A short flight from Jeju Island brought me back to Busan, the city I had visited just a few days earlier. Originally my plan had been to fly from Jeju to Busan and then connect to a flight to Tokyo but the flight schedules didn’t work out so I’d be spending a single night in the city and then flying to Tokyo the following day. With no sightseeing plans on the docket my second time in Busan was going to be a lot quieter than the first, and that was perfectly fine by me.
Normally I try to travel cheaply but I tend to relax the spending rules on accommodations towards the end of a trip. Part of this is a way to treat myself at the end of a long journey and another part of it is that I tend to want to be alone during those final days. For this single night in Busan I rented out an entire apartment in the heart of the city on AirBnB. Granted, Korea isn’t the most expensive country so I the rental didn’t cost that much, but it was still a nice apartment. My host met me at Yeonsan metro station and then we walked together for a few minutes to where I was staying. He showed me around the neighborhood on the way and then gave me the quick tour of the apartment before leaving me to my business. Earlier in the day I had worked up a bit of a sweat hurrying around Jeju Island so I thought it best to clean up first, and after that I went up onto the roof. Being in the middle of a residential area of Busan, the view was unremarkable and yet strangely cozy. Somehow I felt like I was at home, even though I was over 6,000 miles from my actual home in America. The roof also had a clothesline, so when I went back down I washed most of my clothes and then hung them up to dry before heading out.
There were no sightseeing attractions close to where I was staying and I didn’t feel like sightseeing anyways, so I figured instead I’d just go for a walk in the neighborhood. My plan was to walk north to the Oncheoncheon River and then follow it east for about a mile before looping back to the apartment. As I was making my way north a random girl asked me where I was from and I told her that I was from America. I was a little confused as I walked away from that encounter but then it occurred to me that this part of Busan doesn’t get many visitors and she was probably just curious about me. In fact, I only remember seeing one other Westerner during my entire walk around the neighborhood that day, so my presence there was a genuine oddity. When I reached Yeonangyo Bridge I saw that a nice looking park ran along both sides of the river and I decided to follow it, but first I went to a nearby 7-Eleven to make a final withdraw of Korean Won to cover my last few expenses in the country. Right by the 7-Eleven there was some sort of outdoor market going on and I quickly browsed through it before continuing on my way.
I then came back down to the river and started my walk along the park, crossing back and forth between the north and south banks several times. A lot of other people were also walking along the river that evening and I captured a small number of photos as I slowly made my way east. At regular intervals in the park there were exercise stations that I saw a few of the locals using. One of the stations had a set of pull-up bars and I decided to stop and see how many I could do. Before leaving for Asia I had plans for maintaining a basic exercise routine but they had predictably come to nothing and I was a bit concerned about how much my strength had regressed while traveling. I was soon relieved to discover that I could still do five pull-ups, which isn’t a lot but wasn’t much less than what I could do prior to flying out to Asia. Feeling much better about myself, I picked up my daypack and camera again and kept walking east until I hit the place where the park ended and then I came back up to the street. From there I walked south a few blocks to a street I could follow west back to near the apartment.
When I got back to the apartment I dropped off my camera there and then went to a local grocery store to buy some food for both dinner and breakfast the next morning. I thought I had purchased exactly enough to get rid of the last few small coins in my wallet but apparently I miscalculated and I ended up with more coins that I had arrived with. After dinner I debated whether to go to bed early or stay up late and settled on staying up late. I wasn’t going to have any extra time in the morning anyways, so I figured I’d spend more time awake that night and try to make my stay in Busan last as long as possible.
Haeundae Beach was about four and a half miles away from where I was, but it would be easy to get there by Busan’s metro network and I decided to go there. On my way to the metro station near my apartment there were a quite a few people eating in restaurants and drinking outdoors, as one might expect on a Friday night. When I got to Haeundae I found a similar scene, but now with a mix of Koreans and foreigners. I remember a group of white guys came stumbling out of a restaurant, clearly drunk and singing a song I wasn’t familiar with. Out by the beach a few street performers were doing shows for the crowds they had gathered but I walked past them and onto the beach itself. I took a seat on the sand ridge for a few minutes and observed the sights around me. Down the beach a group of people were setting off small fireworks like the ones I had seen at Gwangalli Beach during my first stay in Busan. For a while I just sat there and didn’t want to stand up. Very soon I’d be leaving Korea and I knew that when I stood up I’d have to start taking steps that would lead me closer to my departure. I stalled for several minutes, but eventually I talked myself into getting up and I took a long route across the beach back to the street leading towards the metro station. To use up a bit more of my remaining money I first got some ice cream at a Baskin Robbins—an ice cream shop that I haven’t visited in America in over a decade—and then I finally got rid of the last of my coins at a convenience store by purchasing three bananas. In the Haeundae metro station I loaded enough funds onto my T-Money card to get me to the airport the next day, leaving me with just ₩1,300 in my wallet (which was about $1.15 at the time). Then it was time to head back to the apartment, where I’d stay up until almost 2:00am.
In the morning there wasn’t much to do other than eat, load up my backpack, and then leave for the airport. In the middle of my preparation I stopped to take in the view from the roof one last time and said goodbye to Busan. Just after 9:00am the trek to Gimhae Airport began. After transferring from the metro to the light rail line that would take me the final stretch to the airport I captured the last photo from Korea with my phone as the tram steadily brought me closer to my destination.
At the airport I dropped off my pocket wifi device and managed to get through security quickly. Before heading to my gate I was able to use up most of my remaining Korean won at a convenience store and had only ₩300 left in the form of three ₩100 coins. One of those coins I’d end up giving to my friend who had lived in Korea for a year and given me some travel ideas while the other two are currently at my house, sitting in a bag where I keep all of my leftover foreign money. It was kind of sad to be leaving the country, but Korea had one last surprise in store for me. Everyone who was getting on the Air Busan flight to Tokyo had to board buses that would take us out to where the plane was on the tarmac. I happened to be the last person to get on the first bus and consequently I wound up being the first person to get off the bus and board the flight. I know that’s not a big deal, but that was the first time in my entire life where I was the first person to board a plane. I was in a good mood as I took my seat and waited for departure. Not too long from then I’d be back in Tokyo, though I knew I wasn’t the only thing that would be showing up in Japan that day. I would be arriving in Tokyo just as Typhoon Lan reached the city.
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