On Day 5 we were scheduled to head out to Busan at midday so we woke up bright and early, had a bite to eat and waited while my brother went to get some water from the grocery store. While we were waiting for him to return, we were treated to an amazing sight. We watched from our balcony as about 10 or so 해녀, female divers, came in their wetsuits with their baskets and orange buoys, climbed over the wall of the walkway just across the hotel and swam straight out into the open sea. I never imagined just how far out they could swim, and we watched as they reduced to mere specks in the distance, noticeable only because of their orange buoys. We went down a while later for a walk along the sea and took a look at where the 해녀had climbed down.
At this point, they were still in the water miles away which says volumes about their strength, their stamina especially considering the fact that most of them are middle-aged women and their lung capacity since they dive without oxygen cylinders. They would put the fitness of most youth to shame, myself included.
The weather was lovely- no signs of the crazy wind that blown all night- so we walked and walked, breathing in the salty air and watching flight after flight take off and land. There were lots of 아줌마s doing a brisk morning walk, 아저씨s running backwards and lots of young people cycling. I wish my daily routine could start off like that too. As we walked back, we entered the Tapdongjae Park where there were lots of exercise machines arranged in a circle for anyone to use. I absolutely love this about Korea- keeping fitness within reach of the public who may not have access to a gym. This is something that every park in the world should have. They even had a huge picture of the pressure points in your feet. Very cool…
As we were walking around, my tummy decided it wanted to throw a tantrum so we rushed back to the hotel- or rather I rushed back while my mum and brother tried to catch up. The problem though, and we had seen this now at both hotels, is that the hotel only gives you one access card- which meant while I was in fighting with my tummy, my family was locked outside. Given my colourful history of IBS, this is not exactly an ideal situation, but luckily I had my meds and was soon able to let them in.
Luckily I had enough time to recover before we checked out and headed to the airport, which is hardly 5-7 minuted from the hotel. One of the staff helped us to self-check in which saved time, but as we headed to check in our luggage, we remembered our sealed battery pack in the suitcase. The gentleman at the counter said not to worry, instead just wait there as the baggage was screened to see if we’d need to remove it. Luckily, there was no need and we got a big heart sign as an good-to-go gesture and we went smilingly towards passport control. Just in front of that area, there was a cultural show going on so we stopped to enjoy the dance first.
Our gate was at one end of the airport and by the time we reached, they were pretty much ready to board. Talk about timing! The flight was short, hardly an hour and just enough time to have a glass of water, before we found ourselves at Busan Airport. As we left the airport to catch a cab, I was slightly apprehensive because I wasn’t sure if the cabs would be segregated for Busan and Sasang-gu (which is where we would be) as they were in Jeju. It turned out there was nothing to worry about and our driver knew exactly where to go. The drive to the hotel was absolutely beautiful. Like Jeju, the trees were lined with cherry blossom trees in full bloom and the bright and warm sun made everything seem alive. Our driver noticed that my brother was trying to take a video from the window and so he wordlessly changed lanes so there would be no traffic in the video. ^^
Out of all the hotels I had booked, this was the one I was least sure about – Hotel Paragon. My fears though were completely unfounded, and it turned out to be a great hotel- mostly for business travellers it turned out, and in a great location. I had picked it, mainly, for its proximity to the bus station, from where we would later take the bus to Jinhae, and its proximity to a halal restaurant so we could recover all our spent energy by feeding on some meat.
After checking in, we headed straight for the halal restaurant. After much searching, we learnt from the lady at the halal supermarket that the one we had been looking (Sangam) for had closed a year back (so much for the halal guidebook from KTO) but another one had opened up, right opposite out hotel. Thank God for that. We retraced our steps and went into Bombay Spices View, located on the 3rd or was it 4th landing (my mum was not liking this) for an Indian lunch.
Lunch was a scrumptious chiken tikka boti, malai tikka boti, dal and garlic naan. After lunch, my brother had to pose for a picture with the chef, as has become his custom in every halal restaurant abroad. Our Korean waitress laughed at the request, informed us that our chef wasn’t exactly good-looking but obliged anyway, even taking care to close the window to the kitchen to make sure we got the perfect shot. ^^
We left with our Sprites in hand, also known as 사이더 to the uninitiated, and decided to sit down on a bench, enjoy the weather, do some people-watching and listen to the songs blaring from the Samsung and LG stores.
It turned out that there was a hospital right across our hotel and they were doing some landscaping in the area to make it a nice place for patients to come out and enjoy. They weren’t the only ones making the most of it, everyone enjoying the mini oasis under a bridge and next to a highway.
As we headed back to the hotel, we came across a street vendor selling strawberries, which are in season in spring. We decided to get some, and it turned out that some meant the whole basket, basket included, so we marched into our hotel room armed with sweet, succulent strawberries that pretty much doubled as an air freshener since the whole room began to smell of strawberries. :)
Later on in the day, we headed out to the halal grocery store to see if we could get some goodies to take with us on our trip to Jinhae the next day. We roamed through the store, got ourselves some mum’s favourite Click biscuits flown in straight from Pakistan and a couple of other snacks. The store owner was a Pakistani gentleman with glasses that magnified his eyes. When he learnt we were also from Pakistan, he was so happy he actually invited us for dinner at his restaurant, which turned out to be the restaurant we had had lunch at, and even refused to let us pay. This is such a desi thing to do, but we insisted that we pay and told him we’d have dinner the next day if we got back early enough from Jinhae. He gave us his card and we headed next to E-Mart where we stocked up on olives, bananas and bread. P.S. I like how the E-Mart had a coin locker at the entrance where you can leave your belongings instead of them having to seal and ruin your bags when you enter.
As we walked out, we saw an elderly couple on the ground. One of them was seemingly drunk and the other too exhausted to pull them along or get them to walk any more. It was one of those moments, where the world walks past, eyes wide open , yet shut to what’s happening, out of sheer politeness or shame, I can’t tell which. There was only one schoolboy, whose eyes kept going back to the couple and I could only imagine the thoughts behind the expression his face held.
We dropped off our things at the hotel, then went out for a walk in the blossom-filled neighbourhood. My brother headed towards to the crowded shopping area, while my mum and I opted for a quieter, more relaxing stroll nearby, heading back in just before sunset. We spent the night making olive and cheese sandwiches, again sans-knife, and packing our food and bags for our trip to Jinhae. We had initially planned to leave early and get back early, but had a change of heart that night and decided that we would head out later in the morning so we could catch both the day and night view of the cherry blossoms, as well as the opening ceremony of the cherry blossom festival.