Off to South Korea!

We set off for the port rather earlier than we needed to and so had quite a bit of time to kill at the terminal. We had a large quantity of very small value coins and I spent a long time in the shop trying to find a bag of crisps that would allow me to use every single one, feeling very pleased with myself when I succeeded. I then made up for the small change by giving our supply of onion, garlic and fresh ginger to the check-out girl, as we couldn’t take them into South Korea.

Boarding time was creeping closer, when we saw a familiar face – the nice Korean man we had met on the train a couple of days before was also catching our ferry, and he came up to say hello. We found out his name was Injae, had a nice chat and he said he would come to find us on the ferry as our seats were in different locations. The ferry was quite small, but nippy. It is called Kobee or the Beetle, and is a joint venture between the Japanese and the South Koreans. It seems to be powered by some sort of jet engine, and the bottom of the boat is perched upon blades, which cut through the water, so when seen from the side, the boat seems to glide just above the water’s surface. We had been travelling about half an hour, when our Korean friend paid us a visit. Unsurprisingly, Luke was fast asleep, as seems to happen on just about any form of transport we take – he is not the most scintillating travelling companion! It was especially funny as he had also fallen asleep on the train where we met Injae, and he had taken a photo of us: Luke having a snooze and me looking bored. He has since e-mailed the photo to us and labelled it, ‘sleeping Jesus and angel couple’ – ha ha! So there we were, in the same tableau as before. He had come with three cans of Tropicana and a box of Pringles, our very own wise man bearing gifts. We were very grateful as we hadn’t eaten or drunk since breakfast. We talked some more, and he said that we should pay him and his family a visit when we are near to Seoul. When we disembarked at Busan, he took us to the tourist information office and got them to show us where the port was for the ferry to Jeju, then hailed a taxi for us and arranged the fare with the driver, telling us how much it would cost. It was very kind of him and we look forward to meeting him later in December.

Despite Injae’s best efforts, our driver still charged us twice the amount for the journey and when we tried to protest, he garbled at us in an incredulous manner in Korean, as if we had deeply offended him. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any change, so we just had to suck it up. He dropped us at the correct port, but as we approached the terminal, we noticed the building had a suspiciously deserted appearance. The door however, was open, and there two or three people inside, one of whom informed us that the Jeju ferry had been cancelled due to rough sea conditions. This left us in a bit of a pickle. We had nowhere to stay in Busan, no internet access, our phone wouldn’t work for phone calls in South Korea and we had no guidebook. Luckily, a man had noticed we were looking lost and offered to help. He had meant to catch the same ferry to go on a cycling tour of Jeju. He spoke a bit of English, and offered to find us a place to stay. We explained that it needed to be somewhere fairly cheap. He looked up accommodation on his phone and found Blue Boat Hostel, a short walk away from where we were and close to the town centre. He phoned them for us and checked that they had space, then walked us there. We said that we’d like to buy him a drink to say thank you and he waited whilst we checked in and sorted our rooms out. He really had done well for us; the hostel was lovely inside, very cheap, had a calf massager (amazing) and a great free breakfast. I don’t think we could have found better if we’d tried. He then took us to a local restaurant where we ate a meal of hot and spicy kimchee soup (kimchee is spicy pickled cabbage) and he introduced us to Soju, a sort of rice based alcoholic drink, similar to sake. We tried to pay, but he wasn’t having any of it, and insisted on paying for both of us! The goodwill didn’t stop there either. After dinner, Juseong took us for a sight-seeing walk and we went to Dragon Hill Park. There were many escalators up to the top of a big hill, which commanded fantastic views over the city and the estuary. There was a tall tower at the top which you could go up, but you didn’t really feel the need as the views from the hill were brilliant anyway – the shifting multi-coloured lights of the bridges were especially beautiful. There was also an elaborately painted temple with a huge bell, and an area for lovers to padlock hearts on to the railings and pose for cheesy photos on a bench framed by a neon love heart. Of course, we posed for the requisite photo! We then made our way back down and he walked us to our hostel before bidding us goodbye. We hoped we would bump into Juseong on the ferry the following night if they were running, but in the morning the girl on reception phoned the terminal and they said it was possible it might be cancelled again. We were keen to get to Jeju and start our WWOOFing experience, so we decided to investigate other options and found several cheap flights were running that day.

After some time spent in debate, we decided we would just try and get to the airport as quickly as possible and purchase tickets for the next flight. We arrived about half an hour before check in closed, and found out that tickets bought at the desk were almost twice as much as those bought online and that our checked bags had to be 5kg lighter, whilst our hand luggage could be 5kg heavier than the previous flight we had taken. We quickly found WiFi access and purchased cheaper tickets whilst in full view of the check in desk, hurriedly transferred what we thought to be 5kg from both big bags to our smaller ones and feeling quite smug, we obtained our boarding passes with a couple of minutes to spare! We felt we were starting to make up for our mixed up airport debacle at the start of our trip!

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