Thursday, 24 April 2014
Three Days, Three Ports - Part 2: Busan, South Korea
Lessons in Transit & Following Fish
April 18th dawned cool and overcast, a good day for layers under rain gear. We took the 30 minute shuttle from the cruise port to the centre of town, then once again struck out on our own making our way to the metro station. Lesson #1 of the day: the automatic ticket machines only take 1000 won notes, but the ATM at the port issued 5 x 10,000 won notes (~$50. CAD). Noting our dilemma, a kindly gentleman directed us to nearby change machines. Problem solved, we purchased day passes to cover all our travels and rode the metro for two stops, then exited to the street for the bus. Lesson #2: In Busan the metro and bus systems operate independently – our day passes were useless on the bus and the bus only took exact fare which of course we did not have. But we were near a large university hospital and even in Korea, a donut shop is integral to a hospital. The staff at Dunkin Donuts, yes the big US chain, were eager to help us out. After many hand gestures, map pointing and a few words, we got things sorted out including the right fare for the bus.
We rode the bus up to the Gamcheon Cultural Village, or Taegukdo Village. Nestled on a hillside, this community originally housed only the poorest people in wooden shacks, but with the Korean War refugees from the city flooded into the community to escape the fighting. At the same time the founder of a new religion called Taegukdo, moved his followers to Gamcheon and promised to help all who converted to his faith based on yin and yang. The refugees accepted and together they rebuilt the shanty homes into concrete homes. The area however remained poor until 2009 when the federal government launched a village art project, a plan to model Gamcheon into a creative community. Today, the streets are decorated with murals, the houses decked out in bright colours and if one follows the brightly painted wooden fishes, one can’t get lost in the warren of narrow passages and steep stairs. Well that’s what the brochure claimed. I guess we didn’t follow the fish as we should have – we got lost. Still, Gamcheon was a fascinating community to explore and could easily take up a whole day, but we had to be sure to get back to town in plenty of time to catch the last shuttle back to the ship.
We made it back with time to take a stroll through the Jagalchi Fish Market, just across from the shuttle stop. This was a sprawling array of fresh fish, filleted right in front of you if you wish, (and while still wriggling!), slabs of whale meat (not too sure how I felt about that), huge clams, oysters, mussels, sea cucumbers, tunicates and seaweed galore. There were stalls selling cooked fish, dried fish, blocks of dried seaweed and even a spice shop to gather seasonings for your fish meal.
More than one could ask or imagine!