One of the first places I almost always take friends that visit Busan is Jagalchi fish market. It’s a strange place. While it’s a pretty well-established place to visit, the fish market is a bit of an oddity. Going and watching old women gut and chop up dead fish is not exactly akin to relaxing on the beach in the ranks of must-do tourist activities. The best explanation I can come up with for why I keep going back, is that I unknowingly despise fish. Some inner chamber of my subconscious mind must love to watch them suffer and squirm. Strangely, consciously I’ve got nothing against fish. I don’t love them, but my enjoyment of Jagalchi market must go beyond pure aquatic schadenfreude. (Squid, on the other hand, are truly evil and horrible creatures.)
So here are some other possible reasons why I like the fish market so much.
-It’s pretty much a free aquarium. But weirder and scarier, like a horror aquarium. So many creepy, freakish looking creatures, packed into tanks while their friends and family are being hacked apart and gutted above them.
-The fish market is one of the best spots to photograph people in Busan. It does feel slightly exploitative to walk around snapping photos of poor people while they’re working. It made me think of a few unhappy years I spent as a house painter, and how I’d have felt had groups of Korean tourists crowded around me with their expensive cameras, taking pictures of me while I suffered through my work day. It’s gotta be really annoying, still, you can get some pretty cool photos.
-Getting sashimi can be fun. On the second floor of the indoor area can be a great place for some cheap seafood. While you won’t be blown away by any extraordinarily sanitary conditions, at least you’ll know it’s fresh when they guy brings it to you, still alive, to ask if the fish he’s about to kill and feed you looks okay. Also the fish being cooked on the grills outside, along the street, look and smell fantastic.
-It’s convenient. Right beside Nampo-dong. Only a few stops from Busan Station. It’s definitely easy to find and get around. Stop by for a few minutes before catching your train, or make it part of a Nampo shopping day.
-There are some great views of the port and of the surrounding hillside neighborhoods here. It’s definitely worth a look around. Also, try going to the top of the Lotte Department store in Nampo. There’s a sky garden that has some of my favorite views of Busan.
Well it may not be the most crowd-pleasing, relaxing, or pleasant smelling spot in Busan. Jagalchi wins major points for being among the most interesting places. You’ll definitely see things that you just aren’t gonna experience in too many other places.
Directions: Take the Orange metro line to Jagalchi Station. Go out exit 10. Walk straight until you see the market gate on your right, follow that street until the end.
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