A trip to Busan for Chuseok

This last week was Korea's annual Chuseok holiday, similar to Thanksgiving in the United States. This meant that we only had to teach on Monday and Tuesday and then had a stretch of five days off, which I decided to use by heading town to the large and beautiful seaside city of Busan with my friend Craig to visit my Beats Per Minute colleague Chase, who has been teaching down there for almost half a year, and is a large part of the reason why I'm out here in Korea. 

After a couple of days of fairly low-key lessons (my last two hours on the Tuesday evening didn't even happen because nobody showed up!) Craig and I caught the KTX train from Dongdaegu station in the early afternoon on Wednesday. The train is pretty comfortable, affords nice views of the countryside when it's not going through tunnels and traverses the 60 or so mile distance to Busan in around 45 minutes. I was impressed.

Upon arriving at Busan Station we made our way outside to the main courtyard area where we were to be met by Chase. I have known Chase for many years through our work on Beats Per Minute, but this was the first time that we had ever actually met in person. I have met many people through the internet - mostly BPMers - and they've always worked out brilliantly, and this was no exception. It was easy to spot Chase, a skinny white kid with earphones in the middle of a bunch of Koreans. I introduced him to Craig and immediately the ball was rolling with conversation. We headed just around the corner to a small restaurant that my co-worker Celine had recommended to try some pork soup. It was a nice wholesome meal, made more interesting with the addition of bits and pieces like pickled shrimp and spices.

Following lunch we caught a taxi back to Chase's place to drop off our baggage, before going exploring. Chase lives in an area called Hadan, which is on the outskirts of the city if you look on the metro map, but it didn't feel like it - especially compared to where Craig and I live on the end of the metro line in Daegu. The area was buzzing with plenty of coffeeshops and restaurants, and he took us down a street near his place that was lined with bars, restaurants and countless other exciting-looking but mysterious businesses. In the daytime the unlit signage piled up on the buildings on either side looked completely confusing, but later on in the night when the neons were all lit up it created a buzzing beauty. 

Busan is on the coast and there are large inlets of water jutting into the city in several places. We walked down to the edge of one of these bodies of water, fairly near to Chase's dwelling where he likes to hang out and relax or go running sometimes. It was quite astounding how just a few blocks over was a buzzing metropolitan area, but on the shore the whole area seemed quiet and peaceful. 

Dried fish at the market

We rounded off the quick walking tour of the area with a walk through the market, which was having a fairly stripped down day due to the holiday, but there were still a lot of interesting dried fish, live fish and other trinkets to take in. 

Following this stroll around we felt it was time to do some eating and start doing our drinking for the evening. Unfortunately Chase's preferred chicken and beer place was closed for the holiday, but chicken and beer is an extremely popular combination in Korea so we found another one right nearby that sorted out both needs and even had a nice big open window, next to which we sat and felt the almost constant and perennially welcome Busan breeze flowing in. Between the three of us we managed to eat two large plates of chicken and more or less finish off one of their largest pitchers of beer, which you can see in the picture. 

A large pitcher of beer to start the first night of drinking

To continue our lubrication before heading out for the evening we returned to Chase's place to drink soju mixed with plum juice - which tasted like grown-up apple juice - and watch the latest episode of Chase's favourite show, Sons of Anarchy, which is probably one of the best TV shows you could wish for to drink along to, seeing as everyone on there is so burly and masculine. 

Once the show was over and we'd all polished off a few glasses of the plum and soju combination we combined the remaining soju with some other juices that Chase had in his fridge in a big plastic bottle to take on the subway as we headed out for the evening. 

I don't know if people in Busan are more used to seeing Westerners on the subway drinking, or if the juice colour of our concoction threw them off, or if I was just too tipsy to realise, but it didn't seem as though any of the locals on the subway took any offence to our drinking on public transport, as they often do in Daegu. 

