I landed in Korea on a Thursday and spent the day exploring by myself since the friend I was visiting had to work. It was a very triumphant experience for me since I managed to navigate the airport, two separate subways, and a bus terminal without any help! (Mostly.) I mean, the subway system in Korea runs basically identically to the one here in Bangkok so it probably would have been more pathetic if I couldn’t figure it out. But I have never been known for my directional aptitude so it felt good to successfully navigate a new city.
As it happened, navigating public transportation turned out to be the most exciting part of my day. I first went to Centum City (“The World’s Largest Department Store”) but it was closed. I then headed over to Busan’s famous International Film Festival location which, while architecturally kind of cool, is really just a giant, empty space when not hosting the film festival.
I then meandered by the water for a bit and enjoyed the chilly air. (Such a lovely break from 97+ degree humidity here in Thailand!)
I stumbled around for a while trying to find coffee, finally located a place and ate a delicious kimchi filled roll, and then wandered around the finally opened Centum City Mall. It was all very, very low-key and I did not take a single photo!
I then headed to the bus terminal to catch a bus out of town to meet up with Jasmine who does not actually live in Busan. Here I almost ran into trouble. See, unlike Thailand, Korea’s bus terminal runs with beautiful efficiency. I just needed to buy a ticket and then I could use that ticket at any point during the day before the buses stopped running at 9:00 PM. I, however, did not know this and thought I accidentally bought a ticket for 9:00 PM.
I stood there confused for about 30 seconds before a kind, old gentleman walked over and asked if I needed help. I explained my confusion and he pointed me towards the right bus. The bus left ten minutes later and I arrived with hours to spare.
Now, I am told Busan is unique in Korea for how friendly strangers are. And I am told if I was in Seoul, I would have had a much different reception. But compared to the many indignities and frustrations I have experienced here in Bangkok over the last 5 months, that friendly man at the bus station felt like an angel from heaven.
And in general I would say that is one reason I enjoyed my trip to Korea so much. It was not Bangkok. Everything ran so much smoother and people acted so much friendlier and I never felt like I was charged the “foreigner” price. Maybe I just needed a break from Thailand. Maybe it was just Busan. But whatever the combination, I appreciated every moment of it.