And so, our stay in South Korea came to an end. Ready to cross the Sea of Japan, and continue the journey in Japan. First stop: Fukuoka.
On the road again
The service industry in Korea is all about friendliness and speed. Our checkout went smoother than in many US hotels. The clerk called us a cab via their app. And so we were on our way to Busan Port to catch the Beetle Ferry to Fukuoka.
The passenger terminal in only a few blocks away from Busan station. That’s the train station where we arrived earlier that week. The taxi driver dropped us in front of the modern building.
Busan ferry terminal
The check-in floor has all the ferry companies with their service desk. We went to the jr Kyushu beetle line to exchange our vouchers. We had bought these online in the weeks before we left for Korea. The agent converted the reservation into a ferry ticket. Surprisingly, choosing a seat came with a price. A few minutes and a swiped credit card later, we had boarding passes and immigration documents in hand.
We passed security and immigration at record speed. And we found ourselves in the pretty big boarding hall of the ferry terminal. As people started to set their luggage in the waiting line to board, we followed the example. There are a few small shops to get some food and one large tax-free business. So armed with a latte, we could pass the time to start boarding.
Sailing to Fukuoka, Japan
When we started boarding, not even 30 minutes for departure, we started a chat with a solo traveler in the line. The man was a firefighter from Catalunia, traveling Korea and Japan as part of a longer journey.
After spending time in Central America, an ideal moment to polish my Spanish. We had seen the limited news coming out of Catalunia and the way Spain was cracking down on the independence movement. But we were shocked to see the actual police brutality in the videos he showed us from the marches around Barcelona.
A ferry attendant (or sailing attendant?) came enforcing the rules on board. No small backpacks allowed in the overhead compartment, and seatbelts to be fastened. We moved our carry-on to the luggage storage on the boat and strapped in.
The ferry ride itself was pretty smooth sailing. Three and a half hours to cross the 200 kilometers between Busan and Fukuoka. Not a bad journey time. And so we arrived in Fukuoka, Japan.
Immigration in the terminal in the Hakata port went smoothly. No stamp in Japan in the passport, but a small sticker. At least the traveler in me did not felt left out stamp-wise as I did when arriving in Seoul earlier.
Our larger backpacks and that of our new Catalonian friend needed further inspection. The Japanese customs must love to understand packing techniques for backpackers since they only stopped people carrying those.
Our global roaming worked like a charm here. The phone had found the Japanese signal before entering the harbor. So we could see Uber does indeed serve Fukuoka. We bid goodbye to our travel acquaintance and went for the taxi stand. After a longer than expected wait for our taxi, we were en route to our hotel in Fukuoka.
First evening in Japan
Once we checked in to the Hokke Club hotel in Fukuoka, we found that the idea of small rooms in Japan wasn’t a myth. In the bathroom, you could touch all the walls without moving around. And it’s pretty impressive to realize somebody actually assembled the bed precisely in the spot we found it. There’s no way that bed was ever maneuvered in one piece in that tiny room.
We walked a few blocks to find food and found a small tempura restaurant. The most expensive set menu of fried food was around 15 dollars. We couldn’t finish the amount of food. The first real Japanese meal was yummy!
A short walk back to the hotel, and we could spend our first night on Japanese soil, ready for more adventures!
Koen Blanquart is a strategy consultant, journalist, and author.
Wanderlust is one of his driving factors, and he shares his travels here on Boarding Today. Koen is also the skipper of SV Bagabonda, a sailing vessel making a slow circumvention of the globe..
Koen recently published a book on how to manage a remote team: The Suitcase Office.