Chase and me drinking in Fuzzy Navel, Seomyeong

When we arrived in Seomyeong, one of the many bustling areas of Busan that is packed with nightlife, we took a little while wandering around trying to figure out where we were going, but this just gave us more time to finish off the large bottle that we had with us. Eventually we found the main drinking area and headed into Chase's recommended bar Fuzzy Navel, where we proceeded to drink more cocktails, eat some Mexican, talk to some random locals and watch the barmaid pulling off some impressive cocktail juggling skills. 

We then wanted to head to a nightclub called Club Fix. It took us a lot of wandering up and down, and then eventually having to be guided by some locals to the door before we could actually find it, and after all that trouble they wouldn't let Craig in because he was wearing flip flops. At the door of our second choice of club, Black Fun, we were told that it was pretty dead inside by the guy on the door, which was a nice piece of honesty, and the third club that we tried was only letting in Korean people, which was completely ridiculous. 

We resigned ourselves to going to another bar, Division 9, for another drink to see if anything interesting was happening there, but unfortunately that was fairly dead too, and the most interesting thing was that they served me my Jaeger Bomb with large ice cubes, which meant I couldn't gulp it down in one blow and instead had to sip it - not the most appetising thing. 

Since we'd struck out on going clubbing but were still merry and fueled by the sugar of too many cocktails we decided to take the night forward by heading out to Haeundae Beach to see if there was anything interesting happening on the shore.

We caught a taxi out there and I don't really remember much of the journey, but I'm sure I had my eyes glued to the scenes passing by as Busan is an extremely interesting city to observe, by both day and night, as I continually discovered through the many taxi journeys that we took on this trip. 

Eventually the driver dropped us off at Haeundae Beach, and we walked out onto the shore to see if we could see anything that looked interesting. Nothing was immediately apparent so we proceeded to walk along to see if we could find anything compelling happening. In our hopeful and misguided wandering we ended up walking all the way to the end of where we could go, barely seeing a soul along the way. I guess once again the night was a fairly quiet one due to people being at home with their families for Chuseok. 

A fairly bad picture of Haeundae Beach from near the end of it

Giant creepy crab

The very end of the beach was eerily quiet, with almost nobody else around, and we almost felt like the last people on Earth after a zombie apocalypse. We did find some areas with large fish tanks and humongous crabs, which added to the strangeness of the area.

Chase out drinking in the streets of Haeundae

Once we were creeped out enough we decided to return to the more populated area of the beach, going via a convenience store to pick up more beers for the travels. We continued back along the seafront before moving inland into the lit up area to see what else was going on in the area. We sat and drank on the side of the road for a little bit before continuing on to explore the nooks and crannies of Haeundae, meeting some strange and also fairly intoxicated Polish guys before eventually deciding to call it a night - way past the due point - and heading back home. 

I'm not sure what time we did eventually get to sleep; we did beat the sunrise, but only just, and as it turned out, we didn't end up seeing much of the sun that day anyway. 

Although we all woke up periodically through the night (or day, more accurately) we didn't manage to get ourselves out of bed until past 3pm. Once we were all showered we had a much needed breakfast of two large Domino's Pizzas (Chase is fortunate enough to live right above one, where they know him personally due to his regular patronage). It must have been at least 5pm by the time we decided to try to make something of the day. We decided to head to Centum City to visit Shinsegae Shopping Center - the largest mall in the world. 

Of course, we should have realise that it being the actual day of Chuseok, the place wasn't open. The tube station of Centum City connects directly into the shopping center, and as soon as we rose from the escalator we could see that all of the lights were off, the fountain wasn't running and once again we had the feeling of being one of the last survivors on Earth, as the place was almost completely dead. 

The excursion was by no means a complete waste though, as we went outside into the golden early evening light, and got to see a place that is normally absolutely heaving in a strange and peaceful calm. The humongous car park was completely barren and we could see across to the impressive and futuristic-looking Busan Cinema Center. 

The cinema center was open and we were able to explore that a little bit, walking around its elevated pathways getting nice views of all the modern and colourful buildings in the surrounding area. 

