Two Weeks in South Korea: Day 4 – A Plane To Busan

Sore. So very sore. I guess this is what happens after you climb a mountain with no training and no warm-up. That was dumb and now my neck and calves are making me pay for my hubris. All this and more on what was my final day in Jeju, which I’m still rather just sad about.

As we wanted to fit in one more site before our late afternoon flight, breakfast was a readymade convenience store kimbap. It was exactly what I wanted in that very moment and somewhat helped heal the burn that was getting to the hotel check-out to find out that the booking I made was just that. No advance payment. Once we confirmed this was true in the booking itself, I paid and slunk off feeling like a fool who tried to mess around the nice woman at the hotel desk.

Anyway.

Three buses (and about 90 minutes of travel time) was all that would be needed to take me to the place that would cheer me up again: the Manjanggul lava tube cave system. Thanks to some lucky connections on the way, I got to spend longer in this awesome 1km stretch of lava tube than first expected – which was great as it gave my legs enough time to recover from the steep steps down before having to clamber back up them again.

In the time we were there, these tubes had very few people in them, so it was a bit like a good level of Mass Effect where your investigating some abandoned mine tunnel – just without the alien queen boss battle at the end. It was also a lot wetter than I expected, but considering how much rain I had to climb through yesterday it’s little wonder that it would be haunting me down in the caves. I guess that rain takes 24 hours to filter down to the lava tubes, so I get to repeat the joys of a Korean rainstorm.

Looking around, it’s incredible to think that these formations are all down to natural lava flow and not human intervention. The lava shelves are the most astonishing, these nearly flat projections jutting out from the side as if carved and sanded down by humans. Amazing. Also the lava rafts and lava toes randomly placed on the floor. I mean, firstly I really appreciate how straightforward the names are because I can remember them 12 hours later, but also I never realised just how many lava formations are. Then you come to the finale at the end of the tunnel:

Standing at over 7 metres tall, this is the tallest lava column in the world and it honestly looked breathtaking and imposing standing there in the dark. Ignoring the fact that, in the light, some of the bubbles looked like skulls from hell trying to make their way to the surface, just looking at how this lava turned the solid ground above it into something that looks like a piece of cloth with a hole in. Well, it’s extraordinary and I loved it.

That was it for the lava tubes and of Jeju really. As I stared up at the space whale at their airport I felt really sad to be leaving. I know that when planning two weeks in South Korea that you have to make compromises, but I could have easily done a lot more time on this island. You treated me well Jeju and I’ll miss you, even if the plane was delayed long enough that we had to amend our evening plans upon arriving in Busan…

At least I got to Busan though. Hi Busan! And hello again to Porty, my new favourite corporate mascot who I hope has a plush for sale somewhere or I will be sad.

It was late by the time we got to our hotel room, so we decided to just go out and get some food rather than try to make the light show on one of the city’s many bridges. For this leg we are based in Seomyeon because of the excellent travel links. It later transpired that we had booked into the area that contains ‘Young Street’ and appears to be where young Busaners come to hit the clubs… or whatever the young in Busan do. I kept hearing the loud sound of a baseball being hit. Not sure what that means.

Anyway, we found an street nearby where a bunch of older Busaners were selling some traditional street food, so we had some fish cakes, tteokbokki (another thing crossed off the list) and seafood pancakes. The last two things were so delicious and are things I will be eating again when we end up at a proper market.

Sadly, most of the other stalls were packing up by the time we got there, including something that looked like saucy rib meat on a stick… I know I’m sad too… so we didn’t really eat our fill. This is why my chicken hating husband suggested we get some Korean fried chicken from a nearby place offering take-out. A great idea, except that I got the spicy chicken and it blew both of our socks off. The hub got through two pieces before giving in, whereas I claimed to give up after a few bits lit my mouth on fire… before proceeding to two thirds of the tub. The hub threw away the chicken to stop this food masochism and, what can I say, he wasn’t wrong.

After the calm of Jeju it’s a bit of a culture shock to be stuck right in the most bustling section of Busan. I know I’ll be used to it by tomorrow, but I couldn’t help but miss the Jejuan aunties selling mandarin oranges and the loud buzz of crickets as I stared at a large sculpture of a woman writhing in bliss. Tomorrow will be a proper exploration day though, so let’s see how I feel about Busan when I get around to the next post.

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