Dennis Wright's Blog

Pusan’s pastel patchwork and punch-up

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, South Korea, Travel by Dennis Wright on July 25, 2007

South Korea Flag It is no reflection on Busan that the most memorable and eventful part of our visit was the coach journey back to the ship, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

After Jagalchi fish market we went up the hill to Yongdusan (Dragon Head Hill) Park.

On the way up to the park we stopped at a cafe where we had some unusual tea-like stuff. I connected to a free wifi, which is easy to do in Busan, and was able to send some emails. If I’d thought to pre-install mobile Skype I could have used my handset as a phone for free, but then it would have been the middle of the night in the UK.

What we certainly couldn’t do is make a conventional mobile phone call in South Korea. I really hadn’t known. When you have a quad band phone and it has been fine everywhere including China you don’t suddenly expect it to not work in Korea. It turns out that Korea and Japan have a telephone system which is unique unto themselves. No western phone will work there.

Once at the park we took the lift to the top of the Busan Tower. Looking down, the city is a patchwork quilt of pastel colours.

south korea busan

south korea busan

We could see the psychedelic red bridge our coach had crossed on the way from the ship, which was docked at Yeongdo-gu Island.

south korea busan

“Yeongdo” is apparently the shortened form of “Jul Young do” meaning the “island that produces quality horse breeds”, not that we saw any horses, thoroughbred or otherwise.

I’d heard that Americans were very unpopular in South Korea and that as Britons we might be mistaken for Americans and given a hard time. We couldn’t speak much to the Koreans as they had hardly any English, but they seemed friendly enough. One smiling gentleman came up to us in the park because he wanted to practice his English.

In front of the tower in Yongdusan Park is a statue of Korea’s 16th Century naval hero, Admiral Yi, who fought off 50 invading Japanese ships with only 5 tortoise-shaped boats. Maybe his tortoise boats made the Japanese ships turn turtle. Just a thought.

south korea busan admiral yi

And there is of course the People’s Bell, in its own pavilion.

south korea busan

Taking the 4-stage escalator from the park, down past what looked like a playground but was an exercise park for adults, we came back down to street level and the shops.

We had to be back at the Phoenix hotel in time to catch the coach back to the ship, which was sailing shortly after lunchtime. There were lots of fellow passengers trying to get on the same coach. It was already standing room only when we squeezed on, but the next coach, the last one, would have been a half hour wait.

Naomi sat at the very front, in the “guide’s” seat. I was standing right in front of the huge windscreen, with another 25 or so passengers standing behind me down the length of the bus. I kept thinking this was dangerous as I had nothing to hold onto. As the bus set off and started to lurch around I felt very exposed. If there was an emergency stop I would go straight through the glass, so I crouched to give myself a chance of grabbing the dashboard.

Halfway into the journey a taxi driver cut in front of the coach and our driver had to brake. He did it as gently as he could get away with, but there was still a human avalanche inside the coach. I grabbed the dashboard, Naomi grabbed me, I had the weight of untold bodies on my back, but somehow we all regained our balance and no-one was hurt.

But the driver lost it. The red mist came down. He started yelling out of his window at the taxi driver. The taxi driver yelled back. I tried to motion to our driver that it was not worth it, but he opened the door, swept past me and Naomi and was suddenly squaring up to the taxi driver, who had also left his vehicle. Naomi had been carrying the camcorder in her hand and I thought she might try to record the punch-up, but she thought better of it. If she’d been spotted there’s no telling how the driver might have reacted.

A random passer-by intervened and no blows actually landed, although the driver came very close. Eventually the driver calmed down and drove us back to the ship without further incident. Highlight of the day really.


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  1. […] Hasta la vista, Vista! Vista is on trial and my XP install disk is within easy reach « VISTA Acronym Challenge: can you beat Visually Impressive Shame Technologically Appalling? Microsoft UI Paradigm Comes Full Circle » Pusan’s pastel patchwork and punch-up July 25th, 2007 This post has been moved here. […]

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