Gallery of images from Centum City (click through):

Me and Chase on our dog-steeds

From the Cinema Center we walked through a small park and down to the shore of another body of water that was nearby. We followed the path along the edge until we reached a small area with a small outdoor stage and some large steps, ideal for perching upon. At the top of the steps were a couple of large black dog statues, which we just had to get pictures of ourselves riding. We then relaxed on the steps for a little bit and our eye was caught by a girl who was skateboarding on the floor in front of us. After watching for a while Craig asked if she would mind if he had a quick go on her board; she was happy to accommodate and he had a couple of little scoots around. Before long her boyfriend returned, who was also a skater, and we got to talking with the two of them through stilted but comprehensible English, getting to know each other and having a fairly nice little chat. I had a couple of goes on the skateboard myself and was starting to get back into my old flow, but a combination of hangover, age and unfitness meant that I was completely worn out after a couple of dozen or so attempts at ollies and kickflips. 

We continued to chat to Johan and Ji-un (the names of the skaters) for a little while, and they seemed to relish the opportunity to talk to us in English, something that we found to be true among a lot of the young people we met in Busan, which certainly made us feel welcome. 

A view across the water during the walk to Gwangalli Beach

After a while Craig, Chase and I decided to continue with our expedition, hoping to find our way to Gwangalli Beach, another of Busan's popular shore spots. Johan and Ji-un gave us the very simple instructions to cross the bridge across the water that we were currently sitting next to and then follow the opposite shore along and eventually we would get there. By this time night had completely fallen and it was nice to walk amongst the tall buildings with their many coloured lights reflecting off the water. 

We walked for quite a way, pumping Drake's new album Nothing Was The Same - the undisputed soundtrack of the trip - from Chase's phone as we went, which amusingly startled some of the locals that we rapidly came up to from behind to overtake. 

As we got nearer towards the main Gwangalli area the seating areas beside the water started to become littered with Korean families all sitting around on the floor sharing large meals for Chuseok, enjoying the breeze, the sights and each others company. The buzz of conversation and merriment filled the air as we passed. It was a fascinating and heartwarming spectacle and something I'm really glad to have witnessed.

When we finally reached the main beach area of Gwangalli we were met with people bustling about on the sand under the neon lights coming from the long row of bars, coffeeshops and restaurants that line the seafront; children running about as small fireworks were set off; and a rather unpleasant smell coming from a giant pile of waste that had obviously been cleared off the beach, though not very far. We quickly walked beyond this smell and on through the throngs of happy Koreans celebrating their holiday towards a bar quite far down the beach that Chase knew.

Me and a neon fish on Gwangalli Beach

The bar was called Beached and is on the second floor of the building in which it's situated, with large open windows facing out over the beach and giving a stunning view of the bay and the beautifully lit bridge that sails over it. The bar wasn't too busy so we got a table in a prime location right by the window. The bar is New Zealand themed, since the owner is originally from there, and when we entered he came over for a nice little chat and recommended us some NZ beers which we tried. As we chatted and drank a little we enjoyed watching the people passing by on the street below, and slowly the bar started to fill up. We decided we didn't want to have to crazy a night since we had exerted ourselves the night before, and probably would on the night after, so we only stayed for a couple before heading back to Chase's - but not before a guy from Chicago approached us to give us a sampling of his own rapping, which was actually quite amusing. He has some music out there on the internet, but unfortunately I've forgotten the name the he released it under.  

Craig, Chase and me in Beached, looking out over Gwangalli

A few drunk guys arm-in-arm enjoying the Chuseok festivities around the neon-lit streets of Hadan

Before heading home we went to another one of Chase's favourite chicken and beer places to get our fill of food and a little bit of beer (nowhere near the size of the one we drank the night before) and enjoyed visiting the now-congested and brightly lit streets in Chase's area. There were lots of people out celebrating Chuseok, but we were still in mind to keep it a fairly quiet one.

