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Eeeewwwww...Fish Markets...and the delectable Korean delicacy

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seagull in Busan, Korea

Okay, so here’s were we get into the slightly graphic photos. Now, keep in mind that I don’t mean to be culturally insensitive. I respect different cultures and enjoy learning from them. However, what I encountered today was a little more than my American nose and tummy could handle.

Busan Harbor

We had taken the boat between Nagasaki and Korea and it was an overnight trip. The arrival port was for the city of Busan (which is pronounced Pusan and means “Mountainous Cauldron”). Busan is a large and busy city. It sits on the tip of South Korea and has many more people than I would have imagined. Downtown Busan sits on a harbor then comes inland from the sea port. The most prominent building is the main Fish market, which can be seen from all sides. It’s very modern and inside there are rows of market stalls full of fresh fish.

Busan, Korea Harbor

We had been told that the Korean fish markets were world famous and we must visit them, so off we went. As we came up from the subway stop, we saw a large archway that seemed pretty inviting and the Fish market building could be seen in the distance. We crossed the street and walked under the arches. There were many cars, motor scooters and bikes that kept zipping past us on the narrow street. Every few seconds, someone was honking or willing to run over you if you didn’t move.

Vendor on the way to the fish market

There were a lot of people talking, laughing, yelling and general noise making which was a little disorienting. Along this street we began to notice a few venders on each side with pallets of veggies or greens. Then a block later, a few buckets of fish became visible here and there as we weaved in and out of the crowd. Ahead, wecould see what looked like an entrance to a street market that was spilling over with more locals darting about.

Fish market in Busan Korea

As we reached the entrance it was obvious that it was fish…fish like things and things from the ocean which I had never witnessed before. The first thing to hit you was the smell. Now, you would expect a fish market area to smell like fish, so we were fine and going with the flow. Although there were people going in and out of the main fish market building, it seemed that the street market was much more appealing.

Fish market in Busan Korea

There were so many varieties of fish and sea creatures that I couldn’t even tell you what they all were. I recognized the obvious clams, large squid, and multiple bowls of smaller squid and small shells of something. People were scrambling to pick out handfuls of everything and placing them in bags or paper. This must be a wonderful way for the locals to get their fresh meals every day. While I appreciate fresh seafood, there is no way that I could cut up and cook something with it’s head still on, or while it was trying to slime from my fingers. There were some buckets that were so disgusting that I couldn’t even describe what I saw…but I’ll try as we go along.

Fish market in Busan, Korea

We began walking down this tiny, narrow path between the many, many pallets and buckets of sea life. I say life, because much of it was still alive. In fact, at one point I ran across my first bucket of live squid. Ahhhhhh….I wanted to pet one so bad. They were about 10 inches long and kept swimming around the little bucket, sometimes they would open up their web of tentacles and push forward in the few inches of water they had. They were so cute and I felt really sorry for them. I wanted to buy them all and take them with me. I’m sure there would be some logistical problems with that, but at the moment, I was in love. I dare not stick my hand in there though because Korea market ladies look really mean. I’m sure they’re not…okay, I’m not sure, but I was afraid that I would get yelled at, so I didn’t.

Fish Market in Busan Korea

Even when I took photos, I held the camera down and snuck photos from fear of being mobbed by little Korean mothers who were running these booths. You’re thinking I’m being really rude right now…but I have to tell you, one of them literally shoved…and hard…my friend out of the way because he was in the middle of the path where she wanted to move one of her umbrella stands. Yes, you would have been scared too!!!

Fish market in Busan, Korea

We kept walking…and walking. Ten minutes of fish viewing….slain manta rays…20 minutes of walking….slimy, bloody tube-like creatures that keep writhing around inside of clear plastic bags (what the hell???)….30 minutes of walking…where’s the exit? No exit. Yes, my friends, we were in the world’s longest fish market. The smell started to become very overwhelming. Oh…I left out a few things.

Fish Market in Busan Korea

Okay…first, each vendor would pick up cups of water and splash it over their dead (or alive) catch..then the water would run down into the street and create large puddles….and you have to walk through these puddles…in your brand new Sketcher walking shoes.

Fish Market in Busan Korea

Hungry?? Of course you are…so, a friend of ours decided to be brave and pet a sea slug…or the ancestor of a sea slug. A friendly Korean man who happened to be running this booth, picks it up in front of him…chop, chop, chop and offers a nibble to our friend (after a dollop of hot sauce). Another man gets into a “dare you to eat it” romp with our friend, and after a few childish back and forths…our friend plops it in his mouth. I know what you’re thinking…YUM!!! Right?” Chew..chew…chew…nothing was happening, it couldn’t be chewed up,so he walks away from the grinning Korean man and promptly spits it out when he was out of sight.

Fish Market in Busan Korea

Now, in case you have worked up a good appetite, we are stuck blocks inward in this market (fish on both sides) and began noticing little kitchen like set-ups that contained a couple of burners, a couple of woks and the smell of fresh cooked seafood. As we discovered, you can simply pick through your choice of variety buckets of whatever happens to be laying there and they cook it for you on the spot. Lots of Kimche (I don’t know if I spelled that right) to be added if you like. Okay, maybe this is a cool idea, but it really, really didn’t seem sanitary.

Fish market in Busan, Korea

Anyway, I apologize if I have offended anyone with my colorful description of the Korean fish market, as this is their way of life and certainly acceptable and respectful in their culture.

Exit from the Fish Market

However, after walking for an hour through this we finally found the way out and I was very happy to breath in some fresh air. By the way, I have LOTS of colorful photos of the fish market that can be viewed by clicking HERE. Keep in mind that there were hundreds of these booths and I could only photograph a few.


shelley said...

that would of deffinitely smelled fishy but fish is good

Sahra is wowed said...

really amazing pcitures - love your descriptions, especially since i have an easy time imagining your voice relaying the experiences

We miss you guys!

Anonymous said...

OMG.....eeww is right. Loved the narrative. Eliz

lechua said...

wow i have not seen such a long line of variety of fish before - that must have been quite an experience...

Luther Bailey said...

Hi Lechua! Yes, it was something else. The smell was the strongest impression. LOL

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