Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend 12 of 52.

Jagalchi Fish Market, Haeundae Beach, Busan Aquarium, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Oryuk Islets

Friday was Buddha's Birthday. To celebrate, Dan, Korrine, Dave (Korrine's boyfriend, Canadian), and I spent a long weekend in Busan, south South Korea. To get there, we bought Korail KR Passes, which effectively functioned as a non-guarantee for standby/standing room only. On a holiday weekend during which every Korean is headed to Busan, I would recommend that you bypass the information desk, figure out when a train is leaving and then hop on early and establish your standing room dominance. When we asked for help in Seoul, they basically told us there was no way we'd get to Busan, that even standing room was booked out. But we got there, and it was not even hard. When we asked for help in Busan, they basically told us there was no way we'd get home, that even standing room was booked out. But we got here, and it was not even hard. Maybe it's a fire hazard thing? Each of us ended up with room to sit (on a luggage rack, on a fold down chair, on the floor) the whole way both ways.

When we got to Busan, the first thing we did was head to a bank for Dave to get cash. We had intended to eat lunch in Chinatown, right across from the station, but some suspiciously friendly English-speaking Koreans advised us to head down to Jagalchi Fish Market for more food options (they cited Vietnamese, Korean, and Western style food). Then they handed us some Watchtower Literature, so Jehovah's Witnesses. This would have been fine, but once we got to the Jagalchi Fish Market, we were greeted only by a plethora of fish restaurants. After walking through the market, none of us were in the mood for fish.

Hey, but then we found the tourist center, so we picked up a map and took an incredibly long, expensive taxi ride to Haeundae Beach. Haeundae Beach promised cosmopolitan dining opportunities, and we found a fancy burger place at which to dine outside in the perfect summer weather. Then we walked down to the water. Dave was the first in, but he's Canadian. Korrine went next and froze. It was the coldest water I have ever been in, and I've taken cold-water-only showers at summer camps. So cold that your body couldn't adjust, that your fingers tingled and your legs burned. That explains why only we and a couple kids even messed with it. Even still, one end of the beach was packed with fully dressed Koreans and sun-bathing foreigners.

Busan Aquarium is an underground aquarium right on Haeundae Beach, so we cleaned up and walked over. It was a fine aquarium. What was less fine was how I was unapologetically trampled by a toddler whose mother just laughed and moved on. I know I'm a big white person and there is a distinct language barrier, but I am familiar with the Korean expression of remorse, and giggling is not it. So that put me in a bad mood for the remainder of our aquarium perusal.

At least we got to eat chicken galbi for dinner at Yoogane, fast becoming one of my favorite Korean foods and restaurants. We also successfully haggled down a purse price in an underground shopping center. Dan and I are not haggling people, so it was quite a rush. We sealed the deal by having only so much cash on our person. The shopping center itself was my favorite so far.

Saturday morning, Dan and I tried out Papparoti's for breakfast. Dan had some roti buns, regular and chocolate, and I had an Americano and found some McVitie's Digestive biscuits at a gas station. Excellent. Then began our labored journey to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. It started when we missed the 181 bus because its bus stop had been ground up for construction. Then we watched as every other bus in the universe came ten times before ours even came back once. So, of course everyone at the bus stop was waiting for 181, and, because of Buddha, they were all riding it all the way out to the temple. And thus commenced a miserable forty minute bus ride, followed by a rainy, muddy trek up the hill to the temple, followed by a packed queue across the bridge to the temple. At least it was pretty and decorated with more paper lanterns.

For the commute home, we gave up and took a cab.

So then we thought we'd be smart and buy tickets for our cruise to the Oryuk Islets ahead of time (literally "five or six" islets, because, depending on the water level, they appear to be five, sometimes six rocks) and then get lunch. But when we got there, we couldn't communicate well enough to know if/when there was a cruise later than 3:30, so we bought tickets for 3:30, and amassed a pretty decent collection of convenience store food for our half hour meal time.

The cruise was my favorite activity. It wasn't overcrowded, and it was relaxing like a vacation should be, and the islets were very impressive. It was nice to see Busan from a distance, too, to get a feel for the scope of the city. After the cruise, it started (and probably still hasn't stopped) pouring. That limited our desire to round out our Busan weekend with much more than dinner, which was a hot pot style meat/noodle/vegetable soup in a wok and unlike anything else we've yet had in Korea (I meant to remember the name, but I've forgotten it), and dessert, hot chocolate and pastries.

I forgot to mention our hotel accommodations. We unwittingly stayed in a love motel, which is exactly what you're thinking it is. It was cheap and clean with a circle bed, a huge TV and fast internet, free orange juice and corn water (sick!), and a really, really nice shower.

As you can see, we traveled in style.

Rice paddies.

World Famous Jagalchi Fish Market.

This man was filleting something, and when he whacked its head through the nail at the top of the post, I jumped.

And then the fellow manning the sea cucumber booth laughed and started making water guns out of these guys.

I drank some Dr. paper at lunch.

Huge fishing poles for sale. And Dan in the tourist center. He appears to be slightly under-dressed.

Haeundae Beach.

Korrine has a waterproof camera, so she was able to take photos more liberally. Also, she's always better about getting pictures of Dan and me than we are. Photos by Korrine.

Dan employing his perfect floating technique. He learned it from his father. How he managed to fully immerse himself in frozen water, I do not know. Photos by Korrine.

These kids were some of the only kids playing in the water. The girl laughed hysterically anytime a wave (made by a man on a Sea-Doo) came.

Koreans in jeans under umbrellas.

Keep off the grass or talk on your cell phone in it. Photos by Dan.

Korean girls almost never wear appropriate footwear. Case in point.

Giant ant.

No smoking/Welcome bunny!

Fish to look at, not to eat.

Do not put your hands in here.

Shark tank.

School tank.

Underwater scene.

Jellyfish. This is when that kid stood on me.

Green and upside down jellyfish. I wonder if you can make a cake out of that.

Dan and a dan mask, whatever that means.

Kids getting bored waiting for the end to their dad's photo-opping.

Trumpet fish kiss.

They had those underwater tunnels. I like that.

Having finally made it to Yonggungsa Temple.

Dave and Dan posing by some statues. Photos by Korrine.

It was quite pretty, and I bet that it's peaceful on every day other than the highest Buddhist holiday.

Dan on a hand.

Not ready yet, but Korrine was ready for hers.

Heading out to the Oryuk Islets.

I don't know how differently to caption a bunch of photos of rocks.

This lighthouse island is the only one inhabited.

Daring fishers fishing! How they got out there is anybody's guess.

Back to the city.

This kid was hanging out with us on the boat. He kept saying hello and then he wanted a picture taken. Korrine taught him the English version of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. There couldn't be a shorter name for that song?

Our train ride home.

Triple-paned glass.

I'm not going to lie, I missed Seoul.


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