The Cinque Terre of Korea | Busan, South Korea

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From Seoul we took a train to Busan. We had arrived late at the train station in Seoul because we got on the wrong subway (oops!), but this didn’t cost us much. Turns out, the Korean rail service is very accommodating for dumb tourists like us. They refunded almost all of the cost of the tickets from the missed train (just charged a tiny penalty fee) and sold us new tickets for the next available train. Such nice people!

We passed on the opportunity to try out the high speed KTX train, opting instead for a slower ride. We’re glad we chose the slower option – the Korean countryside is not to be missed. South Korea looks quite different between the cities. About 2/3 of the country’s population lives in or around one of the two major cities: Seoul and Busan. The two cities are at opposite ends of South Korea (Seoul is in the north west part of the country, Busan is in the south east). The space between is a very mountainous region, full of spectacular scenery.

Almost all of the products we buy in stores were, at some point, on a cargo ship. And chances are, that ship was built in Busan. The region is the heart of the world’s ship building industry. But Busan is far more than just an industrial city (as impressive as its industrial side is). While not quite as big and flashy as Seoul, Busan has been called “the Cinque Terre of Korea.” It is South Korea’s bohemian city – beautiful and colourful, alive with interesting artwork and funky neighbourhoods. We were there during the film festival, which from what we could see was really more of a street food festival (though I think they do show some films too). The street food was great (and cheap) and provided most of our meals.

Our hostel in Seoul was very nice, even though Ben and I had to sleep in separate dorms (apparently, mixed dorms are a no-no in South Korea). But in Busan we found a hotel that didn’t cost much more than the hostels, so we opted for that instead. It’s nice to have a nicer place to stay once in a while. Turns out though, that this was a “love hotel.” Housing in South Korea’s major cities is very expensive, so young Koreans may have to live with their parents much longer than they might like to. These hotels provide a place for some privacy. The staff may not have been very used to foreign visitors like us, but they were very friendly and the location was perfect – right in the middle of the film festival!

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