Two adorable little girls occupied the seat in front of the cell phone-talking girl, and would stare and giggle at us.  As we were leaving, the girls (prompted by their mother) said, "Bye Bye, Nice to meet you"  in the cutest little high-pitched voices.
  Of course our first stop was the tourist bureau, where we discovered that we had left all of our cash at the hostel.  After trying four banks, we were able to locate an international ATM.  With money in hand, we went looking for food (of course).  Behind the outdoor fruit market, was a covered market with a variety of fish stands (neither of us were in the mood for fish).  We found an interesting little stand which served noodles and soup, so we gave it a shot.
PFS- pumpkin soup, roll, cold broth
  As we waited for the bus to the Bulgaksa Temple, we ran into a very annoying Canadian kid, his father, and Korean girlfriend.  He was an oddball sort of D&D-looking guy who immediately had to tell us that he was living in Korea teaching English.  Since we started our trip, we have learned that the Americans and Europeans (also the Aussie's and the Kiwi's) seem to follow a sort of caste system.  Depending on your mode and reason for travel, you are put into different groups and judged accordingly.  Straight tourists being at the lowest level.  Us mid-range backpackers are somewhere in the middle (those camping and hitchhiking are more respected).  The English teachers overseas seem to battle with the professional travelers for title of the Kings of the forest. 
  Bulgaksa is situated on top of a steep hill, and the bus drops you off at the base.  The long hike up is decorated with countless stands selling everything from knickknacks to ice cream to larvae.  Yes, larvae.  Those little meeley worms are sitting in a cast iron pot with a big ladel.  We were informed that the kids love them.  With the hot summer sun, and the long walk ahead, we opted out of trying them. 
  The temple looked similar to all of the previous ones we have visited.  As we began to swear off ever paying admission to one more temple, we stumbled upon a rock garden.  Visitors would stack the rocks in tall columns.  I'm not sure if each stone was a wish, but I made one for each rock in my tower (which totally was the best one there).
  Phil promised that I could get an ice cream on the way back.  Before I could ask the woman what flavors she had, she stacked three brightly colored scoops on my cone- grape, banana, and melon.  On the bus ride back from the temple, we sat at the very back seat (our favorite spot).  A man sat next to us and took out his cell phone.  We expected to hear another obnoxiously loud phone conversation.  We were shocked when we heard music coming out of it.  It was also an MP3 player, and it had to have been at full volume.  A few minutes later, the bus driver stopped the bus, got up and started screaming.  I thought that someone in this country was finally putting their foot down to the incessant noise on public transportation.  I looked over to the rude passenger to see his reaction, but he was staring at us.  The bus driver was letting us know that this was our stop.  As we looked out the window, however, we saw that the museum we wanted to visit was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields.  We shook our hands signaling, "forget it", and were able to listen to a few more songs.
  Looking for the Astronomical Conservatory, we were stuck walking around the Royal Tombs.  The tombs are just massive mounds.  They resemble little land fills where some grass has begun to grow.  By the time we reached the other side of the tombs, we were too tired to go any further.  We stumbled back to the train station, and traded in our 8:00pm train tickets, for 6:00pm ones.  We felt quite disappointed with Gyeogju.  The best part of the day was waiting for the train, watching the Korean Idol finale.  It was hard to pay attention to the "I believe I can fly" duet, though, when the drunk station guys started fighting over a vending machine.
  On the train ride home, I got very upset with Phil about a hotdog.  He had promised me one, and then was making me feel guilty about getting it (he was no longer in the mood for one).  We both said some things we shouldn't (like: "all you care about is food").  Needless to say, the night was shot.  I went to bed crying, and Phil went to bed hungry.  I think that the only thing we fight about is food.
Day 21-  Some Culture in Busan.
  When you turn on the TV in Korea, you are bound to see one of two things: animals or singing.  This morning, as we were getting ready to go out, we watched animals.  Puppies, kittens, bunnies, baby bears, and baby lions.  They really love watching these cute little animals fighting and playing with each other.  I suppose some of the stuff borders on animal cruelty (PETA would have a field day), but they seemed to be pretty well treated.  Phil and I decided on McDonalds for breakfast.  We were dying for eggs and cheese, so we each got a breakfast sandwich.  Sausage, egg mcmuffin for me, bacon and egg for Phil.  It was amazing!  Out of curiosity we looked around the restaurant to see what everyone else was eating.  We were shocked with what we saw- ice cream.  Everyone was eating hot fudge sundae's, at 9:00am. 
  On the subway heading to the Busan Museum, we discovered that we had forgotten the camera.  Our plans for the day included museums and cultural sites, and we would have no pictures to prove that we did anything in Korea (other than eat).  I felt a little better when Phil bought me flip flops in the subway (really cute pink and white ones). 
  The Busan museum was beautiful.  It reminded me of a Washington D.C. museum, very sterile with marble and granite.  We paid our admission (50 cents each), and were given headsets with English information that would prompt automatically as you stepped in front of each exhibit.  The museum went in chronological order, starting with Neolithic times.  Here we saw (and heard) details of how they would flatten baby's heads using rocks and logs.  Supposedly the shape of the baby's head would determine their status.  The best part of the museum was a special art showing in one of the hallways.  They had Korean children draw all of the exhibits in the museum and put them on display.  They were amazing. 
  The U.N. cemetery for the Korean War was only a few blocks from the museum and we decided to have a look.  It was a huge plot of land in the middle of Busan, with spectacular landscaping.  Upon entering the cemetery, we saw the plaque which outlined the number of people, from each country, that were buried here.  The U.S. had very few compared with British (800 people).  We later found out that most Americans were shipped home to be buried.  The few that were buried here had died after the war, and wished to have Busan as their final resting place.  A short English movie was shown in the war memorabilia hall, for which we were the only two watching (in fact, the whole cemetery was pretty much empty).  The movie was short, but very well put together.  We learned that the Korean War was the very first U.N. war. 
  As we looked for the subway, we saw a huge driving range, and thought it might be fun to hit a couple of balls before returning to our hostel.  After hearing the price (over $20 a person), we realized neither of us were that interesting in golf.  Still looking for the subway, we passed the University which led into an adorable town with loads of shops, restaurants, and bars (it reminded us of Shibuya in Tokyo).  We bought and ice cream and headed down into the subway.    
  We wanted to secure our seats on the KTX for the train to Seoul tomorrow, so we made a stop at Busan Station.  We ran through the pouring rain from the subway to the train station and bought the tickets.  There was a really bad singer in front of the station, but we stopped for a few minutes to listen anyway.  In the subway station, on the way home, Sound of Silence was playing through the speakers, and we thought we'd show off our vocals for the other passengers.  After all, we had to sound better than the performer we had just heard. 
  Back at the room, I painted my nails and gave myself a mini manicure.  I'd never thought I would be doing my own nails in Korea.  With my new pretty toes (I did a good job), I was ready for dinner.  We ended up at a chain Korean restaurant Nobloo.  We'd seen them quite a few times throughout our journey, and their prices were unbeatable. 
  Club Keno was exactly where we left it, so we popped in for a drink.  We were greeted by seven enthusiastic employees, and were ushered to another huge booth.  The same singer from last time was belting out some Korean classics.  Phil requested Elvis, and he sang 'Are you Lonesome Tonight'.  We decided that he should be the Korean Elvis impersonator, and we would be his agents.  This time, our beers and soju came with squid, chips, greens and peppers.  We only had one interval of dance time in us.  A big group danced together and tried desperately to emulate us.  They were awkwardly gyrating to a Christina Aguilera tune.  A wonderful last night in our new favorite city- Busan. 
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