It’s not something I do in the Philippines. After all, just how clean and interesting do they get around here? But when I’m overseas, I love visiting fish markets. I like seafood and it’s the best place to satisfy my craving for the freshest catch. And it’s also a great place to capture local color.
The Jagalchi Market in Busan, Korea’s largest, is a must-go for seafood lovers and photography enthusiasts. It’s huge, clean, colorful, and strange. Where else can you find penis fish? Octopus that’s eaten live?
My friends and I bought oysters, abalone, live octopus, and some other fish that don’t swim in our tropical waters. Our bill was half of what it’d cost us at Dampa in Pasay.
Yes, I took a bite of the octopus even if I’m allergic to the cephalod variety. My friends loved it, but I’m sticking to stuff that don’t squiggle in my mouth.
Our Malaysia friend Tony had insisted that we travel from Seoul to Busan when we were finalizing arrangements for our company trip. I didn’t know much about Busan. I only knew about the annual film festival, and the Asian Games held there years ago. And I wasn’t about to learn more about that city. I’ve always liked surprises.
And I loved what I saw! If you’re in Seoul, take the 2.5-hour train ride to Busan. The KTX express train is as nice as the Shinkansen. And it costs much, much less (around 2.5k pesos). Philippine Airlines has direct flights to and from Busan.
The best part thing about Busan is Gamcheon. It’s dubbed as Asia’s artsiest town. The pictures below will tell you why.
I’ve read that the Gamcheon used to be a poor little village where refugees settled after the Korean War. They belonged to a religious sect that adhered to the principle of yin and yang, and the philosophy of great polarity. They built their small houses in tiers — not one would obstruct another.
It was only about five years ago that the community and students from Busan started a makeover, painting the panorama with cheerful blues, pinks, yellows and other pastel colors. They had art installations. They converted some houses into mini galleries.
You don’t need to pay for a tour to explore Gamcheon. Just take a taxi or the metro from downtown Busan. Head straight for the information center where you’d be given a map and booklet ($2). The booklet (like the Starbucks planner booklet) challenges you to have 6-8 circles stamped. It’ll force you to cover the entire village and find the stops through narrow stone alleyways. Once you have all the circles stamped, you get a free gift from the tourism center.
It’s fun to get lost through all the climbing. If you ever get desperate, you can always ask for directions from the senior citizens lounging by the main alleys. They serve as Gamcheon’s tour guides and they speak English quite well (rare in the whole of Korea).
If you ever get tired, there are pitstops and cafes everywhere.
Gamcheon has been one of my most interesting adventures as a traveler. You must try it.