My mind was fairly blown when I came to realize that traveling to Japan from Korea was a viable and affordable option. The original plan was to go to Jeju island from Busan, but after hearing it referred to, multiple times, as the Hawaii of South Korea, a resort island where people honeymoon, I soured on the idea; I mean, that just sounds lame. You can fly to Tokyo, but tickets cost around $400/pp and we needed a cheaper option than that. We looked at ferries and found that the shortest and cheapest ferry ride was from Busan to Fukuoka, a three-hour ride that cost $250/pp. We only had about three days to devote to Japan, so that fit the bill perfectly.
We bought our tickets online about a month in advance, from Aferry.com ( http://www.aferry.co.uk/) Communicating with the ferry company and buying tickets was very straightforward and simple.
We allowed an hour to get from our hotel to the port and we still arrived late, which was of course, stressful. Hongdae beach was not a good choice for a short overnight with a morning trip to the port.
Due to our early (8AM) departure from Hotel the Sun, we grabbed a quick convenience store breakfast and downed it in the room. The cool thing about convenience stores (which we always referred to as Family Mart’s; that’s one of the chains) is that they have all you need to assemble a hot meal; hot water spigots, microwaves, utensils, etc.
Instant ramen, in Korea, is the business. You are a fool and a bit of an asshole if you just eat your ramen plain when all of the ramen add on’s your heart desires are sold in single serving packets there in the store-hardboiled eggs, kimchi, American cheese (best for melting), nori, hot sauce, you name it! It’s a smorgasbord of options and it changes the instant ramen game completely. Of course, hotels all have electric tea kettles, so we would load up on goodies and assemble our ramen’s back in the room.
Here is an awesome video tutorial on the subject:
The ferry terminal, much like the train station and most everything else in Korea, is very user-friendly for the English-speaking tourist. There is an information desk right off when you walk in, with an English speaker ready to give directions (and, a thumbs up a smile if you happen to be from San Francisco. Yes!).
It was a requirement that we arrive one hour prior to departure. We had to go upstairs, show passports, trade reservation forms in exchange for tickets, and pay a “ferry departure tax.” I think it cost around $15/PP. You are allowed to bring food and drink on to the ferry, and the terminal is packed with shops so you can load up prior to departure, but you can also order snacks and drinks on the boat as well.
It did not occur to me beforehand that we would have to go through customs/immigration, but of course, we were traveling to another country. They checked our passports, xray’d our stuff and had us walk through metal detectors. Jake’s pocket knife was confiscated, but instead of just taking it for reals, like they do in the states, it was packaged in an envelope and returned to him when we reached Japan. How civilized.
The ferry itself (Kobee) is a hydrofoil, and I had read on some blogs beforehand that it can be a bit of a vomit comet. While departure was a little jerky and rough, it smoothed out, and stayed smooth, for the rest of the journey.
The inside of the ferry was nice enough. The seats recline a bit and there is one big TV in the front as well as two in the side aisles, and, you are stuck watching whatever they are playing. In this case, some sort of dating game show where young people giggle and shoot pretend arrows at each other, with, of course, loads of cartoon sounds and overlaying animation.
I believe there was a sandwich option on the snack menu, as well as some dried squid and maybe some chips, but we saw this fish cake wrapped around velveeta for the first time and had to have it. Unfortunately, it was kind of bland but the texture was pretty awesome.
Upon arrival in Fukuoka we hopped a cab and were whisked to the Hotel Sunline. We were all perfectly happy with the hotel-it is about two blocks from the main train station (Hakata station), half a block from a heavily trafficked road with bus stops and tons of cabs, across the street from a family mart, and within walking distance of neighborhood restaurants. We had our own single beds in the rooms, A/C, TV, everything. They also have laundry on site and a restaurant with kinda funky hours. It was a perfect home base.
One quick, delicious, sweet coffee later, and we were off to fish for our lunch.