Sunday, September 22, 2013

What We Saw in Busan

We took a trip to Busan. It's a coastal city to the south of us here in Korea.

It seems like most days feel like an adventure in Korea. Everything is new. Everything is 10xs harder than they would normally be. So this trip seemed a bit overwhelming (to say the least), being that we'd be traveling across Korea with only a handful of Korean words/phrases.

But we left with our backpacks, money, on-line bus confirmation, directions on how to use the subway, motel confirmation, and swimsuits. "We're on an enchanted journey 1, 2, 3..."

We took the 823 bus headed for (we hoped!) the downtown bus terminal. An older woman got on, I gave her my seat. I asked, "Shilay homnida (excuse me)." She looked surprised. I pointed at my map of where the bus terminal was located. She pointed ahead to where we were driving and then pointed at herself. I took this to mean: "We haven't passed it yet. It's still ahead. That's where I'm getting off too." Twenty minutes later, she stood up, looked back at me, and motioned for me to get off. Sigh of relief.

We get off and look at our notes. A kind Korean woman with excellent English says, "Do you need help?" Why yes, yes we ALWAYS need help. She translated some info for us and directed us across the street to the express bus terminal. Oh, of course! So sweet.

We got inside and got our tickets. It's only been an hour. We're tired and hungry. 

We got us some bi bim bop at the bus station. In Korean.

No warnings. No announcements. Gratefully, we were there on time and we made our bus. We finally got a look at Cheongju from afar. It felt good to see something green.

We watched a movie. Stopped at a rest stop. Four hours later, the bus stopped and people got off. Apparently, we were in downtown Busan (though we could've been somewhere else and we wouldn't have known...) and we wanted to get to the ocean where we'd be staying. We had directions to get on the subway and take three different transfers. We tried to navigate the automated ticket station and probably annoyed the long line behind us, but we got tickets!

Then, we figured out the map. Easy, right?

Ahhh, sweet success!

We got off the subway at Haeundae station and found our hotel. Yay! We felt like such grown-ups. We   strolled around the area, found the beach, and went after food. But not any food, Mexican food! And we found it: Fuzzy Navel Tacos. And what did I order? French fries. But they were covered in cheese, so the meal still accomplished exactly what I wanted out of Mexican food anyway.

With a side of pickles? Okay.

I kind of liked it. 
On our first day, we went on a walking adventure to the beach and up Dalmaji hill. I heard there was a trail that gave the illusion that you were out of the city. Perfect. We walked along the beach to the eastern most point and eventually found the trail that followed the coast. It's called Moontan Trail and is said to be the best place in Busan to see the moon over the water. 

Jeremy is convinced that Koreans just "don't have enough faith in their trees."
It is incredibly common to see a tree with many supports. 

Nature! Green things!
Then, we got kind-sorta lost once we came out on the other side and we've noticed how influential hunger is in making most of our decisions. So we got a taxi back to the beach and found the next leg of our food tour which was: Indian food! It was this sweet little place called Namaste. Vegetable korma was the perfect ending to a lovely day.

The next day, we met up with some Korean friends and other EPIK teachers we knew from our first week of orientation. We met up for duk-albi which is basically spicy chicken in a red sauce sauteed (right in front of you) with cabbage and other veggies. It was pretty good. I was mostly thrilled to be eating Korean food that didn't have eel in it. 

It's obvious that we really loved the bibs!

After lunch, we went to the beach. That's right, the beach. In Korea. It kinda blew our minds. We felt like grown-ups again. Look at us go.

We tried to get a picture. The ocean kept winning.

Then, WE won!
This was quite a memorable trip for many reasons:
-planning an entire trip (with help) using Korean websites
-successfully traveling and arriving safely
-feeling quite proud of ourselves for not being some of the many Western tourists
-walking the Moontan trail
-eating good food
-feeling like grown-ups

And... (as we both decided) our favorite part of the whole trip was:
-chilling on the beach

I think it was the best part for me because I was in a public space and felt like I could actually relax. I could lay on my towel, soak up the sun, listen to music, and take it all in. No agenda. No where to be. Just sitting on a beach in Korea, counting our blessings one-by-one. 

We made it "home" to Cheongju without any problems. We even met two Korean men on the bus who we pseudo-communicated with. At one point they either stole or borrowed my headphones. They gave the head phones back only so that we could listen to their Korean music on their phone. We smiled and kinda shoulder-danced in approval. I pulled out our iPad. 

They said, "Samsung?" 
We explained: Apple. 
They turned up their noses and we turned up ours. 

I showed them how to play this ridiculous game on our iPad called "Dumb Ways to Die." They chuckled. I chuckled. 

They used our iPad to get a picture of themselves. 

Day made.