Friday, 24 August 2012

Day 29 - Soggy Busan (Korea) - August 23rd

For just about the first time on this cruise, it was raining for the sail in.  A relatively late arrival (though we were ahead of schedule) at 10am and a 100% hassle free exit from the ship to the free shuttle made this a real doddle.  We (along with many others) are totally bemused by the differences between the various countries regarding red tape, costs, hassles etc.  Our assessment is that the more likely it is that people want to escape from a country, the more likely there is a cost of visiting and a pile of paperwork and rigid border controls to wade through.

One can only assume that the Koreans are quite happy with their lot in life.

Shame about the weather as Busan is a place that is busy enough to have plenty to offer.  We were dropped off at the Phoenix Hotel, though the first stop was at the park up a hill overlooking the town, where only about six people got off.

We had a (poor) map of the place but followed lecturer Elizabeth’s instructions and turned left and left again through a paved street that led to a major landmark for cruisers – KFC.   Turn right at KFC for the classy shops and left for the market type shops.  We turned left...

Each narrow street off here was effectively a street of market stalls, with various attempts to protect the passer’s by from the rain.  There were tarpaulins galore and many buckets to negotiate.  Almost the whole of the first street seemed to be electrical goods, plus electronics. 

The clothing shops seemed only to cater for the tiny Asians or children.  We heard of several responses from shop keepers to visiting cruisers.

To a larger lady - “Solly no elephant sizes.”

To a larger gent – “Solly, no king-kong sizes.”

Even to myself as I ventured into one shop with what looked like decent business shirts, I was just reaching for a packaged shirt, only for the seated shop owner to blurt out, “Solly, no large sizes.”

So to future visitors, if you are a gentleman over about 5ft 7”, or a lady larger than about dress size 12, don’t be surprised if your purchasing options are somewhat limited.  Prices seemed to vary too with a lot of stuff more expensive than at home.

We headed back towards the Phoenix and about 30 metres before it, is a subway entrance, with underground shopping.  We went down there as Paula didn’t fancy a trip to the massive fish market across the road, though many cruisers did.  The underground shops at least kept us out of the rain, but again, prices seemed steep and sizes small.  Unlike some other calls, the shopkeepers do not hassle you at all.  We spied many people from the ship - and one staff member showing his support for NZ.

Back to the ship and there were a couple of stalls on the quay, but again, prices seemed very steep, so having not changed any money into local currency at all - and no credit card usage, a very cheap stop indeed for us.

After changing into drier clothes, as we walked into the buffet for lunch, Paula said that what she really felt like was a curry, so we were delighted to find a great lamb curry on offer!

Paula didn’t feel 100% and craved her wheatie-bag (the type you throw into the microwave and heat up for about 3 minutes) for her stomach.  It was definitely a cooler day.

Just for once I opted for a half strength hot chocolate rather than coffee in the atrium (5th floor) then I headed for the quiz whilst Paula opted to go for a lie down. I was the only one in our team so joined a rather grumpy couple.  We managed about 14/20 – which is exactly what I would have got if I’d stayed on my own!

The evening meal menu was “Asian” and this is always a bit difficult as there is so much that is appetizing.  I managed 4 courses without a dessert!  I even skipped the usual delicious bread rolls, so cutting out a coffee and the rolls, I hope is only temporary.

The evening entertainment was a pint sized Australian singer with a gallon sized voice.  Michael Montgomery.  A very good show indeed but we are always amazed at the even smaller Sarah, the orchestra leader.  She is compelling to watch.  She somehow manages to direct the orchestra whilst playing piano and keyboard – often at the same time.  With the right hand on piano, the left hand alternates between keyboard and piano but what I find fascinating is that often, the left hand is playing the melody (treble clef) on the keyboard.  Michael’s closing number from Phantom of the Opera was pushing both of them and it was top class.

Hot choc in the atrium (level 7 of course) but neither of us had shoes suitable for dancing, so we just sat and watched for a while.  Always interesting, as there is a great mix of talent and style, with Alana leaping off the stand to assist a couple of beginners struggling with the rumba.

Clocks on an hour again tonight (and tomorrow night) but a day at sea to look forward to, even though the temperature is now dropping significantly.


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