Back at Chase's we picked up a couple of bottles of red wine from his local convenience store and headed up to the roof of one of the buildings near his place (the door to his own roof was locked, but he knew of another amenable location just down the street). Ten stories up we spent a few peaceful hours listening to music, trading stories from back home, enjoying the view and laughing at the drunk Koreans stumbling around on the street below on their way back from their Chuseok celebrations. It was the most low-key night of the trip, but in some ways the most enjoyable. And we still didn't get to sleep until after 4am.  

The view from our perched spot ten and a bit stories high

We did however remember to set an alarm this time, since we had a few plans that we wanted to get through for the day. The first of which was to head back to Centum City to see Shinsegae Shopping Center in its full glory - as long as it was actually open this time.

Thankfully it was, and we spent hours navigating its labyrinthine passageways and departments, starting at the bottom in the food court where we each tried a different cuisine then spent at least ten minutes each trying to find seats to sit and eat out meals in the extremely crowded hall. Once our hunger was sated we slowly snaked our way up through the malls 9 large floors, not really stopping to buy anything (except Craig picking up a pair of shoes so we could actually get into a club when we tried again), but more just enjoying watching the people and the seemingly random arrangements of products in some areas.

When we reached the top we came upon Zooraji on the roof. This is a small play area stocked with dinosaur models, a pirate ship, a slide and a few other fun things. Of course it's for children, but we had to have some fun on it too, getting some pictures with the dinosaur models, sliding down the slide and climbing aboard the pirate ship, much to the amusement of some of the small local boys that were also there.

Gallery of images from Zooraji:  

Now having seen some of Busan's modern culture it was time to delve into its more historic back story. Both Craig and I had had Yong Gung Temple recommended to us for its proximity to the centre of the city and its beauty mainly stemming from the fact that it is built right on the rocks at the edge of the cliff going into the ocean. 

We caught the subway out to Haeundae again, under the impression that it should be walking distance from there, according to Google Maps. But, Google Maps is nowhere near reliable in South Korea as it is in the States or the UK. Once we emerged from Haeundae station we walked to the seafront and started walking along it in the direction that we believed the temple to be in, but when we couldn't see it anywhere on the shore I started to get a little suspicious. Fortunately we came upon a clear and well-designed map that showed us that we were walking the complete wrong way along the shore. We thought about trying to walk back in the other direction, but in the end decided to be lazy and grab a taxi - having the presence of mind to snap a picture of the name of the temple in Korean to show the taxi driver when we got in.

It was extremely fortunate for us that we did decide to take a taxi since the trip turned out to be much, much further than we had anticipated, and the vast majority of it was uphill. In fact, the trip seemed to take so long that we were almost certain that the driver had misunderstood where we wanted to go and seemed to be driving us all the way to Ulsan or somewhere else equally distant. But, having shown him the name of where we wanted to go, and the fact that this was a famous landmark, it didn't make logical sense that he would take us to the wrong location, so we kept the faith. Maybe it was the awful post-Chuseok traffic and the truly terrible singing on the radio station that he was tuned into that was grinding on our nerves. 

We did finally reach the temple however, and at a nice time of day too, just as the sun was starting to get low in the sky and cast golden rays across out over the temple and across the sea. We explored the whole temple, marvelling at the peacefulness, the ocean views and smell, the large Buddha statues and shrines and the mere fact that this place had been built hundreds of years ago. There was also one point when we were queuing across a small bridge to get into the main hub of the temple where, maybe ten feet below and ten feet away there was a statue of a turtle with a bowl on its back that people were trying to throw change into for good luck. After watching Craig and several others try and fail several times, I decided to give it a try. I spend a lot of my day throwing paper balls into the waste basket from across the classroom so I channeled all that practice into my first throw and lo and behold I hit it straight in the bowl on my first try (you can look at the pictures of the gap below to judge how impressive you deem this to be). Chase and Craig had just turned away when I took the shot, so unfortunately they missed it, but a bunch of Koreans that were watching all gasped in delight when they saw it fly in and one woman even gave me a small clap. It boded well for our luck for the evening.

