Korean Holiday Days 5-6: Busan

Busan Fish Market

Korea’s second biggest city is also one of the only major cities I hadn’t visited up until now, and I’d heard plenty of good things. It would be easy to summarize the Busan experience as ‘Seoul on Sea’ – it has the same big city vibe, the same neon fetish and the same endless stretches of restaurants, bars and banks. The beaches, obviously, are a big draw, though in a city of several million they are often rammed beyond belief, but beaches aside Busan has several major differences from Seoul.

Firstly, age. The average Seoulite is young and fashionable, so much so that if you fired around a few disco lights and played some loud music no one would be that surprised if that sidewalks started to throw out some flowing dance moves. Busan, on the other hand, seems to be where all Seoul’s OAPs have evacuated too. For those back in England: if Seoul is Brighton, Busan is Hastings or Worthing. That’s not to say it’s not fun, it just comes as a bit of a shock after young, vibrant Seoul.

The second really noticeable thing is pace of life. Seoul bombs along like it has a jet propelled rocket forceful inserted up it’s backside, never taking a break for five minute to enjoy the scenery. Busan, on the other hand, is a relative drifter. Just another consequence of the dramatic difference in citizen’s ages, no doubt.

I arrived in Busan on a Wednesday morning, fresh from an overnight stop in small town Goseong ( a town famous, seemingly, for it’s many varieties of peanuts and large number of dinosaurs). Busan’s refreshing uncomplicated three-line subway system led me directly to a cheap, good quality motel and then on too the infamous Jagalchi fish market. This fish market stretches for miles. Set alongside one of Asia’s biggest ports, the quantity of fish it brings in over a single day seems like enough to train the entire East Sea. On top of an umbrella covered outdoor section stretching the length of the harbour, there are also two four storey building specializing in everything from dried squid to whale meat, via just plain ordinary fish.

One particular store caught my eye: one selling turtles. I realize the hypocrisy of finding any specific meat really offensive, but the idea of eating sea turtle really bothers me. The shriveled green skin wilting shell-less in the sun looks so sad; though I guess eating them is better than catching them and throwing them back (they die anyway). Having seen that I felt it was time to move on.

I spent most of the rest of my trip hanging out on beaches. Gwangilli beach was a particularly odd one – the entire front of the beach felt enclosed. A huge suspension bridge runs from one end to the other, right across the face of the cove. Despite this it was a great place to work on my sunburn before heading back to the concrete heat of Seoul. It even had a magnificently named casino – ‘don’t gamble’ (only in Korea!), which specialized in black jack. Obviously people from Busan take Konglish to a whole new level.

Back in Seoul, just over two months more work and then it’s farewell Korea. I’d better make the most of it!

J x

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