Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Japan Adventures, Part 1: The part during which we are still in Korea

My cousin and I left work at 10pm last Friday, took a taxi from there to the train station, and purchased tickets to Busan (부산). As we waited for the train to arrive, there were several announcements concerning train #167 – our train – but as my Korean skills are embarrassingly shite, I couldn’t make out much more than the number. The train arrived at the appropriate time, and we boarded…

…my ticket was for car 13, seat 10D, and someone was sitting in my seat. I pulled out my ticket and showed it to him. Instead of looking apologetic and moving (as usually happens in such situations), he whipped out his ticket: car 13, seat 10D. I asked if he was going to Busan. The guy was wearing headphones, and I thought perhaps his destination was Daegu (대구) and perhaps he hadn’t realized that he’d arrived. But no. He was going to Busan, too. Weird. The ticketing system is electronic, so who knows how that happened.

Luckily the train wasn’t crowded, and there was plenty of room for me and my cousin to sit elsewhere.

Now, normally the KTX train from Daegu to Busan stops at the transfer to Ulsan (울산). KTX trains are also almost always on time. Our train was scheduled to arrive in Busan at 11:40. At exactly 11:40, our train rolled to a stop in… Gupo (구포). My exact words were “Where the fuck is Gupo?” Wherever we were, a good 90% of the passengers disembarked. Between the indecipherable announcements back in Daegu about train #167, the dude with the ticket for my seat, and the mass exodus of our fellow passengers, I began to panic that we’d gotten on the wrong train.

Luckily, my worries were for naught. The Gupo train station turns out to be connected to the Gupo subway station, and it’s a mere five minute train ride or so from the train’s final stop – Busan Station, our destination. [In retrospect, Gupo is closer to the airport than Busan Station, but… live and learn, I suppose.]

The Busan train station is located directly across the street from the seedy Chinatown/Russiatown district, located along Texas Street. How’s that for an international hodgepodge? My cousin and I got rooms in the "Kolon Motel" just outside of the ‘international’ district, and decided to do a bit of exploring. Unfortunately, as we had to be up at 6am, we didn’t do much other than wander through the district for about 45 minutes, counting prostitutes (sadly nearly all Russian), and confusing passersby by speaking in sentences which mixed Russian, English, and Korean. Or at least I did, anyway: Кошка, кссс, кссс, кссс, привет! Hello, 고양이. 괜찮아요, Do you want to be my friend?” Okay, so I may have stalked some stray cats there, too… I am an international cat lady, after all!

Kolon Motel: A great name for your motel if it's on the ass-end of a seedy district.

WTF?? The Russian reads 'cheap cellular service' - cell phones, sim cards, and juicers?

The next morning we took a taxi to the airport.

Ages ago when I got my visa for Korea, the visa arrived stamped into my passport with a mistake: it says my gender is male. Er… it’s international cat lady, folks. I had no trouble entering Korea back in July or getting my Alien Resident Card shortly thereafter. In fact, I’d completely forgotten about this.

When my cousin (he’s a dude, btw) and I were checking in for our flight, there was some kind of problem with my passport. Apparently the stamp used to stamp-in my arrival time/date in Seoul was an a-typical stamp. The woman at the check-in desk kept handing the passport to my cousin saying, “Excuse me, sir, when did you come to Korea?” “Excuse me, sir, where is your arrival stamp?” “Excuse me, sir, did you come to Korea with a different passport?” After each question, I took the passport, showed the woman the arrival stamp, and answered her questions. Nonetheless, she continued to address them to my cousin.

It was only after comparing my Alien Registration Card with my passport and then conferring with her supervisor that she decided it was OK to let me check in. Sheesh. Only after that did I recall the misprint about my gender on the visa, which at least partially explained the confusion. Maybe.

The incorrect visa. (My passport and ARC both state that I am female, so god knows how this ended up on there!)

And lastly, the entry stamp which so confused the check-in lady at the Air Busan counter

But… finally! We were checked in and on our way to Japan!

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