So it’s been… wow!… nearly a month ago now since I went to Busan, Korea for a working trip. I’m not one for photos, so there aren’t any pics of the great hotel rooms I stayed at or the wonderful views from these rooms or the absolutely mouth-watering presentation of Korean food – so, sorry for that: I know photos would help tell the story, but I just didn’t take any. (If it’s any consolation, to prevent this from happening again, I recently invested in a hand-phone with a fairly good camera; at least that’s what I told myself when I bought the hand-phone. Heh :p)
Okay, so, on to some thoughts and feelings about the trip:
- Little Angels – Was treated to a stunning, magnificent, bravura performance by the Little Angels, a children’s performing arts group. They danced, they fanned fans, they sang, they played drums, they yodelled – all in a coordinated pageantry of rouged faces, painted lips, megawatt smiles and smooth, practised movements. One of the songs they sang was 甜蜜蜜, and they sang it touchingly, and with warmth and an understated joy. I really enjoyed the performance. It’s a pity I can’t share a video clip or even a photo, but you can find out more about the Little Angels here.
- Galbi – My dinner that first night, and my introduction to how replete with side dishes the typical Korean meal is. Galbi is beef rib, but along with that there was kimchi, and a soup, and tofu with some roe on it, and rice, and more kimchi, and a round charcoal grill in the middle of the table, on top of which our server soon spread long thin slices of beef (cut close to the rib) and fresh chunks of garlic and mushrooms of assorted sizes. Apparently galbi is supposed to be marinated in fruit juices. Now I didn’t know that when I ate it, but the beef slices were moist and tender and flavourful – there just weren’t enough slices to satisfy the group of us, who would have I think gladly gone without the side dishes. The beef slices were supposed, our server kindly demonstrated, to be wrapped with the grilled garlic and mushrooms and fresh sweet onion rings in lettuce and mint, but believe you me: the galbi is good enough by itself. However, good as this was, it wasn’t my favourite meal in Busan.
- ??? – I don’t know what this dish I had is called; I just did a search on Korean food, and I suspect that it was a version of maeuntang. Anyway, this was my favourite meal in Busan, and I’ll let an excerpt from an email I sent to some colleagues describe it:
“Just back from a humongous seafood steamboat. Think about this: piled on top of a lot of bean sprouts and kangkong with a dollop of concentrated kimchi seasoning are big scallops, half a big flower crab, tiny shrimp, big prawns, tiny clams, a shellfish whose name translated from Chinese means “elephant’s tusk mussel”, big mussels, and lots of sotong, all sitting in broth. Now think about high heat bring applied to all these: the big prawns slowly turning red whiskers first, the broth slowly being supplemented by the juices from the seafood and then stirred up so that the kimchi seasoning turns the broth orange red.
We had this with plain rice, and it was very very good.”
- Book your seats early! – It pays to confirm your flight early, and to book your seats through the Internet or the phone. If you’re like me, you want to be able to control when you can go to the washroom, and getting an aisle seat instead of being assigned to a window seat can make a gigantic difference in terms of how much you enjoy your flight.
- By the sea – Busan is supposed to be a seaside resort, and the excellent seafood was a sign of that. (I had a fairly forgettable sashimi meal though – the raw fish slices themselves were rubbery and too fishy, and there was this dish presented in a delicate French way, and as far as the group of us could make out, the dish consisted of whelk slices, some gooey mass that was conceivably an aggregation of eyes, and two other small piles of unidentifiable stuff, all bracketed by two halfs of a black sea urchin-like thing.) And I also had a hotel room facing the sea, and near enough to the sea so that if i jumped hard enough, I just might make it into the shallow part at high tide. Imagine this: Your eyes are closed, and you are becoming aware of the last tendrils of your dream even as you start to stir awake. You hug your pillow a bit tighter as your senses reopen, and you feel the creases in your bedsheets and the arrangement of your limbs on the bed. In the background there is a relaxed rhythm, a back and forth sashaying sound, a lapping and frothing, oddly familiar. And you remember you heard it the night before, lulling your closed eyes to sleep. And you wake up almost completely, to the sound of the rush and hush of the waves.
There is just something about going to sleep and waking up to the sound of waves that touches one’s core I tell you. Go try it if you haven’t :)