I travel with a tour group to Busan, South Korea. While I am almost bored to death by the standardized itineraries, luckily, I find the amazing Jagalchi Market, which is godsend gift for me.
The shop signs are so colorful that I think of what my tutor Luise in Camberwell once said to me, "It feels like you've poured all the colors onto the paper." The street is lined with seafood restaurants whose servers solicit customers in front of the doors. In fact, this is a familiar scene we can find everywhere in Taiwan too.
Busan is a sea harbor, so it makes sense that the city is rich in sea resources. Yet, the gigantic shellfish are rather visually shocking.
Jagalchi Market is quite vast. The first floor is lined with numerous fish vendors, selling so many kinds of seafood that I can't name.
Basically it works like this: Customers pick fish that interest them, and the fish vendors will turn it into yummy sashimi for them.
The second floor is a widely-stretching food court. The customers sit on the wooden floor with their shoes taken off, merrily enjoying an array of seafood cooked in various manners.
Though I am tempted to try the famous octopus cuisine, my stomach is filled with Tteokbokki, a popular Korean snack food made from soft rice cake, fish cake and sweet red chili sauce. Also, I think it's cruel to swallow it alive while it is still writhing with life.
I've finally won one and half hours of freedom from the tour guide. When I am about to forget my ability to draw, it shouts to be heard. After selecting a really wonderful site on the staircase so that I can look down, I immediately get down to work. In the beginning, no one pays attention to me except one gentleman who talks to me in Korean. He goes on to explain in English, "My major was fine art." He spoke really clear English, so I am puzzled where he popped out. As I am halfway through, the fish vendors begin to peek at my sketchbook when they pass by me. Then they would go back to their co-workers and tell them to come for a look too. When I finish the sketch, they would beckon me asking for a glance at the drawing. Though I don't speak Korean, I would point them out in the picture. Most of them seem to be glad about being my models. On my way out, I realize the artist is actually a fish vendor as well. He gives me a super bright smile, which reverses my fires impression of Koreans and Korean culture. At first, I found the people to be uniform without any variety not only in looks but also in the ways they think. Fortunately, having spent a short period of time in the market shows me that Koreans are actually more than that.
It's really nice to experience how the locals live in such a fascinating place. I get to breathe and do what I want, and my trip has thus become different.