Busan perpetually smells like turd. At first, we thought we were maybe catching random whiffs of sewer, or that perhaps we were in close proximity to a sewage treatment plant. The smell emanates from the toilets in the love motels, but I had read complaints about that beforehand, as though it were rare, or specific to a certain motel. I wasn’t warned that all toilets ooze shit smells all the time, all over town. Public bathrooms can give off a particularly atrocious and heady mix of boo, there being an assortment of pots affecting one small, enclosed area. It’s not the end of the world or anything, but, there is no getting around it, unless of course you have no sense of smell. Etiquette bells are provided, but sadly, they are audible, not olfactory.
I had come to accept the Busan aroma, hardly noticing it at all unless I was caught standing in a current of air carrying a particularly virulent batch of the stuff. I was OK with it, really, until that last day. For starters, it began to come out of me. It would seem that everyone in Busan eats the same diet and their gastro system harbors the same robust mix, of which I was now a carrier. The day before had been a bit hedonistic, a bit say…too much. From Chinatown to the clam tents to Jagalchi market, to spicy chickens feet in Haeundae, there was a lot of alcohol and a hell of a lot of food consumed. And it was time to pay.
It took a while to even get out of the love motel, there being multiple visits to the bathroom by each member of our group. One thing I will say for Korea and Japan, if you are going to have ass issues, you want to have them there. Japanese toilets are a delight for a simple five second visit, but during a painful and protracted visit, well, a warm seat, a bidet, and blow dryer-those little details really begin to matter.
We finally freed ourselves (briefly) from the tyranny of our guts and got a cab back to the train station. As I mentioned before, Haeundae beach to Busan station is no small jaunt, so once again, we were packed into a cab for a 45 minute ride with one of our large backpacks across our laps in the backseat, as they just don’t have cabs that will accommodate all four packs in the trunk. It can make for a claustrophobic experience on a long ride.
Another Korean curiosity. The cab drivers roll the windows up and lock them when they drive through tunnels. SO. I’m hungover. I’m fighting the urge to shit my pants there in the cab. I’m sweating profusely and losing the battle with my nausea, the window down in the backseat, me gulping in fresh air, which is really not helping much because said air is not at all fresh. And then. Our driver rolls up the windows and locks them, for a sojourn through what must have been the worlds longest tunnel. I panicked. I swallowed vomit. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth and prayed for salvation.
I didn’t end up throwing up in that cab, thankfully, and he did allow the windows to come back down after, but dude, it was no bueno.
At the station, we located fast food. The fact that I, the most obnoxious of photo takers, have no pictures whatsoever of our departure that day attests to the state of my being. I don’t know what fast food place we hit up, but I think it was a Lotteria. We’d had Lotteria once before in Vietnam and it was terrible, but this time, that burger and fries saved my life (but did nothing to happen the state of my intestines).
Back in Seoul, we settled in, once again at the Ramada. We then took yet another ill-fated 45 minute cab ride to a restaurant we wanted to go to for Mikey’s bday (which was that day) called Brew 3.14. We had to wander a bit and ask people for help to find it, because of course the taxi dropped us somewhat near it, but not at it, and we can’t freaking read hangul. Naturally, when we got there, it was closed. Despite all evidence that it should have been open…their sign, their facebook, their website, it just was not.
On second approach, it appeared that everything was closed. It was a Sunday. AND. Listen up, because this is an important AND. We were there during the golden holidays. Buddha’s birthday was on May 6, which was two days away. What we didn’t understand about the golden holidays is that they last a week. There’s parents day, childrens day, his day, her day, Buddha’s day, which of course affects the normal order in Seoul. Things aren’t open when they normally should be. All week long. I consulted my map and saw that Gwangjang market was nearby so we walked to that instead.
It’s supposed to be a cool place, but none of us were in the mood for winding our way through more stalls of crappy clothes (this stuff was particularly low budge) or street food. Also, the food scene was just weird, or at the least the first thing we came across was. There were people sitting in somewhat of a circle, on folding chairs, with random coolers and grills in the middle. Food strewn here and there, some of it just sitting half in plastic bags, some of it laying on coolers. I honestly couldn’t make sense of it and I was in no mood to try.
Taking another long cab ride to a place on our list that may have also been closed was extremely unappealing. We figured that since Itaewon is an expat neighborhood, things would be open, so we went there, and things were, indeed, open. We saw Bulldog’s pub; their loaded hot dogs were on my list of things to try, so we went in for a snack and drink, only to find the hotdog menu was not at all available, so ended up with the worlds most disgusting plate of “nachos”.
Yeah. If Bulldogs is on your list, you can go ahead and cross it off. This is not their only gross dish, to be sure. Also, that is sweet Korean ketchup drizzled about. Not salsa. *shudder*
We tried Vatos, knowing it would be rough, and it was. There were people all over the goddamned place waiting to get in and the wait was something like two hours. So we made a reservation for a future date and moved on. At one point, we found a sushi (or was it ramen?) spot that also had a wait, but it was a small place, so the wait was occurring outside. On rows of folding chairs, under a tent. Yep. That would be a first for me.
After enough trips up and down the street, enough restaurants with wait lists, and a desire for some red wine, we bit the bullet and settled on Vongo Tapas, http://vongo.co.kr/ fully expecting it to totally suck. Miraculously, it did not. It’s actually a nice place, comforting, with dark wood, a sizeable wine selection, a chalk specials menu, and wine glasses hanging from the bar.
The bathroom doors were pretty cute as well, with male and female silhouettes frosted on to them
And a salad
That was a little life altering simply because I hadn’t had anything green since I can’t remember when. The wine was having a similar effect, after a week of beer, magkeolli, soju and sake.
We had their tortilla
A perfect board of Serrano ham
And one very satisfying pot of meatballs, swimming in rich tomato sauce. It was a really nice respite from our Korean/Japanese diet of the last week.
We closed the night out with a room party at the Ramada Seoul, then we recharged our batteries for our big day at the ballpark.