Good Friday – 25th March 2016 – Busan

Woke NATURALLY! Not woken by anyone or anything! Woohoo!

Breakfast. Got off. Stalls on the quayside. Makes us feel welcome in a place. Like they really want us there. Bought a t-shirt and some fridge magnets. No postcards. It seems that Korea doesn’t really grasp the concept of the postcard – there were none yesterday either. This is making me look bad to my correspondents back home, who demanded a card from every port. But for a seaside resort not to have any, strikes me as somewhat odd. Luckily, today’s stalls had magnets for yesterday’s stop as well as today’s, so I am up-to-date on magnets, if nothing else. I think I’m going to need a bigger fridge.

Then we got a taxi to Shinsegae Centum City, the World’s Largest Department Store. They have a plaque outside with their official Guinness World Record on it. It was lovely inside. It felt very expensive. It was very expensive. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I could afford to look into the windows of some of the concessions! We walked in through Gate 1, which was located between Tiffany’s and Gucci. As you do. It felt very like Selfridges or Aquascutum did when I was young. It reeked of opulence. And the toilets were lovely.

Unfortunately, in order to cash in on the cachet, so to speak, they added a shopping mall on one end. This is all very well and good, but it is much cheaper, busier and nosier and means the floor plans of the two combined are MENSA-standard puzzles. It took me until 3pm to figure out how the floors connected together, because, for some reason, they are not all the same shape. It was an absolute maze.

We initially tried to find the electronics section, to take a look at some prices. But, it turned out that this was as far away from where we were as it was physically possible to get. I figured out we had to go down into the car park and cross to the next building. We asked a lady in the car park if we were on the right track, and she didn’t just direct us; she TOOK us. It must have been a good mile round trip out of her way. She was so lovely, but she walked really fast, so we couldn’t stop her! She took us right the way to the other end of the mall and then SHE thanked US! We were almost speechless at her kindness, particularly after the behaviour of the Chinese the other day. But it turns out that ALL Koreans behave like that. They are ALL lovely (except a couple of people involved in the exchanging of currency…ahem). And so obliging and helpful and kind. AND most of them speak at least some English, which helps.

In the electronics store, we were shown laptops that varied in price between £250 and £800, but they were all heavier than the one I currently have, so we didn’t bother. There is a new, all brushed metal Samsung coming out that you should keep an eye out for. It’s not the lightest thing in the world, but it is VERY beautiful.

Then we wandered some more, including failing to find a puzzle book for dad in one of the most hypnotically lovely bookshops I have ever seen. They have reading desks, so you can sit and read a whole book, if you want! Lovely. Just lovely.

Then we tried to get lunch. You have to queue here. There are lots of restaurants, but they are all surprisingly small. We waited for a table at PF Chang’s for about 15 minutes, but then mum could not wait any longer, so we left. All the other restaurants had queues as well, except the pizza place. So mum and dad had pizza. Again.

Some more wanderings later brought us to the food court in one of the other basements (there are four!) and then we began the trek back to the taxi rank. It took Dad about eight taxis before he found one who had (a) heard of the hotel the shuttle bus was running from (b) would take US dollars. So in we bundled and off we went. When we arrived, it turns out that the Phoenix Hotel is not functioning, it is a shell about to be demolished. It doesn’t even have a name sign up, which may explain why the other taxi drivers were puzzled. I suggested we set fire to it, but no one seemed to get the pun. We then had a row about exchange rates, because Dad wanted to pay in dollars (which had been agreed in advance). All sorted eventually, but it took a surprising amount of time.

I have never been anywhere in all my born days where so much of a city is under construction, demolition or reconstruction all at once – and that includes Rio. Roads, bridges, buildings, pavements; anything and everything is being dug up here. But, unlike roadworks in the UK, for example, every single one of these sites had workers actually working on them. None were lying idle, like in China. It was like watching the Doozers at work, but full size and using concrete and proper JCB diggers. Every road was diverted or being dug up or down to one lane or closed altogether. In fact, the only place that was quiet was the square outside the Shinsegae Centum City*, which was pristine and virtually silent and had the only dipped kerbs we saw all day.

*If you’re wondering why I keep saying the name in full, that’s because there are other, satellite, malls within the Shinsegae chain here in Busan, and I wouldn’t want you to end up at the wrong one, like some passengers did. You want the biggie. And good walking shoes.

Most of Busan is shops and blocks of flats and the port. I have never seen so many shops, I don’t think. They were all along every street, they were in underground malls beneath the streets, there were dozens of shopping centres of varying sizes and shapes and price points. Shops, shops, shops. Not all that cheap, to be honest, and most people were not carrying many bags, but an endless stream of spending options everywhere you look. Not many places to stop and eat/drink, just endless shops.

Back home for immigration by five. Time for a rest and a shower before dinner. Am surprisingly shattered, considering we bought NOTHING AT ALL today, other than the bits on the quayside. No clothes, no computers, no cameras, no cosmetics, absolutely nada, bar food and drink. I have only this blog and a store guide/map as proof I was ever even in the World’s Biggest Department Store at all.

TRIED to have a rest before dinner, but the Captain and the Entertainment Manager both thought it was far more important that I be made aware of entertainment available on the quayside and in the Crow’s Nest, instead. Why these were blasted through the cabins, I have no idea, but I am considering writing another letter. I was both tired and in pain from my shoulder, and I could really have done without it. As it was, I barely made it through dinner, before going back to bed. Much to my cabin steward’s chagrin, because he hadn’t done my turndown by the time I got back. So no pillow choccie for me tonight.

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