|There is a lot to see and do in Busan, but I decided not to work too hard at seeing everything. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to make a return trip some day. I decided what I really wanted to see was Gamcheon cultural village. It feels like the heart of Busan. It is an old village that was in pretty bad disrepair, when the city government got involved in urban renewal there. Now it is beautiful in a strange avant guard way.
Getting there turned out to be more of a challenge than I had expected. I took the metro to the stop that looked the closest on my map. Before I exited the subway station, I found an area map. I was trying to get my bearings on what direction to head. A Korean woman came over and started talking to me. When my Korean turned out to be every bit as bad as you would imagine, she called her daughter over to help me. They told me that I would need to take a bus and gave me the bus number. I thought the village shouldn't be so far and decided to try to find it on foot. On wandered fairly aimlessly, checking my tourist map, which was woefully incomplete. Finally, I decided the girl was right, I needed the bus.
I returned to the bus stop by the metro station. Shortly the bus number she had given me arrived. I got on the bus, asking the driver if this was the right bus for Gamcheon. He said it was. So, I started riding and looking for the right exit. I realized I had gone too far when we passed another metro stop and seemed to be headed in the opposite direction from the village. I hate city bus lines.
I got off the bus at the next stop and got some coffee at a Dunken Donuts--they are all over the place here. I looked at the guidebook I had. It listed directions from a specific metro stop about 3 stops from the one I had used. Then, a different bus. I decided to give it a try. It was either that or go home. The metro was easy. I was only one stop away. I found the bus station and waited for Bus 1, Bus 2 or Bus 2.2. Bus 2.2 showed up. It was a little bus, the kind used to haul special needs kids in America. Hm. Maybe that was appropriate. The bus was full when it stopped. About 5 of us got on anyway. I was the last to crowd on. Once again, I asked the driver if this bus went to Gamcheon. Yes, he said, and he seemed to actually speak decent English and not be disgusted that a foreigner was in his country. I asked, Can you let me know when to get off? Yes, he told me. And we were off. The bus was twisting and weaving around the little roads of Busan. People were squeezing past me to get on and off. I just hung on.
Finally, he unexpectedly told me, this is your stop. So, I got off with a bunch of teenagers. I was looking around for what to do next. The drive honked to get my attention and pointed to my left. I waved my thanks and started walking toward the Gamcheon welcome center.
The lady at the welcome center didn't speak much English, but sold me a $2 map. She also pointed out some places listed with little boxes on the back and told me: STAMP. I understood that I was supposed to get an ink stamp at each of these places. I have no idea why. So, I started out.
I don't know what to compare Gamcheon to. It is built into the side of a small mountain in the middle of Busan. The roads are narrow and the houses are built one on top of the other. The houses are brightly painted, but, more than that, the entire place has been sprinkled with murals, mosaics, and figurines. There is a big fish made of lots of little small fish that were ceramic, I think. It is on one of the walls as you come in. There is a life size figure of the little prince and a dog...sorry, I don't know the story. I'm guessing the dog belonged to the little prince. People were lined up down the mountain to get a picture of their back with the back of the little prince. I am telling you the truth. There were lots of shops, cafes and snack bars. I stopped at this one little cafe boasting waffles and espresso. I was more interested in getting out of the cold for a few minutes and resting my feet, but the waffles had a little cream between them and the latte was hot and smooth.
The thing about Gamcheon is the selfie ops. It took me a little while to notice that most of the tourists were teenagers who were there to take their own picture and pictures of their friends. Selfie with the fish, selfie with the little prince, selfie with the picture of the guy and girl kissing. Almost everywhere I turned people were taking pictures...not of Gamcheon, but of themselves at Gamcheon.
I'm not above taking a selfie. People seem to enjoy seeing an occasional photo of my face on Facebook. But I do find the obsession with taking selfies and posting your favorite photos of yourself a little weird. It does seem vain to me, but something else. I'm standing at the Great Wall of China. I'm trying to take it all in. But, the wall is not what is important; it is just a good backdrop for my face. When I am traveling abroad, I am a little overwhelmed at being a part of the multifaceted kaleidoscope of humanity. I am a part of the people who built pyramids, laid train tracks through the Alps, and performed Shakespeare. I am not important on my own, but I am part of humanity. More than that, I am not important, but I am related to the family of God, one of His children. How can I make the world small enough that my face is the most important thing I can take a picture of?
Well, no one at Gamcheon was wanting to listen to my diatribe.
I found my way to the Centrum City Theater, the home of the Busan International Film Festival. The sun was down by the time I found the theater. I was actually thinking I would try to see a movie there. But, the theater is more swank for the awards shows, and less pedestrian. No movies available to see. Still the theater was impressive, perhaps most the huge outdoor theater that was playing trailers for movies they didn't intend to actually show.
I decided to have dinner at the food court for Shinsegae, pro ported to be the largest department store in the world. Food court doesn't do it justice. There are all kinds of food stands from hot pot to pizza. I decided on the pork cutlet, my new favorite. Served with rice and raw cabbage...very good.
Back at Sunny's house, I said my good-byes. Sunny told me to take a bus rather than the metro because my flight left so early and she gave me the bus number. I grimaced just a little, but thought I surely couldn't miss the stop at an airport. She wanted a picture with me. Her son took it with an insta-matic camera...who know they still make those? She put it on the wall of fame, pictures of all of her guests. Funny that I hadn't noticed it before.
I really liked Busan. There is so much I missed. I didn't see the internationally known fish market, or any of the temples in the mountains. Perhaps some day, I can make it back to Busan. I hope so.