My first full-week paid vacation came way too soon. With little left in my bank account from my three day, $500USD trip to North Korea, there wasn’t too many opinions left. So after about six days of boredom and oversleeping, I decided to investigate the KTX.
The KTX is Korea’s fastest train. It’ll take a passenger from Seoul to Pusan (Busan) in two hours and 50 minutes – that is a full cross-section journey of the entire country.
Few of my friends had any money, and most were too lazy or lame to embark on the journey, so I decided to be a true traveler and take to the tracks myself. Two hours and 50 minutes later, around noon Pacific Time, I stepped out into the fresh Pusan air.
All I knew is that I wanted to go to the beach. So I asked the closest Korean directions and jumped on a subway north to Haeundae beach.
30,000 people on one beach. Wow. There were less people at the infamous Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, Thailand. It must be a Korean thing, but there are about 15,000 colorful umbrellas set up on the beach that easily conceal all of the sand, as well as the 30,000 patrons that dwell beneath them.
The majority of them are Koreans from Seoul, and some of the most select group of woman I’ve ever seen. The rumors must be true. There is a lot of plastic surgery in Korea, because I doubt these Asian women were naturally blessed with some of those bodies.
The sun sets on my first day in Pusan. I met some Canadian English teachers on vacation in Haeundae that have now met up with more Canadian English teachers. After a couple of pitchers off the beach, we decide to head over towards a bar that offers an open bar every weekend for only 15,000won (~16.5USD).
It should come to no surprise that a French Canadians first language is French and, ironically, because of some major error in research, it is perfectly acceptable for them to be English teachers in Korea. In between a game of pool I met one such of these French Canadians who lives in Pusan teaching English, and after a couple more Jack and Cokes – and the realization that I had no place to stay that tonight – he graciously offered his pad for me to crash at.
His two story loft in a penthouse off of Haeundae is better than I could have asked for. The following day, we make do at the beach, then decide to find a taste of the West and hit up a local Quiznos.
This particular night proves to be eventful. We arrive early at a pub and start to get to it. A Korean girl and guy walk into a bar. They are: A. Here to play pool, B. Here to get liquored up, or C. In much need of relaxation after their 10 hour work day. It is of course, D. All of the above.
After a couple games of pool, Serina and Sniper (Yes, their actual English names … considering they made them up themselves, not so bad) offer a friendly wager. Best two out of three and sometime later, Nick and I go bottoms up on the bet.
“Two rounds of Tequila it is,” says Nick.
At about 4am – minus Sniper – Serina, Serina’s friend Lin, and Nick and I, go to try some authentic Pusan seafood. It is here we get to taste some amazing salmon, fresh sushi, and absolutely horrid moengkae.
Moengkae is a spiky, pulsating little shell fish that lives at the bottom of the sea, probably close to the first level of hell. The yellow slivers on my plate tasted a bit like a soggy piece of slimy cantaloupe that was left in the warm sun for half an hour. The hard exterior of this devil fish is placed as a beautiful edible centerpiece next to the fish head on the center plate. Serina ensures me that you are supposed to chew it and spit it out a minute or two later purely for the flavor, but considering that both our Korean tour guides aren’t touching the shit I decide to pass.
Serina offers to take me on a guided tour of Pusan in her car the next day. So at about 2pm, I thank Nick for the hospitality and head towards Yumong Temple on the outskirts of Pusan. It is easily the most beautiful Korean temple I’ve seen and even though it’s raining, countless Koreans have ventured out to experience its beauty.
Without further ado, I bid my new friends goodbye and board a Seoul bound KTX. They ensure me that I will always have friends and a place in Pusan, and I ensure them that it is a promise I won’t be forgetting soon.