I think our bus driver coming down the mountain was very angry. Or on crack. Or answering a dare. Or trying to screw with folks for sport. Getting back down the hill quickly was not the issue. Whether we could do it without killing anyone became a concern. The driver kept flooring it, but the bus took awhile to catch up and just made an unhappy sound until it got going, and any old people who'd just gotten on had to hold on for dear life. The driver tailgated anyone in front of him, honked angrily, passed cars in no passing zones going up hills without the benefit of seeing if anything was headed toward us and generally drove it like he stole it. A bus. We were on a bus. Craziness. Still, we got back in one piece, so all's well that end's well. Oh, and Korea drives on the right, like America but unlike Japan, and my mind is all mushy and unclear about what feels right anymore as a result.
Back to town (30 mins or so) and an entirely different 50 minute bus ride later, we were in Busan, Korea's 2nd largest city, the big port city down south. Like Seoul, the subway system is super convenient, easy and cheap, making it a dream to hop around from place to place within the city. I do wish we'd had more time to spend here, but we made the most of the handful of hours that we had.
Wandering Around Busan
The ticket thing? Sigh of relief. It worked. Which was good because otherwise I had absolutely zero idea how we'd get the 450 km/280 miles to Seoul. And, based on the information I gathered from the unsuccessful booking of the train tickets online the night before leaving Japan, at which point I Skype called Korea to reserve them over the phone, I do think ours were the last tickets sold for any train from Busan to Seoul for that day. With reserved tickets for the next day now sorted and officially in hand where a note with just my nervously pencil scrawled bunch of numbers had been, we were ready to roll.
And then we spotted (angels sing, trumpets sound, drums roll, Maggie cries)...
...A Burger King in Busan Station
South Korea actually has tons of American chain restaurants, considerably more than Japan, including Dunkin Donuts, Outback Steakhouse, TGI Friday's, Popeye's Chicken, Krispy Kreme, to name a few. I wanted to melt and cry and be held. Still, I never gave in (technically, see below), no matter how much I missed these treasures from home.
That said, I was traveling with a friend who has never been to America and had never (gasp) even heard of the Whopper. We stopped and made that right. Although I would have given my eye teeth for a Whopper, I was determined to go Korean as much as possible while there in the Land of Most Delicious Food Ever, so I had the bulgogi burger and called it fair enough (that is fair, right?). It didn't taste like a Whopper, but it didn't really taste like bulgogi (one of the best foods on earth, anywhere, especially the real deal I would eat a couple days later), either.
Bellies full of sin, we walked out of Busan Station and into a water and lights spectacle that lasted at least 15 minutes. I was all kinds of pretty, colorful and awesome. Y'all know I do love pretty colors. Wheee!
*shudder* It's good though, right, to be prepared, yes?
After a quick sleep, we headed off to Busan Station the next morning to catch the KTX, Korea's high-speed train, to Seoul. Japan's Shinkansen is much classier, but Japan's ticket prices for the same distance are way more than double the cost of those in Korea. In my book, Korea wins. In just under three hours, we were back in Seoul.