Gallery of images from Yong Gung Temple:

 

Upon leaving the temple it seemed everyone else was also heading out at around the same time, so rather than catch a cab only to be stuck in traffic for hours we decided to walk until we found a seeming end to the congestion. We walked for a good two miles at least until we came upon the point where the long road to the temple finally broke off into a few different directions and traffic started to loosen up a bit. From there we found a taxi and ordered the driver to take us to Kyung Sung University, another popular eating and drinking spot, where we had decided to spend the evening. 

The long walk had built up our appetites and we were looking forward to getting some good juicy burgers in the university area, but unfortunately the place was closed for the holidays. Instead Chase took us to another place around the corner that was sort of like a Korean barbecue place, but instead of having a grill upon which you cooked meat, our table was equipped with a small gas hob and a frying pan in which we could cook the various side dishes like dumplings, eggs, rice cakes and more, while we ordered meat from the kitchen to go along with it. It was an interesting set up - and even more interesting were some tables around us who ordered giant metal spikes that hung from the ceiling all the way down to their table, upon which were skewered a long line of cuts of meat, corn on the cob, onions and other vegetables, slowly dripping grease down onto the centre of the table below them as they worked their way through it. I'm definitely going to have to find a place that serves this type of cuisine soon so I can give this "meat hook" (as we called it) a try.

Along with dinner we started drinking beers and soju, getting ready for another fairly heavy night out. A group of young Korean guys at the table next to us heard us speaking English and saw us drinking soju, and they started talking to us, encouraging to do more shots with them and talk about what we were doing in Korea. It really was quite amazing how many young people we met in Busan who were happy to engage us in English conversation. 

From the restaurant we went around the corner to a bar called Thursday Party, which is a chain here in Korea, and continued drinking Long Island Ice Teas and beers. We talked with and played darts with some Koreans. Craig and I each partnered up with a Korean girl and the one I was paired with had never really played darts before, and considering I am awful at it, it wasn't going to be our game. It didn't start off too badly, as we managed to keep pace just about with the other pairs, but after a little more of the alcohol had started to creep into my system and by the time we were getting to the crunch stages of the game I was managing to miss the board with all three throws of the darts. Unsurprisingly, we came last, but it was a good laugh nonetheless. 

Moving on from the Kyungsung area we decided to head back to Seomyeong, where we had been a couple of nights before to try our luck at getting into a club again. As soon as we stumbled out of the taxi in Seomyeong we were greeted by a group of young Korean guys, who instantly started talking to us - although I'm not really sure why or how, since my memory is quite fuzzy. It seems they were part of a little-known K Pop group, or at least one of them was and the rest were his posse, and they immediately took us under their wings and told us that they could get us into Club Grid for free. We had been told earlier in the evening by the guys that we'd met at dinner that Grid was the best club in Busan so we decided to follow them along. 

Craig and Chase were up front with the ringleaders of the group while I hung at the back speaking with one of the others. I don't entirely remember what we talked about, but he kept announcing "I'm the KING!" saying it would be no problem to get us in and that he would have no problem getting me some girls. When we arrived at the club there wasn't too much of a line and we bypassed it. On my way through I saw an Asian looking guy taking pictures with people that looked strangely familiar. I asked my new friend (whose name was CSS) who it was, and he said "Oh, he's very famous" but couldn't remember his name either. 

We continued on through to the ticketing area of the club and walked straight up to the desk where the guys talked to the cashier about getting us all in. Surprise, surprise, the guys' words were nowhere near as good as they said they were and they couldn't get any of me, Chase or Craig into the club, only themselves. The guy I was with apologised profusely (in stark contrast to the recent proclamations of "I'm the KING!") and continued on inside. Since we were already there, the three of us decided we should just pay the cover charge and head into the main area anyway. Unfortunately the charge turned out to be a rather hefty 30,000 Won (although that did include a couple of free drinks) so we were expecting big things from the club. 

