While taking a plane would have been slightly cheaper, the JR Beetle Jet Ferry was a fun way to travel, especially considering the comfortable seats with decent legroom and the limited opportunities to ride on jet-powered boats.
It was a happy surprise to find David waiting for me at the ferry terminal. I thought he was out of town that day (May 1st), something which doesn’t make much sense considering he sent me a message a few days earlier saying the exact opposite thing. Since I had barely eaten, making our first stop a Korean barbecue restaurant with his coworkers Phil and Tom, along with Tom’s visiting sister Anya, sure made me feel welcome. My companions even joked that I was Inspector Gadget when I kept pulling useful things out of my 32 liter backpack: bandages for when Phil burned his knee (there’s nothing protecting your legs from the hot grill in the table’s center), Tums for when Anya wasn’t feeling well, and a sweatshirt for David for when the sun went down.
While the Lotte Department Store David took me to afterwards had a great view of Busan, a sprawling city nestled between a number of low, green mountains, the highlight of the night was seeing the Samgwangsa Temple lit up with lanterns for Buddha’s birthday. In addition to the countless lanterns that formed many colorful corridors, there were huge paper elephant lanterns and even a LED-covered, fire-breathing dragon.
I spent the next day relaxing until David and his lovely girlfriend, Yeong Whee, took me to dinner in a typical Korean restaurant at the nearby 17 story mall (huge malls are common here for some reason). I went ahead and ordered a traditional dish containing spicy rice and vegetables since I assumed it would only be a little spicy. This mistake was 100 percent my own – one of the first terms I had learned from the Korean speakers in Fukuoka was “not spicy” – and I paid for it with a runny nose that made me look like some disgusting, pale-looking Greek fountain. While the dish itself was delicious, I probably won’t take a first date to a Korean restaurant anytime soon.
It was fun to see a real fountain show, as opposed to my sensitive nose, at nearby Dadaepo Beach later that evening. While impressive, and supposedly the world’s largest at one point, I really enjoyed just walking around on the quiet boardwalk and beaches with some of his coworkers afterwards, sipping cheap convenience store soju and enjoying good company.