You know, I have to say that this vacation really has been an interesting and new experience for me.
Ever since I started traveling on my own I’ve tried to keep my trips as high-paced and packed with activities as possible. I try to make the most out of every single minute I have. With this in mind, I was a bit apprehensive at first about coming to Korea with a group of friends who have spent most of their lives living here; certainly they wouldn’t be as enthusiastic as myself about walking around every day until their feet hurt and their camera memory fills to the brim.
But you know, there’s really something cool about traveling like I’m not traveling. Even though I might not be out running around during every free minute, I feel like for these last few days I’ve just been living as someone who grew up in Busan might: going to hang out with my friends at the beach, grabbing a quick bite at a local food stand, or killing a few hours on my day off from school. A foreign country through the eyes of a native. Pretty cool stuff.
So after waking up bright and early at the beachfront Chimjilbang (Korean Bathhouse), Chie, her brother, and myself continued on to a nearby beach (the name of which I can’t remember) for some random chilling. We were a bit bummed that the sky was completely overcast and the temperature seemed to be rapidly dropping ever since my arrival, but luckily the New Year’s holiday kept a fair number of people out and about so it still had a pretty active feel.
We started by watching a sand sculptor work a bit of his magic. Since he had just begun a new project, Chie asked what he was working on. When he responded she blushed and the audience giggled. He spoke again. She turned bright red, grabbed me and ran away laughing.
Apparently instead of simply answering her question he chose to respond with a borage of compliments: “Oh my god, are you miss Korea? You look just like a doll! Isn’t she cute everyone? Everyone, look how cute she is! Everyone, look!”
I thought it was pretty funny because I had no idea what was going on until after it was already over. Apparently he figured as much, because when she explained what he had been saying and I turned around for a quick glance he was waiting for my look with a peace sign and a huge grin.
A few moments later Chie’s brother came running towards us with a bag of prawn chips. “It’s for the seagulls!” he told us. So we held them up in our hands and prayed not to get pooped on.
In this endeavor, we succeeded.
From here we grabbed a quick bite (not prawn chips) and continued on to Seomyeon, the “Shinjuku of Busan” as I like to call it. If you recall, Shinjuku is the mega-center of Tokyo, packed to the brim with insanity.
As you might expect, Seomyeon featured an ample supply of bright lights, tall buildings, electronics stores, street food vendors, and all of the other wonderfulness that makes an Asian city an Asian city…but having experienced Tokyo as many times as I have I can’t say that I found it quite as shocking as a first timer might.
What I did find surprising, however, were the Korean cellphones.
They somehow managed to be even more advanced (is that possible?) than the Japanese ones, featuring all of the obvious features (you know, like televisions, radios, digital cameras, digital video cameras, mp3 players, GPS, popcorn machines, kitchen sinks) in much smaller packages and with much higher specs.
After Seomyeon it was on to Busan University, or as I like to call it “fuel for my jealousy.”
Now don’t get me wrong here, I absolutely love both UCSD and Ritsumeikan…but there’s something cool about stepping outside the gates of a University and finding slightly under six billion delicious/cheap restaurants, bars, shops, arcades, and internet cafes. It makes lunch hour a hell of a lot more fun, I can tell you that much.
For comparison, my lunchtime inner-monologue at Ritsumeikan usually goes something like this:
Day 1: “I’m hungry, what shall I eat? Katsudon.”
Day 2: “Man, I could really use a bite to eat. Let’s see…how about Katsudon.”
Day 3: “It’s 12:10, time for lunch! Well, there aren’t any reasonably priced restaurants around here, so I guess I’ll grab some Katsudon at the shokudo.”
Day 4: “Man, starting to get tired of Katsudon….but it’s better than karaage ramen (i.e. deep-fried chicken in pig fat broth). Katsudon it is!”
On the other hand, I would imagine that it goes something like this at Busan University:
“Man, I started out the day with $10 in my wallet and I’m already so stuffed with deliciousness that it hurts…but there’s so much more I want to try and I’ve still got $8 to blow! What should I do??”
…Which reminds me, I’ve yet to even mention the awesomeness that is Korean food.
But I’ll save that for tomorrow :)**