Exactly like the horror film by the same name, our "Train to Busan" day started out like an apocalypse.
Yesterday I explained the basics of pollution and that a level of hazardous pollution was when the numbers on my phone go over 300... Well yesterday morning at 5:30 when he headed outside, the number was at 282.
Even in the dark, you could see the pollution. We wore masks and I also covered my mouth with a scarf, real movie apocalypse style and then we headed out. We went fast but were careful not to go so quickly that we would get tired and breathe in more air.
In the middle of the night the emergency posts at our university were blinking bright red. It's the first time I've seen the emergency lights on. We made it safely to the train station and found our train.
The journey was five hours long and it rained a lot of the way, but the landscape was pretty. The mountains looked different from the ones I know from France. There were sharp and curled up and down in a different way that gave them an air of mystery. The last hour was the prettiest when we drove past lake and sea area surrounded by mountains and the bright red and yellow weeds of winter.
At midday, we finally arrived at Busan! A busy city of colors and cool sounding dialects. A city that sleeps until late as we came to learn.
We headed straight out to take the metro. Before coming o Busan we had already picked out what we wanted to eat. Today's menu was Duck Bulgogi. Bulgogi usually consists of beef so this was something different that we wanted to try out. We had also picked out a restaurant on the way to our next stop that specialized in it, so we headed straight off.
But arrived at the subway station we were faced with our first issue. My transportation card didn't work. I had recently had trouble with my T-money so I bought one quickly from a machine, and it has worked fine, but turns out that it only works on busses and trains in in Seoul... *sigh*
Anyways I bought a ticket and then we headed off, but we were too flustered from the first failure and ended up taking the metro in the wrong direction... We got off at the next station but the machine ate my ticket when I tried to transfer, so I couldn't get on again, and the machines only took 1000 won notes and I didn't have enough of them to pay for a day pass.
So we headed out into the streets of Busan to find a shop where I could spend some money to get 1000 won notes. And to our surprise every single shop was closed!
Finally I found a convenience store that was open and I bought a 800 won triangle kimbap and got my 1000 won notes. The Busan mystery was later uncovered, and we discovered that shops just only open in the afternoon on Sundays in Busan. We've maybe become a little too use to the convenience of Seoul.
We headed off to the subway again, and this time successfully arrived at the right part of town. We headed out and found the shop, and the door was open, but it was dark inside.
For a moment there I thought that we would be faced with this the entire day, but a young man headed out of the store and I asked him if it was open and he explained that the electricity had cut off because of the rain but that it was open and there was a guy from the electricity company working on fixing the situation.
There was a table with costumers inside. So we headed in too and the owner brought out candle light for us, and just before our meal came out, the electricity switched back on, so we could fully enjoy our meal of Duck Bulgogi.
What you see on the pan, is the duck meat in the bulgogi sauce and with spring onions and other ingredients. The excess fat drips down into the metal container. Otherwise the meal starts with two small pancakes. Then an egg pot is brought out and all the side dishes, as you see on the photos above. Side dishes are a big part of any regular Korean meal.
Here, if I remember correctly we see from left to right top to bottom: kimchi, unidentified side dish that I believe was some part of a pork... maybe, sweetened potato mash with cucumber and raisons, bean sprouts, pepper and garlic to put on the frying pan, and a sauce to dip in, seasoned crab (that I still have no idea how to eat), and seasoned onion with a more sour taste than in Seoul where everything is very sweet.
Kimchi is the representative side dish in South Korea anti tastes different depending on where you are. Compared to Seoul Kimchi, Busan Kimchi is fresher and more salty. Fits with the general feeling of Busan which originated as a Fisher town many years ago.
To put it simply: The meal was delicious! Money well spent.
Next we headed off to Gamcheon Culture Village. Which on the map looked like it was only a little stroll away, but turned out to be a longer stroll up the mountainside.
On our long tracking road, before we were exhausted and knew what we had launched into, three high school guys were walking in front of us. One of them turned around and saw that two foreigners were catching up. He elbow his mates and said: "외국인 외국인" Which means: Foreigners, foreigners.
