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Published: February 15th 2010
After I finished my two week English Conversation Class, I quickly cleaned up my things at school and ran home. Mike and I had to be in Busan in time to catch our 14:30 ferry to Japan! We arrived just in time to check-in, get our four free beverage coupons, and board the boat. It only took three hours to get from Busan, South Korea to Fukuoka, Japan on the Beetle ferry. The inside looked a lot like the inside of an airplane and there was staff that would come around in case you wanted to buy something to eat or something to drink. We had hoped we would be able to go out on the deck, but because the boat moved at a pretty high speed and since it was so small, we weren't able to go outside. Although I had forgotten to bring a book with me, I was somehow able to pass the time playing solitaire on the tiny food tray in front of me.
We arrived in Fukuoka, Japan a little before 6pm and were dismayed to discover that there wasn't a money exchange station open. We went to the tourist information desk and fortunately, the
What a mammoth of a mall!
woman there was able to change about $200 each for us to Japanese Yen. Unfortunately, the machine for money exchange was broken, so she had to do all of it by hand. While we waited the 20 or so minutes that it took for her to finish the exchange, we looked through some travel brochures she had given us. I was immediately amused by the marshmallow peep looking biscuit in the one brochure. Thus was the beginning of my mission to find and eat one, whatever it was.
After the exchange was complete, we got bus directions from the ferry terminal to Hakata Station. I was so confused when I got on the Japanese bus. Instead of getting on at the front of the bus and getting off in the center, like you do in Korea, here you were supposed to get on in the center and get off at the front. I was also confused because in my Korean city of Daegu, all bus fares are 1,100 won, a flat fare, that you pay when you get on the bus, so I was looking for a place to deposit the 220Yen that the woman had said the bus
was going to cost. In Fukuoka, however, the price goes up depending on how far you go and you don't pay until you get off the bus. Luckily the bus driver was patient with us while I wondered around the bus without a clue and also didn't let us get off when we rang the buzzer at the second stop thinking we were already at Hakata Station (we still had about 15 minutes to go).
The map we had printed off from the hostel's website was very much correct and contained more than city blocks (a novelty for someone who's been living in Korea for a while), so it was very easy to find the hostel from Hakata Station. Although easy, the walk was also quite long, and I swear it only got longer as the weekend went on. After we checked-in and dropped our things off in our room (it had bunk beds in it!), we walked back up to Hakata Station and took the subway to Tenjin for dinner.
Tenjin is a really popular shopping and restaurant location so I was surprised when we arrived there at about 7/8pm on a Friday night and many of
the shops were already closed (or not open yet?). We walked around for a little while and eventually settled on a small restaurant where we sat almost on top of the people who were eating next to us. Mike tried a kind of sea creature soup, which had a really nice broth, and I tried scallion rice pizza. It was really, really small and tasted like someone put cheese and scallions on some fried Rice Crispies. It was a weird combination of tastes, not very filling, but definitely not bad. One thing for sure though, eating out is much more expensive in Japan than it is in Korea. The cost of food in Japan is much more similar to the cost of food in the US.
The next day, Mike noticed a sign hanging in the hostel that said, 'bicycles for rent for free'. We weren't really sure what that meant, was it for rent, or was it free? Mike asked the woman at the front desk and she immediately handed over two keys, showed us where the bikes were, and told us to bring them back when we were done. Easy enough. First we biked over to Canal
City (a huge shopping center) to eat lunch and possibly some shopping.
All day I was really surprised by the vast number of people riding bikes all over the city. In fact, it was very, very seldom that we were the only people within eyesight that were riding bikes. We had a little bit of difficulty finding Canal City and ended up overshooting it by a bit. No big deal though, we used the river and the bridges as our main landmarks and enjoyed the absolutely gorgeous, sunny and almost warm weather. As we were back tracking, we stumbled upon Sumiyoshi Shrine. There wasn't too much happening there. There were a few visitors, a few people dressed in traditional clothes selling things in a small building and one man who was confined to another small building for the sole purpose, it seemed, of occasionally striking a drum.
After we left the shrine, we continued down the road to Canal City where I had a very disappointing lunch. Why, oh why did they put my pork cutlet in the suspicious tasting egg and onion soup? It didn't look like that in the picture. I tried to eat it anyway
but there was just something about the soggy breading that I just couldn't get past. I ended up sticking with the rice and nibbled on some of the pickled radish. On the bright side, I had lots of left over room in my stomach to try all of the free samples in the shops that Mike and I went into after lunch! I found a shop that sold the the peep biscuits I saw in the brochure so I bought a small bag of them. They were biscuit like on the outside and then there was some sort of indistinguishable solid light yellow cream on the inside. The taste was pleasant but not nearly as epic as I had hoped. Mike also made a purchase, beer flavored candies! They were more sweet than beer tasting (I hate beer and I thought the candy was kind of nice), but it definitely had a hint of beer taste.
After looking around in several more stores, it is always interesting to me just to see what kind of things stores in other countries sell, we hopped back on our 'hogs' and biked into Tenjin to exchange some more money at the bank.
Using the massive Apple store as our landmark, we got there without getting lost at all and definitely got a much better exchange rate.
We had heard that Fukuoka Tower is a nice place to watch the sunset, so we tied our bikes up outside of the subway exit and took the metro to Fujisaki Station. The walk to Fukuoka Tower didn't take nearly as long as we thought it would. We arrived about an hour before sunset, and even though the weather had turned dark and overcast, we still thought it would be nice to go up at sundown. To pass the hour we went to see what was behind the tower. We were surprised to discover Marizon (I think it's a private resort), a small beach where guys in shorts and bare feet were playing volleyball, and several small shops and restaurants. Most of the shops/restaurants were closed but there was a cute looking Italian place that was open. After walking along the beach for a little while, and scoping out some seashells, we were both starving. We went to the Italian place to get something small to eat. Mike got an awesome cheese plate with 4
different kinds of cheese as well as some strawberries! Compared to the price of cheese in Korea, it was a steal. I ordered fried potatoes and was quite disappointed when a plate of french fries was set down in front of me.
Right before sunset we went back over to the tower and got a sweet discount on the tickets by filling out a Fukuoka visitors card at the front desk. The hall where the elevators were was decorated really prettily with lots of pink/purple lights. You could also look up into the tower since the ceiling was made of glass. We were able to get some nice pictures of the city from the top of the tower and it was neat to watch all of the lights come on after the sun went down.
There didn't seem to be too much around the tower, so since we were hungry yet again, we went back to the Italian restaurant for dinner. It started drizzling as we walked to the restaurant and by the time we were ready to leave the restaurant, it was all out raining. We had a pretty long walk to the bus stop so I
asked the waiter where we could buy an umbrella. He walked over to the umbrella bin and picked out a medium sized black one that had been left behind at the restaurant by someone else and gave it to us to use. I was so thankful to him for the umbrella! We would have been completely soaked by the time we were able to catch a bus back to the metro station.
Unfortunately, although the umbrella kept us dry while we were waiting for the bus, once we got back to Tenjin Station, we still had to get the bikes back to the hostel. We were way too out of practice riding bicycles for either of us to even consider trying to bike through the city while holding the umbrella at the same time (although I saw plenty of people who were capable of this feat). Mike fastened the umbrella to the back of his bike and we bolted across the city in the pouring rain. By the time we got back to the hostel, my pants were soaked almost up to my knees, my hat was soaked, my gloves, my coat, my shoes, everything was soaked! It felt
soo good to put on dry clothes! We hung all of the wet stuff up the best we could and by morning everything was pretty near dry with the exception of our shoes. Nothing that couldn't be fixed with a little hair drier action!
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