To Korea by Sea
We left Japan via ferry from Fukuoka to Busan. The ferry was very similar to B.C. Ferries; however, the passengers can hang out in little compartments where they spread out and sleep on mats on the floor. The ride took about 6 hours and most of the passengers ended up sleeping this entire time even though it was a mid-day ferry. The ferry has all the usual restaurants and arcades, but also a captain uniform to be borrowed for photo ops. This was our first introduction to the importance of photos in Korea!
My first thought after our ferry unloaded in Korea was where are the vending machines? Japan has them on every corner, even in rural areas. After this initial vending machine shock wore off we realized Korea was not at all what we expected. We were expecting it to be similar to Japan, with perhaps more trendy fashion and music (like the world-renowned K-pop). Instead we found Busan to be similar to China: the roads and streets are busy and cluttered with potholes, old ladies are selling vegetables on the sidewalks and the street environment is not manicured to perfection as it is in Japan. The Busan air was also very polluted, the worst I have experienced since I was in Beijing two years ago.
The Koreans we met in Busan seemed straightforward and authentic. On the trains, people relax, listen to music and even talk and laugh with each other. This was very much welcomed after three months in Japan, where fitting in and being respectful takes priority in all social situations, especially the trains, which sometimes seemed more like zombie-transporting machines.
Overall South Korea feels like a country in transition. Developing as fast as it can and constantly changing. The country is the opposite from Japan in many ways but we both have come to love the down-to-earth nature, creative fashion and energetic feel. However, we have not been to Seoul yet. Since arriving and spending a few nights in Busan, we have spent almost two months in a second-tier city called Daegu, which I will write about soon. So we are looking forward to seeing how Seoul compares in a few weeks time.