The two mates turned around and stared back, very obviously, while trying to be very smooth. It took them a little moment to realise because our faces were half covered up in face masks but they made a surprise face and looked back again.
We were walking faster so we were passing them by, and the first guy proceeds to say: "Hallo!" by raising his hand up in the air, for some unknown reason.
The evil voice inside me told me that this was the time to be smug, so I answered: "네, 안녕하세요?" ("Yes, hello" in Korean) and their faces dropped. and we kept walking, and then one of his friends threw his hands up on the air and covered his face, and yelled: "No! Please, Changmin-ah, don't embarrassed us like this! Don't act like a kid from the countryside." (in Korean of course) and I really struggled hard to not burst out laughing right then and there.
The road up was tough, made only a little easier by the laughter from our run in with shocked locals, and we could have taken the bus, but we did it! We made it to the top and around to Gamcheon Culture village which is a part of Busan that has gotten really famous in recent years.
All of a sudden the previously empty streets were filled with people.
Gamcheon Culture village offered a colourful and nice view of a part of Busan and lots of small and strange coffee shops and souvenir shops.
It was crowded with people but it was still possible to get around and there were a lot of viewpoints with special photo opportunities.
Busan, a city built by the seaside, slants up and down the mountainside and spans over many bays. Slender streets and alleyways corner up and down the mountainside and gives the entire city a feeling of adventure and mystery.
Every little alleyway feels like it may hide a hidden gem, and most do.
The most famous part of Gamcheon Village, is the photospot where one can sit between a statue of the Little Prince and the red Dessert Fox from the story with a view over the village.
The queue was very long and I didn't want the photo THAT much to stand in line for so long, but the fox was cute and I must admit that the little prince really encompasses well the mystery and wonder attached to this city.
The closest I could get to every fully describing it is a cross between the Miyazaki film "Kiki's Delivery Service" which depicts a European city by the seaside, with hilly landscape and a huge city that feels both big and small at the same time.
It also made me think about the village where I live in France, because it felt so familiar. The alleyways, the sloppy mountainside, the small crooked houses. Everything just felt so familiar and warm. It seemed like a nice city to live in.
There is much to say about Busan, but to put it bluntly, it's a city that made me want to sit down and write. It made me want to write not just stories set in Busan, but also stories full of mystery and intrigue and magic.
On our way back, we came across a sign that indicated which way bus 17 was, and very wisely decided that we should probably take the bus down. It made for a beautiful and nice bus ride up and down Busan's roads, to beautiful sightings of seaside and islands and sunlight shone over the city and made everything look perfect.
Our day felt like it had barely begun but our time in Busan was already coming to an end, so we decided to spend the last few hours of our Christmas Eve on the Beach in Busan.
Now Busan is known for a beach called Haeundae, but Haeundae is quite far outside the city and although we could have gone there, it is also the most famous place in Busan and usually overcrowded with tourists, so instead we headed to the real Busan beach.
A short distance walk down the hill from Geumnyeonsan station is a lovely beach called Gwangalli Beach. The famous part of Busan city is clearly visible across the bridge that is the main view from the beach.
The weather had cleared, the sun was coming in and the sunset was being reflected on the tall skyscrapers of Busan and rippling on the waterfront.
We stayed on the beach for two hours, enjoying the view, the people and having fun.
The view was really pretty and this beach was a great place to enjoy Busan for what it really is.
Most of the people on the beach were locals or people who knew Busan pretty well who came to look at the sea, or to walk their dogs, or go out for a walk with the children. The crowd gave it a very authentic feeling.
Of course, as visitors to a beach, we couldn't leave without writing something in the sand, so I wrote down our room number and our names in Korean, and took some photos before the waves washed it all away.
A lot of photos were also taken... A lot!
As the sun was setting behind the city, we went to a cafe to have something to drink and a waffle to eat and just enjoy the view. We still had about forty minutes before we had to head back to the train station for the long journey home.
And once the sun had set, the bridge was lit in colors, and the city woke to the evening life as well.
Busan is a very photogenic city. At night as at day.
Ah Busan, saying goodbye was difficult. You are a cool city. I will be back.