To Korea by Sea

April 9, 2018John, South Korea Standard

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.


Leaving Fukuoka, Japan by ferry. It’s about 130 miles and five hours by sea to South Korea.


Ferry sleeping quarters.


Dress up like the captain!


On the ferry, Korean islands in background.


Beer on the ferry. It was cold and windy outside.


Arriving in Busan as the sun sets.


Welcome to Busan! The air pollution was pretty bad.


Dystopian apartment buildings.


The Lotte Castle! (The Lotte Group is South Korea’s 5th largest business conglomerate and consists of over 90 business units and employs 60,000 people in diverse industries such as candy manufacturing, beverages, hotels, fast food, retail, financial services, heavy chemicals, electronics, IT, construction, publishing, and entertainment).


A lot to take in visually on these Korean streets.


Sarah chilling in Busan. Reminds us of China in this photo.


Lotte Department Store. It’s huge.


This one’s bigger.


Potato chip chocolates.


Mall entrance is quite done up, to say the least.


Found a vending machine!


Amazing food street. We love Korean food…meals are under $10.


Yep, amazing food.


Our little apartment. Fully functional with a nice view of the strip club across the street.


This is our street. I think we ended up in the red light district.






Gosh, Sarah is cute! I enjoy the photos so much. I couldn’t quite understand how the sleeping compartments on the ferry “work” though. Does each passenger get a vertical closet-like space with a fold out mat below? How are you managing with all the different languages. Korean looks so different from Japanese judging from the neon signs into the streets. Yes! The Korean dinner looks yummy! Thank you for faithfully producing your travel blog. I like your title font, too! Love, Mimi


    Thanks for the comment Mimi! Yes, exactly you can roll out your mat from the vertical closet space in the ferry compartment. So our “compartment mates” rolled out their mats and slept in their clothes. There is a little changing room if you want to change into PJ’s but nobody did that.

    Korean is completely different from Japanese and I don’t know a word! So it can be a bit difficult at times but we manage. The important part is to maintain a sense of humor about it. It is funny after all, being here and not knowing a single word! Especially when you walk up a stairway and see all these warning signs written in Korean plastered on the walls…I wonder what those say…oh well!
    Bye for now,


Beer on ferry. Close to strip club. Cheap food …. will you ever come back home?

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