in Korea (part III): PanStar express


Somewhat ironically, the majority of the film I managed to salvage from my 2009 trip to South Korea wasn’t even shot in Korea.  Because I managed to leave my entire bag of exposed film behind on the ferry ride from Busan to Osaka, the only film that I was able to develop was the film that I still had in my cameras as the trip came to a close, and that means a lot of photos from the PanStar cruise.

The trip between Busan and Osaka takes 18 hours, much of it at night.  I ended up sharing a room (there are four bunks to a room) with two fine fellows from France and we quickly joined up with a group of four Japanese students across the way in bonding over makgeolli and whiskey.  The night portion of the PanStar cruise feels like a kind of strange party that features a glowing Vegas-style staircase, crewmembers that exchange their uniforms for instruments and put on a stage show that includes traditional Korean music, stagey jazz and rock, and even magic.  This may sound cheesy, but by the end of the show people were on their feet dancing around the vast dining cabin and even joining the band up on the stage.  It might not sound like your idea of fun, but then perhaps you’re just a little bit fusty.

The best part of taking a ship, however, is moving through that layer of the world that gets bypassed completely by air travel.  Leaving Busan by ferry puts you right in the middle of the shipping traffic of the world’s fifth busiest seaport.  The ferry terminal is smack in the middle of a city of shipping containers and as the ferry leaves the harbor it passes bank after bank of enormous shipping cranes.  After an hour or so the ferry leaves the visible shore behind and there’s nothing but ocean.  And then night falls.  Sometime during the night the ferry passes through the strait that lies between Kitakyushu and Shimonoseki and the scattered lights of civilization briefly pass by until the ferry enters the Seto Inland Sea and the darkness wakes up again.  Later, after the sun has risen, the ferry makes it’s way through the glittering waters beneath the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge, which has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world.  Hundreds of fishing boats drift through the glittering morning water looking for snapper or octopus, the specialties of the area.

Finally, the boat drifts into Osaka harbor and clicks into the dock like a Lego.  Suddenly you’re reconnected to it all and after passing through customs and getting onto the bus you’re heading back to your old life at 11:00 in the morning.  And it’s a beautiful day.  And you’ve forgotten your film on the boat, haven’t you?

What a silly person you are.


4 Responses to “in Korea (part III): PanStar express”

  1. 1 Iver Lofving

    Great to hear about your adventures anyway Trane!
    We’ll see the pictures in our minds when you write about your trip to Korea.

    • 2 Trane DeVore

      I’ve been doing a lot of island traveling lately, and island travel always makes me miss Swan’s. Hope you have a wonderful summer there this year.

  2. This is beautiful. I want to be on that cruise too.

    • 4 Trane DeVore

      I’d love to take that ferry again. Come out for a trip and we can ride the waves together! (They’re pretty small waves, actually, but I think you get the picture.)

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