A bad picture from inside Club Grid

Fortunately, it did not disappoint. The place was packed to the gills and there were beautiful women in every direction. Unfortunately it was so rammed and we were so drunk (especially after our couple of free Sex On The Beaches) that it didn't take long for us to all lose each other. Thankfully when I wandered back into the slightly less crowded bar area I came across Chase and we managed to stay together for most of the rest of the evening, but never saw Craig again. 

I'm sure that Club Grid is probably packed out like that on most Saturday nights, but seemingly the main reason for the excitement was because of the man that I had seen taking pictures with people in the foyer, and the answer as to who he was was blasted up on the huge plasma displays that lined the back wall of the club behind the stage: Steve Aoki. This might not mean anything to some people, but he is one of the most popular rave/house DJs in the world right now - so much so that Jesse Pinkman has even worn his shirt on Breaking Bad

Another bad picture from inside club grid

The crowd went wild for his set of sprightly and springy dance music. Chase and I bounced around in the bar area, trying to attract the attentions of some ladies, with only very minor and fleeting success. We also wandered around a bit, wandering into one of the vacated VIP table areas to steal some fruit and cigarettes, drinking some more, and tried to ascend to the balcony area, where it seemed the even more beautiful women were situated - only to be pulled back the security on duty since we didn't have the right kind of wristbands. 

Around the time that Steve Aoki's set was closing we were dancing around on a ledge on the back with (or more accurately: near) some girls, overlooking the crowd. Around this time the alcohol combined with the swathes of people and the pounding music had turned my mind completely to mush and I collapsed on the sofa below the ledge for a while, continuing to watch Chase dance. It didn't take me long to come to the conclusion that I didn't really want to be there anymore, and in my drunken state I decided to just wander off outside, without telling Chase, and wait for him on the curb outside, away from the music. 

Unfortunately out on the street was a giant jeep, kitted out with enormous speakers, that was blasting even more obnoxious music. I moved across the road and resigned myself to sitting on the curb and waiting. But my patience with the uncomfortable sidewalk and mild nausea from intoxication didn't last long. I decided to flag down a taxi and find my way back to Chase's place, and deal with the rest in the morning. Fortunately I knew that Chase's apartment had a key-code lock, not a key, so I would be able to get in. I also remembered where to get the taxi driver to take me to Hadan, and once there it only took me a little bit of wandering around to find my way to his building. 

Once inside Chase's place I thought I'd better send messages to both Chase and Craig letting them know my situation, before passing out on the bed. I found out later that both of their phones were completely dead by that time. 

A couple of hours later I was woken up by Chase stumbling into the room and his relieved exclamation at finding me there. He asked me if I knew where Craig was, and I was a little dismayed to find out that he hadn't found him, even though he had done a couple of rounds of the club before coming home to see if he could find either of us. 

Both too drunk and tired to lend much thought to the situation at that point, we just shot the shit about other random things that came to our drunken minds. Chase pulled a bottle of large colourless liquid out of the fridge hoping to take a large swig of water, only to rapidly pull away in disgust at finding that he had just chugged soju: the last thing he wanted right then. It was all very amusing to me. He then collapsed next to me in bed and we talked about more random crap until we both eventually dropped off to sleep. 

At around 9.30am we got a loud knock on the door and I sprang rapidly out of bed, praying that it was Craig, and much to my relief it was. He had also managed to find his way home in the night and was sleeping down the hall in one of Chase's friends' rooms, whose passcode we knew and were using while he was away travelling for Chuseok. I immediately grabbed him in happiness at seeing him alive. We talked between the three of us for a little while about the events of the night before, how we had all managed to find our ways home separately, and then decided it was much too early to be up after the night we had just had and all went back to sleep. 

We forced ourselves to wake and get ready to go out in the early afternoon because we had one more main thing that we wanted to see while we were in Busan, and this was to be our last full day. Thankfully it was a fairly tranquil outing that we had planned: The Busan Aquarium.

