Saturday, April 25, 2009

This trip has it all, I think. I am in Busan on the Pacific Ocean, all the way on the other side of Korea, almost 400 km from home. This is the second-largest city in Korea and, unlike Seoul, it is less hectic and has less concrete. About the only thing that draws people from Seoul to Busan are the beaches, though I came here to run a half marathon. A twenty-one-kilometre city tour aside, this trip has bullet trains (I came via the 250-km/hr KTX), a Russo-Chinese shopping district, and fellow swarthy foreigners of indeterminate origin.

If nothing else, it's gratifying to go somewhere in Korea where the foreigners aren't unruly Americans. Rather, so far at least, they've been burly, intimidating Russians. The Chaoryang Foreigner Shopping Area (their name, not mine) is opposite the shabby main train station. The signs are almost exclusively in Chinese and Russian, though there are Uzbeks, Filipinos and whatever else the sea washes ashore in Korea's largest port.

So far I've been dragged by a woman of questionable morals into a bar full of Russian goons, entered an ostensibly Uzbek restaurant only to find out that it's really more of a meat market (think slabs of beef), walked through a massive aquacultural street market where unsold fish laid morose and had someone's food delivery shoved into my face at this smoky Internet cafe. Really, though, I like it. It's not as concrete and maddening as Seoul, though I have to go before I start smoking to inflict an equal and opposite pain on my neighbour.

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