Looking at pictures of Busan on Instagram recently, I was reminded of my own visits to Korea's second city. I first visited in 1998, then again in 1999. My last visit was in 2008. That visit was a particularly memorable one because I was with my dear friend Kimberly, but also because we used Busan as a jumping off point to visit Fukuoka.
The first stage of the journey was taking the KTX, Korea's answer to France's TGV, from Seoul to Busan, a journey which takes only a little over 3 hours. It's preferable by far to taking the bus, which takes about 6 hours, or more if the traffic is bad. We arrived in the late afternoon, leaving just time enough to check in to our hotel and take some photos in Nampodong before dark. One of my photos taken at dusk is below.
Nampodong is the main downtown shopping and dining area of Busan, or at least it still was in 2008. I hear that a lot of the action has since shifted to the Seomyeon area.
Later in the evening, Kimberly took a photo of the city after dark. I think it must have been from Busan Tower.
The next day we sailed -- if that's the right word -- to Fukuoka on the hovercraft. It takes only 3 hours, as opposed to the regular ferry crossing, which takes several times longer.
After dropping our bags off at our hotel, the first thing we did was go in search of ramen. Fukuoka is said to be where this most famous of Japanese noodle dishes originated. We didn't have far to go. There was a ramen joint with English signage just down the street. This was the procedure to get a bowl of ramen:
1. Buy a ticket from the automat outside the front door.
2. Present your ticket to the man inside the front door.
3. Take a seat at your designated carrel, which is like a study carrel at a university library, but with a curtain in front of you.
4. Fill out the form that is thrust under the curtain.
5. Get your noodles.
The end result is pictured below.
It was worth going through the procedure. Having only ever had instant ramen, I was blown away by the flavour of fresh ramen noodles in a lovingly prepared broth.
We spent the next couple of rather rainy days sightseeing. I remember going to Fukuoka Castle, which is basically a ruin, and also to the Fukuoka Art Museum, which boasts an enormous canvas by Salvador Dali. I have a dim memory of going out in the evening to have some eye-wateringly expensive cocktails, one of which was the worst margarita I've ever had the misfortune of drinking. On the other hand, the waitress gave us slices from a staff member's birthday cake.
My only other surviving photos of this trip are of a temple we visited in the centre of the city. I don't remember its name and I don't think it's a famous one. The photo below shows me standing in front of the distinctive orange torii gates leading to a shrine on the temple grounds.
The last photo is of the main temple building, from the back. I think I took this shot because I was attracted by the golden lanterns. I still want one.
I like that wooden Japanese temple buildings are often just stained rather than painted. If anyone recognizes this temple, please comment below and tell me its name.
The hovercraft ride back to Busan was much choppier. I felt pretty green at one point, but I managed not to throw up. Kimberly didn't fare so well.
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