Before leaving Hadan we met up with Chase's Korean co-worker and good friend April who would be joining us for the day. Our first stop before going to the Aquarium was back to the KSU area where Chase had accidentally left his card behind the bar at Thursday Club. Unfortunately, when we got there it was too early for the bar to be open. On the other hand, a good Mexican place that Chase knew just around the corner was open, and we got to heartily replenished our stocks there. (Although when I came to pay I found that I had also lost my card the night before - but I believed it to be in the pocket of my other shorts back at Chase's (it wasn't)). 

After lunch the four of us caught a taxi out to Haeundae Beach once more, where the aquarium is located. The aquarium has a good reputation, and many of my students whom I had asked for recommendations on what to do in Busan had mentioned it to me, so I was keen to check it out. When we were handed the map of the place with our ticket I was a little perturbed by the seemingly small size of the place, but upon wandering around its two floors, I was more than satisfied. 

I can't remember when the last time I went to an aquarium was, but either the specimens at this particular one were some of the best I've ever seen, or I must have been much too young to have appreciated the marine life on display the last time I went. Picking a stand-out is difficult, but I have to mention the eerie jellyfish in their large cylindrical tank that stood in the center of the room, into which an orange light shone, illuminating their long tendrils; the large seahorses that looked more unearthly yet beautiful than any other creature I've ever seen; the crazy turtle that crawled all over the others with whom it shared its enclosure; and of course the grand finale which was a huge tank stocked with a number of large and brutish-looking sharks. Oh yeah, and on the way out there was one of the weirdest looking fish that I've ever seen, seemingly constructed completely counterintuitively with a large bulky body, tiny fins and its mouth on the top. I wish I'd written down the name of the fish, but you can see a picture of it in the gallery below. 

Gallery of images from Busan Aquarium:  

Craig, Chase, Yuree and April taking it easy on Haeundae Beach

Post-aquarium we decided to spend some more time on Haeundae Beach, because we were already out there, and it is a very scenic place, especially in the early evening as it was. We met up with April's friend Yuree who joined us for a couple of beers on the beach. She told us that she didn't speak English, but we soon discovered as we provoked her to speak little by little that her English was more than functional, and as the night wore on she became easily more and more comfortable in conversing with us. 

From our viewpoint on the steps at the back of the beach we watched families playing, boats out on the sea and how the landscape and cityscape changed colour and character as the sun gradually set and night descended.  

Once it was well and truly dark it was time to head back to the Kyung Sung University area to get Chase's card back now that Thursday Party was open, and to remain there drinking and enjoying our last night in Busan, completely bypassing dinner. 

Perhaps out of simple excitement from getting his card back safe and sound, or just to help the celebration of a culmination of a great trip, Chase was in extremely generous mood, buying multiple rounds of Long Island Ice Teas for the five of us. This, combined with the lack of dinner, had no trouble getting us all sloppy, which showed when we played some foosball. 

Chase, April, Craig, Yuree and me outside Thursday Party after many LITs

From there it was time to try out one of Korea's favourite pastimes, which neither Craig or I had experienced since our arrival in the country: going to a noraebang (known in English as a karaoke room). Yuree knew a couple in the area and guided us. Craig and I sensibly grabbed a kebab from a street vendor along the way to fill the holes in our stomachs, but the others soldiered on regardless - or skipped on in Chase's case, as he was in the highest (drunkest) of spirits. 

The first noraebang that Yuree took us too was really swanky and I felt as though I had descended onto a fancy cruiseliner of some sort. Unfortunately, this being midnight on a Saturday in South Korea, it was completely packed out and we were facing an hour-long wait if we wanted to go in. Fortunately, Yuree knew another one just around the corner, which we promptly set off for. 

