So another friend of mine is visiting from Vancouver and this one also wants to travel to Busan while she is here. For some reason, my Korean friends from Canada are fascinated by the country’s largest port city and I do not blame them for it. Most of these Koreans were born in Seoul and moved to Canada when they were little so they never had chance to visit so many places in Korea (just like myself). However, they have seen and heard stories about how Busan is a big tourist spot and it makes sense that they attempt to squeeze in a short trip to Busan within few weeks of their stay in Korea.
For someone who wanted to visit Busan so badly, my college buddy turned out to be a seafood newbie who could not consume raw fish. “Then why did you ever wanted to come here?” I made fun of her but I guess I could understand as back in Canada I have known quite a few people who were simply unable to try sashimi for various reasons (maybe a bacteria scare?) Plus, Busan is so much more than just fresh sashimi – I believe it is one of the most beautiful cities by the sea and any Korean should visit Busan at least once in their lifetime.
An old friend who is a native Korean has recommended that I take my Canadian buddy to a place called Millak Raw Fish Market (민락어민활어직판장). The huge building is actually quite close to Gwangalli Beach (광안리해변) where we stayed so we decided to walk along the shore to get there. Inside the market are vendors selling fresh, live sea creatures of all kinds imaginable – quite alike the scene at Jagalchi Market where I got to pick my own selection to be prepared on the spot.
The difference here at Millak is that unlike at Jagalchi where the tables are set right by the fish tanks, you would have to take your catch and either go upstairs or outside to pojangmacha (포장마차). The lady who sold us an assortment of clams advised us to go outside to one of the orange tents as the owner of the tent will know what to do. This turned out to make a very confusing situation as every single owner from the rows of orange tents refused to serve us for no reason. I started to panic but fortunately the very last tent (an almost empty one) allowed us inside.
I asked the owner why would other tents not accept us but we were not able to get a clear answer from her. Later on, as we chow down on amazingly fresh dishes of clams and saltwater eel I kind of understood why: tents that are packed have no reason to accept customers who are not having sashimi. Preparing sashimi takes very little effort but clams and eels need to be preped, seasoned, and cooked – taking a whole lot of time for almost same amount of money that is paid for the service in the tent.
Overall, the food was amazing and the atmosphere inside the orange tent was classic. The orange tents or pojangmacha are the ones that you often witness in K-drama and it was first time for both me and my friend to be inside one of them. It was a fun experience and although we were rejected for reasons that we never quite understood in the end we made a good decision to visit the orange tents for once.