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Published: July 19th 2018
I'm not sure how this sudden change has come over me, where I seem to have transformed in to the most compliant traveller going around! I'll never forget these past 10 days in Busan, a beautiful city at the base of South Korea. The welcome has been overwhelming, the people I've met kind and friendly, and the invites arriving at a dizzying rate. Basically I've become accustomed to just saying yes to anything. Tom, would you like to go to Cheongju for a day trip ... yes; Tom, would you like to go to a restaurant to try this traditional Korean dish tonight ... yes; Tom, shall we go and explore a temple today ... yes; Tom, do you want to come to the spa with us tonight ... yes; how about karaoke tonight ... yes; what about a different restaurant for more traditional cuisine tonight ... yes; how about exploring a famous village near the city today ... yes; how about we check out the fish markets today ... yes; let's try making our own kimbap (Korean sushi rolls) ... yes, yes, yes. I haven't had a moment to myself for the entire visit and am getting behind on the
blog, but can't recall the last time I had so much fun!
The journal left off in Daegu, at the conclusion of 10 days exploring the city and the capital Seoul. Fortunately my itinerary has provided the opportunity for an extended stay in South Korea, and I still have plenty of time to explore. I jumped aboard the KTX for another flawless high speed commute down to Busan, the second largest city in South Korea. The lovely girls at tourist information in Daegu recommended a stay by the beach, so I booked in to a guesthouse in the buzzing district of Haeundae, which is home to the most famous beach in South Korea. The weather during this typhoon season continues to be problematic with seemingly never ending rain, but the inconvenience hasn't slowed me down in the slightest. It's been an absolute pleasure to become friends with Sekee, the owner of Backpackers situated just five minutes from the famous beach. From the moment I arrived this cool dude slotted me in effortlessly to everything the hostel and the city has to offer. His girlfriend took a shine to me from our first night hanging out, she confided that at
42 she is always the oldest person in the group. She delighted in addressing me as Tom Oppa, and at first I was a little apprehensive about the meaning! Does it mean grandpa, I asked her with a degree of apprehension? No, she advised, in Korean culture a female uses the term for an older male, it roughly translates as older brother.
They swept the guys from the dorm off to a restaurant together, and a travel crew was born in that moment. A friend of the owners then invited us for a day trip to Cheongju, and this young lady is one hell of a serious driver! She was hitting speeds over 160kmh in her spanking new VW Golf, but we never felt anxious and arrived at Cheongju in next to no time. The city is famed for UNESCO world heritage listed temples, and it was lots of fun exploring with the guys during an unforgettable day trip. I headed out with my mate to a 'secret bar' that night, obviously it wasn't that secret, because as soon as we figured out how to open the door and get inside we were greeted by some Americans from the
hostel in Seoul. We teamed up for cocktails, great conversation, and the World Cup later on at an Irish bar. And so it's continued, day after day and night after night of wonderful experiences in the company of terrific people, travellers and Korean hosts alike!
Before long it was time for another early rise, packing the gear, and heading out to the airport on in the midst of some pretty awful weather, even by the standards of this trip. The typhoon warnings were all over the news, nevertheless our flight to Jeju Island went through check in and out to the gates. It was with a sinking feeling I witnessed flights cancelled from the board one after the other, even with departure times scheduled after our flight. But inevitably our flight was also cancelled, just five minutes from the scheduled departure time. What a bizarre feeling it was to go back through security and queue at check in for a second time, but on this occasion for the purpose of sorting refund paperwork and collecting baggage. So I headed back to Haeundae and my friends at Backpackers for a further five days like a wet and bedraggled dog, but
slotted back effortlessly in to the scene. After all I've heard about Jeju Island, don't you go anywhere my sweet, I hope to see you real soon!
The hits just keep on coming back in Busan, and I'm having a cracking time of it with my new friends. Amazingly we were greeted with blue sky the next day, and I roused my friend from his bed after another bender to make the most of the day. There's a magnificent walking trail along the coast of Haeundae, and we took some wonderful shots while chatting with an easy familiarity about shared interests. We bumped in to our American friend in another random sighting back in the centre, and went for spectacular Korean ice-cream together. They present these treats like a work of art here in Korea! We got in the habit of visiting a superb Indian restaurant of an evening, and must have enjoyed dinner there three times. As mentioned my friends and I had several other special experiences during our time in Busan, including an excellent visit to the top rated spa in Busan in a large group with our Korean hosts. After getting ourselves spruced up and presentable
we reconvened with the ladies upstairs, and hunkered down for some World Cup football. Visitors can even bring beers in to the spa to enjoy! A night of karaoke was another highlight, where we belted out tunes like there's no tomorrow with varying degrees of pitch and tone, while enjoying a few beers. At the conclusion of my visit I felt rather sad to be leaving the staff and guests at the Backpackers in Busan, but time is of the essence on the road.
The trip finished in a whirlwind with a final night in Seoul. After taking the KTX back up north I checked in to the same hostel as previously. I caught up for dinner again with my lovely Thai friend, thanks so much for your kindness and hospitality. Then it was time to hook up with an Aussie mate who just happened to be in town for the weekend on business. We had a blast watching England play in the World Cup from a bar in upmarket Gangnam, then jumped in a taxi to Itaewon for clubbing till all hours, getting a feel for the Korean dance scene. I finally staggered in to bed back at
the hostel around 5:00am! What an absolute blast South Korea has been, basically all of you should be here now!
" We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do." Mother Teresa
It's home time, so until next time it's signing off for now
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