The prescient amongst you may have foreseen that my claims to have new words for you were folly, and that actually, instead, you would have to endure some more of my photos! I know, I know: I am a cruel and capricious writer, and you thirst for my words, and my continued holding back is like a metaphorical, ongoing cinnamon challenge of choking silence, but soon I will return to you with words. Like Friday.
I took my cousin Zack on a weekend trip to sunny seaside Busan, Korea’s answer to California, without any of the surfing, bros, or puku shell necklaces. Such beachtown obnoxiou-phernalia was replaced, instead, by enormous aquariums, open-air fish markets (which many guides to Korea proudly claim to be the “smelliest place on Earth!”), numerous encounters with tentacles, and enormous swaths of beautiful coast. Also lanterns, because I seem to only ever go to Busan on or before Buddha’s birthday. Anyway, behold: Busan!
Our hostel was almost directly adjacent to the train station, and so we spent our first night wandering the area surrounding it, before quickly discovering that the nearby “Foreign Shopping District” was actually the “Happy Funtime Aged Russian Prostitute Quarry.” Willowy husks of women with greasy ponytails and deep, deep sadness etched into their faces called to us from deck chairs just inside of restaurants, plaintively yowling the occasional, “Welcome,” or “How are you?” One woman, dressed in a parka and quite clearly pushing 50, attempted to sell us her wares while we exited a 7-11. Busan: a city of romance!
Outside of looks into the depressing realities of the sex trade, Busan also provided other sights. Like sunshine and a nice trip out to see the big coastal temple of awesomeness which I took so many photos of last year. Even without being thoroughly bedecked in lanterns, it’s still pretty wicked.
And while we’re here, why not have a mid-post lantern party?
But what Busan has in the most abundance, of course, is fish. Lots of them. Dead or alive. In shells or scales or in blood or big red buckets. Hawked by men and women, all at a minimum age of 45. Jagalchi fish market is big and weird and smelly and people are screaming about fish in Korean and throwing live sea creatures into bags to be consumed alive or just barely dead. Water and guts splash onto the floor, and sea creatures fling themselves, or their claws or their tentacles from their traps in attempts to escape, in calls for help and freedom. It is just about the weirdest place on Earth, and thus also my favourite place.
Inside, we considered what to buy and eat, and given Zack’s interest in trying live squid, I began my hunt for fresh nakji. Several of the stall owners speak passable English and jovially called to me as I sternly inspected their wares, clutching my money in a greedy little fist and screwing up my face in miserly, bargain-ready scowl, but before them were only pools of wriggling fins or chitinous vices. When I found a woman with a basket of undulating tendrils, I began negotiating prices with her (also a bonus for Jagalchi: cheap as hell). We spoke only in Korean, and the English-speaking stall-owners glared at her viciously, wondering how she might have wooed us away.
The clever reader may have divined a marine theme in the previous photoglut. I salute you.