Thursday, June 05, 2008 Korea (South) South Korea

Starting out again

Seoul Station [Enlarge]

In our quest to minimise air travel on our round-the-world trip, we've found ferries to be one of the harder modes of transport to use. They always seem to be operated by ancient shipping lines out of pokey, smokey offices deep in warrenlike ports with very bad signage. They hardly ever have online booking, and if they do you can forget about it being available in English. When we tried to arrange our boat to Japan last week it turned out that the Korea to Japan ferries are no exception to the norm. We'd heard about the high speed JR Beetle ferry run by Japan Railways, and their website was available in English... but it says you can only book from within Japan. After a lot of internet searching, Isla stumbled upon Mirae Jet who run the Kobee high speed ferry. This appears to be the Korean Beetle. Naturally you can book from Korea, and the prices are cheaper, but unfortunately their site is only in Korean. And anyway, foreigners can't use their foreign credit cards to book even if they can understand the language. So we asked a Korean friend to book it for us on the phone, cost 95,000 Won per person one-way (GBP 47.48 / USD 92.82).

Incidentally, one thing we will not miss about Korea is the fact that as foreigners, we have been deprived of the chance to access basic financial services like credit cards and international ATM cards which would allow us to withdraw our legally earned, legally deposited Korean money when outside Korea. This means we're carrying a paranoia-inducing amount of cash with us to Japan.

Haeundae Beach, Busan [Enlarge]

With just two days remaining on our Korean visas we left Seoul for the last time (for now at least) on the high-speed KTX train to Busan. Located in the far south-eastern corner of the peninsula, Busan is Korea's second city, and its gateway to Japan. It is also proud of the fact that it was the only city on the mainland never to fall to the Commies during the Korean war. We decided to spend two nights there, enjoying the fresh seaside air away from the smog and yellow dust of Seoul. We found a great deal on the internet for a hotel next to Haeundae beach, with a huge bathtub and a sea view. Gradually we started to feel like ourselves again.

The atmosphere in Haeundae was a little strange, as it is in any seaside town in the off-season. In August there will be a gazillion holidaymakers from all over the country here (see this great picture and this one for an idea). But this was June, and Koreans don't vacation in June. The weather wasn't so great anyway, with torrential rain and thunderstorms a lot of the time, so we didn't do very much apart from relaxing. We spent the time drinking coffee in near-empty coffee shops, walking along the beach, and observing that there seem to be more love motels than people in Haeundae at this time of year.

Map of Day 557

Day 557
Seoul to Busan

This map shows the route we took in this post. Click it to see larger maps of our whole route at flickr.

Maps are taken from the CIA World Factbook.


James said...

Your comment about not being able to use an international debit card from a Korean bank while out of Korea is not correct. These cards are easily available, from multiple banks, for foreigners with a visa and have been easily available for years. I know because I've had many of them from different banks over the years. Just keeping the record straight.

James said...

After rereading it seems as though you just had a travel visa not a work visa. Sorry...