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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Dynamic Busan

SOUTH KOREA | Wednesday, 11 November 2015 | Views [822]

There's always that "ahhhh" feeling when you visit a new country for the first time. That's how I feel being here in Korea as it's definitely a place that hasn't disappointed. For simplicity's sake, in my blog I'm referring to South Korea as "Korea" and North Korea as the "DPRK." The official names are the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, respectively. "Republic of Korea" is often shorted to "ROK." What I like most about Korea is the relative lack of foreigners. Unlike Thailand, Cambodia, and some other Asian countries there's hardly any backpacker culture and not a lot of tourist infrastructure. Korea is often thought of as a business destination and most foreigners are either working here or are on some type of business. Refreshingly, I can be the only foreign face around and not be heckled for money or constantly stared at. As a result of all that, Korea doesn't immediately seem as user-friendly as Japan (fewer English signs, etc.).  Anyways I haven't really shared much about Busan. "Dynamic Busan" is the slogan and is often seen on the sides of buses and on billboards, and dynamic it is! There's a lot of good places to eat and the culture is exciting. The past couple of days I've been staying with a Vietnamese student named Carlsen (romanized name) in his tiny flat. Korean homes tend to be very small and often on top of each other. Carlsen's home is no bigger than my bedroom in Melbourne. As with Japan and Iceland, shoes are always removed upon entering a home. Why doesn't the shoe removal culture exist in the US? If I had my own place anywhere in the world I'd have a very strict "no shoe" rule. Busan is Korea's second largest city and I'm glad I opted to fly here rather than Seoul. Korea is one of the most ethnically homogenous countries in the world and I'll admit it's rather shocking walking down the street without seeing Ethiopians, Lebanese, Mexicans, or Indians like you would in LA, Seattle, or Melbourne. Just because the population is homogenous doesn't mean Western food hasn't grabbed a firm grip here! Burgers and chips are as common as kimchee and pickles. Yes, that reminds me! Tonight I'm staying with a CSer named Tim Clauson and I immediately thought of Claussen pickles. I grew up hating pickles and even to this day I can't stand the smell of them. Tim said "you're in the wrong country, there's pickles in everything." Busan is a city built amongst nature. High-rises and neon lights dominate yet a great hiking trail is often a 10-minute train ride away. The autumn colours have been a highlight of Busan.

You might wonder why I decided on starting in Busan rather than Seoul. After failed attempts to get a Chinese visa in New Zealand and Indonesia, I learned that the embassy in Seoul only issues visas to Korean citizens. The same rule doesn't apply to the consulate in Busan (according to the website). Carlsen is going to China in a few weeks so we went to an agency to apply together, but I was told I had to go to Seoul and apply there. Ughhhh!!! China loves red tape! My only option now is the free 72-hour stopover but that severely limits my time in China. Before going to the DPRK I have about 12 hours and afterward I have about two days. As a result I'll be spending more time in both Korea and Hong Kong and less time in China. Tonight I'd have my first lengthy ride on the Busan Metro. Carlsen, another two CSers and I would go to Namsan Station. Surprisingly there's a mosque there. Korea is predominantly Christian and there are fewer than 30,000 Muslims in the country, with most of them being foreign workers. Tim, my latest host is a Kiwi teaching English at a university here. Like Carlsen's flat, Tim's place is very small. Tonight we'd go out and have a fabulous Chinese dinner with two of his friends, Josh and Marius. Josh invited me to poetry reading on Saturday evening. In another surprise I wasn't expecting to find any English poetry nights in Korea. 

Last year I met a young lady in Singapore who used to teach English here and she said "it's so difficult to find fruit in Korea." I don't know what she's talking about as small fruit stalls dot many corners. Sure, you may not find pineapples and coconuts but there's an abundance of soft and colourful persimmons.

Locals sell not just fresh fruit but dried fish, nuts, ginseng, traditional medicine, and so forth. This man is selling wood chips and dried mushrooms among other things.

Vending and prize machines look futuristic and have all sorts of gadgets and gizmos. 

Home to Samsung and a lot of various gadgetry, Korea is the world's most wired country. Wifi is virtually everywhere and mobile phone use is very high, and I have an Android phone. Here I am with my little friend! 

All the heart I gave the other night running with Olympic speed to catch my flight was totally worth the effort! Busan is a great city and "Dynamic Busan" is a very accurate description indeed. 

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