After 6 weeks in Japan (blog update under construction!), we were finally ready to get our show on the road and keep moving west on our slow trek across Asia to India. South Korea was next in line, so we got cheap flights on the discount airline “Peach Aviation” from Osaka, Japan to Busan, South Korea – where we planned on meeting up with a couple friends who had moved there with work from Texas.
We didn’t really know a lot about South Korea before arriving, the main goal of our visit being to obtain visas for our upcoming trip to China. Thankfully, there are Chinese Visa Application Centres (CVAC) in both Busan and Seoul so we figured we could check out both major cities and accomplish our main objective in the mean time.
Our 5 days in Busan didn’t inspire much “tourisming” – it rained each day so the beach wasn’t much to behold and we didn’t get to go for a swim, something we have been pining for ever since leaving the Torres Strait. There was one clear morning though, and I took advantage of it to get a shot of the approaching clouds over the Sea of Japan (known as the “Eastern Sea” in Korea).
It was also a good chance to check out the market nearby without getting my shoes soaked!
There were plenty of hagfish and octopus to be had, though we didn’t go as far as to eat the live octopus on offer. Ornella had already explained to me that, while it doesn’t taste like much, it does cling to the back of your throat as you try to swallow it. I’ll pass on that thanks. I did, however, save someones travel card from the depths of an octopus bucket after they let it fall out of their wallet – so I’m not a complete wimp!
One tip that we got from both Jonny Kubik (who lives in Busan but couldn’t catch up with us due to the fact he’d injured himself and decided to be booked into hospital the whole time we were there – a delicate procedure, I don’t blame him) and Nick Pedo (another friend from Houston who lives near Busan but spent that weekend in Seoul – missed him as well!) was to visit Gamcheon Culture village. Finding another window in the rain, I made my way there to see the colourful rooftops of this hillside village. It has definitely been turned into a tourist trap of sorts but has retained some of it’s charm nonetheless.
Making use of the rainy days, I made my way to the Chinese visa building across town to see what I was in for. We’d heard a lot about the complexity involved in getting visas for China and since we wanted to apply for long-term visas, we thought it might be even harder. Ornella’s American passport allows her to get a 10 year, multi-entry visa (60 days per entry) and my Canadian one allows for the same, though is restricted in duration to the validity of that particular passport (Americans are not). It was at the CVAC that I found out I’d made a bit of a mistake when we entered South Korea.
I’d been used to travelling on my Australian passport so, naturally, had presented it when passing through South Korean customs. That was all well and good until it came to applying for a Chinese visa. Since we were applying outside of the countries in which we are citizens, we had to also prove to the Chinese that we were legally in South Korea, using the same document we wanted our Chinese visa in! This wasn’t a problem for Ornella since her South Korean stamp was in her American passport. My entry stamp was in my Australian passport and I wanted the visa in my Canadian passport, which just wouldn’t be possible. I was informed that they could arrange for a visa in my Australian passport – single entry, 90 days maximum. Ornella and I had plans to go in and out of China at least twice and possibly 3 or 4 times. This would mean having to go through the visa process for me at least one extra time – costing us time and money. We had to find a way around that.
Have you ever heard of Tsushima Island? I hadn’t either. The Koreans call it Daemodo and claim it as their own but, luckily for me, it’s currently under Japanese control, 3 hours by ferry from Busan, and a (comparitively) cheap and convenient way to exit and reenter South Korea without flying somewhere! The trip took an entire day and, since I’d stayed up partying with Ornella and our friends at the Story Guesthouse all night, I slept through most of it – the ferry to Tsushima, the 4 hour stay on the island, and the ferry back to Busan. Importantly, I was awake enough to exit on my Australian passport and reenter South Korea on my Canadian one!
I’d also found out that it would take exactly 4 days to process our visas and that we needed to have; booked flights in and out of China, booked accommodation, and a detailed itinerary of the sights we planned to see. We had been in Busan long enough so we decided that we’d sort the visas out once we got to Seoul. Here’s hoping for warmer (and drier) weather!