This one was much less upmarket, but had all the facilities we were looking for i.e. a room with a karaoke machine and some beers in the fridge. We spent an hour in the room, with April and Yuree singing a few Korean numbers, but most of the pratting about was done by Craig, Chase and I "singing" (shouting) and "dancing" (hopping/skidding) around to a selection of classics from The Offspring's "Pretty Fly For A White Guy", to Smash Mouth's "All Star", to The Beatles' "Help!" and many more. Unfortunately Yuree had to leave half way through (well, fortunately for her) and by the time we finished April was exhausted (or maybe just tired of us) and had to head home too.

Us three remaining guys didn't really feel like going to a club since we had just spent the last of our remaining energy in the noraebang, so we thought it would be cool to head back and spend some more time on the roof of the building near Chase's. 

However, when we did finally get back into Chase's room, the alcohol in our systems and the pent up fatigue from so many consistent nights of drinking caught up with us and we decided to just watch a movie. And we didn't even make it all the way through that; Chase drifting off more or less straight away and Craig and I deciding to turn in not too long after. 

Gallery of our final night of drunkenness: 

Sunday was me and Craig's final day in Busan, as we would be heading back that evening, but we still had one pressing thing on our agenda: cat cafe. Which is exactly what it sounds like; a cafe where they have a bunch of cats roaming around. This is one of the first things that Chase told me about after his arrival in South Korea and was definitely a small factor in my wanting to come here. Unfortunately I haven't come across one yet in Daegu, so I had to make sure that Chase took us to the one he knows in Busan. 

It turned out to be the perfect wind-down from a tiring trip. Not only are there multiple cats everywhere, but the walls are all painted a peaceful pastel colours, everyone in there is very quiet and respectful of the sleeping cats (whom you're not allowed to wake), there is soothing classical music playing at all times and nature videos being shown on the television screen. 

There were cats lounging about in all sorts of ideal locations all over the small cafe, while others roamed around, jumping from chairs to tables and climbing on the high shelves that skirt the top of the walls for them to explore. There are some toys that you're free to use to play with them, and for a small fee you can get a little treat to give them. Although the biggest and fattest cat stays lain on the bar at all times, completely unmoving. 

There was a nice variety of cats on display, all of them beautiful, and apparently each with their own distinct character. There was a chart with profiles of each of the cats on the wall, which unfortunately we couldn't read because it was in Korean. What we could discern though were the pairs of cats who were in love (marked with a heart between their pictures) and those who had a feud (shown with a little explosion between their pictures). We spent just over an hour there, marveling at the cats, playing with them, stroking them, and just blissing out. 

 A small gallery of pictures from the cat cafe:

From the cat cafe we caught the subway straight back to Busan Station. We bid farewell to Chase on the subway and promised we'd come and visit him again soon, given any excuse, since it's only a short train ride away and it's a heck of a lot of fun. 

I had to get back home and get in as much rest as I possibly could, since that evening I was not free to get an early night, but was in fact expected to be on call to welcome the new English teacher who was arriving to replace Jamie at our school. But I'll tell you more about him next time. 

 

-Rob

 

Currently reading:  For Whom The Bell Tolls  by Ernest Hemingway - Still on this one as I didn't really have much time for reading due to, well, everything I've outlined above. Still loving it though.

 

Currently listening to: 

Bill Callahan - Dream River  - The new album from Bill Callahan, undoubtedly one of the most prolific, consistent, on-point and all round genius musicians out there, and this is certainly right up there with his best work. You have to hear it. 

 

Drake - Nothing Was The Same - I might not have bothered to check this out if Chase hadn't been so into it when we got to Busan, but it quickly won me over and became our soundtrack for the trip. The phrase "SWANGIN'" from "Connect" became our motto for the trip too. Since returning I've continued to listen to it, which is a good sign since I usually lose patience with hip-hop albums quite quickly. 

 

Julianna Barwick - Nepenthe - An album I was really into a month or so back, we listened to it again while up on the roof on our second night in Busan and its ethereal beauty was perfect for those lofty heights. It's made me fall in love with it again, and it is undoubtedly one of the premier releases of 2013.

 

A song for this blog post: 

Drake - "Connect"