Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Busan in Pictures, Part I

Friday night was very interesting.  We left with Gene right after work and we quickly learned two things, gas is very expensive in Korea (twice the average stateside price) and that every highway is a toll road.  Why anyone owns their own car here is completely beyond me.  It's often cheaper to take the bus and cheaper still to get on a train.

Traffic, winter weather and Gene's Grandma-like driving combined to make what should have been a four to five hour drive turn into a seven hour trek.  So, while we wrote in our hostel reservation that we wouldn't be in until 1:30 or 2am, we didn't make it there until 3:30.  When Gene found the hostel's address with his GPS, he parked and we got out to find it on foot.  We headed into an alley filled with small fish marts and feral cats.  The hostel was completely dark, but we went inside.  The owners were asleep in their office.  It's not uncommon to find people sleeping or eating in businesses, as the owners often live on the property.  We've walked into the Converse store downtown and disturbed the worker's enjoyment of a giant spread of rice and kimchi.  Work = Life and vice versa here.  Anyway, a bell rang as we walked through the door and the woman woke up.  She hardly looked at Ian and I and instead went straight to Gene.  It wasn't difficult to tell that something was going wrong.  After the two threw around Waygookin (foreigner) and Hangookin (Korean person) for a few minutes, Gene told us that she had sold the room to someone else.  Now, I'd be pretty impressed if someone managed to come after the time I specified we'd arrive and asked for a room.  My guess is, she either didn't bother to read all the info on our reservation form (it asked what time we'd be there, I didn't add it) or she saw our names and decided to play the "I don't understand" card and double sold the room.  So, Ian asked for our deposit back.  It was only 4,400 won (about $3.25), but to Ian it was about the principle of the matter.  Our guts told us that we were wronged for being foreigners and that we needed to stand up against it.  Gene told the woman that she should have called us and that she needed to give us the money back.  After a few more minutes of her arguing, she finally gave us 3,000 won and we left.  Gene led us back to the car and told us we were going to stay with him.  I think he needed to make up for what had just happened.  Gene is the type of person who would rather provide a solution at his own cost than watch someone face hardship.  

So, we drove to his parent's apartment and he put us up in his old room.  We slept in the traditional bed on the floor (there was also a twin with a frame).  It was comfortable and the heat felt good (Korean heating comes from the floor).  That was, until a few hours later when the room was roasting hot.  I did my best to sleep through it, but I only managed a few hours.  We got up around 9:45 and decided to venture out and find the bathroom.  Well, once you left the room, you were out in the open living area with the bathroom on the other side.  Gene's wife was taking a shower, so I had to wait.  While I was waiting, Ian joined me.  And Gene's parents decided to give us a warm welcome, hugs included.  All wonderful, except that we were dripping with sweat and pajama clad.  It was an uncomfortable moment, but the gesture was appreciated.

  We sat in the living room with Gene until the bathroom was free.  Then we went in to change.  While we were changing, Ian let me know that Gene told him that his mom was making us bibimbap for breakfast.  She heard we were vegetarians, so she made a special trip to the market to get ingredients just for us (I think I see where Gene's generosity comes from).  Everyone else had soup (a pretty average Korean breakfast) and we had the best bibimbap ever.  Ian and I aren't very impressed with the restaurant food here, but the homemade version is spectacular.  I think that's why Bourdain always eats once with a family in every place he travels (also, it makes for good t.v.).  Then, she served all of us a special New Year's tea.  It was chilled and it was flavored with citrus and ginger.  There was a dried persimmon in the middle.  It was amazing and I could drink it everyday.  I Googled it and discovered that it is called su jeong gwa.

After breakfast Gene, his wife and his little sister took us to the Lotte Department Store.  Korean department stores are chaotic and disorganized, no matter how expensive the wares.  So, Ian and I were a bit bored, but we know they meant well.  They showed us off to the subway (literally under the store) and we made out way to the IndyHouse Hostel (one of the best we've ever been in).

The rest of our trip was very laid back with few stories (which is good, since stories are often developed when something bad happens).  We walked a lot and saw the city and mostly relaxed.  So, I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

The neighborhood the IndyHouse is in.  It's collegiate and artsy.  We really liked it.  That's an Indian restaurant with the green sign. We never ate there, though.  Maybe next time.

There was a Starbucks near the hostel and we had this sweet potato cake there.  It was great.  It originally a slice of sweet potato on top, but we ate it before I remembered to take a photo.  We took advantage of Starbucks and got our coffee fill everyday.  Not many restaurants were open (because of the holiday), so I'm glad it was there.

Haeundae Train Station (a marker for us on our walking journeys).

Left side of Haeundae Beach.

Right side of Haeundae Beach.

On the beach!

The sand is really coarse.

Ian and I went to a place called the Fuzzy Navel near the beach for dinner.  They served Mexican food (with Beans!).  This is the lemon (as opposed to a lime) in my $5 bottle of Corona.

Chips, guacamole and Ian's knuckles.

Veggie burrito.  There are beans, cheese, olives, jalapenos and pico de gallo under that salad mess.
Oh, everything you eat with your hands in Korea comes with a towellette.

Ian and I wandered into a bookstore and perused the foreign studies section.  We found this book comprised of study questions and vocabulary enrichment for Twilight.

Haeundae Beach at night.

That night, we saw Valentine's Day (the movie theater's popcorn was infinitely better than the junk in Jecheon); and after that, we wandered around the Kyungsung University area (near IndyHouse), played videogames and eventually wandered into a bar.



Inside the KinoEye, where they confoundingly play a movie (Amores Perros, while we were there) and blast dance music at the same time.

Our hostelmates showed up a little while later.  Kris (not really in the frame) from Sydney, Nicole and Nikki from Canada and Tommy from New York.

The sign.

We got in around 4 and stayed up watching a little t.v. with Tommy until about 5, so we didn't make it out of bed until 10 or so.  But, we showered and headed out to see the city.  We had grand plans for the day, but we mostly only managed to walk from one side to the other.  I'll post the photos from Sunday and Monday tomorrow, as I think this is long enough for one go.  Good night!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great trip, even after a rocky start. that was nice of Gene's mom to make bibimbop for you. The beach looks nice. Is there a open air market there?