During my winter vacation my girlfriend and I decided to take a trip to Busan. Neither one of us had been there before and we didn’t feel like spending a lot of money to go out of the country and we had both been to Jeju-do. So, Busan seemed the most likely spot to escape the cold temperatures and also get in some sight-seeing.
If you can navigate your way through the Korean websites, or like me you have a Korean girlfriend, you can get a packaged deal. We ended up with a relatively decent hotel with our KTX bullet train tickets included. We did have to get to the Seoul Train Station by 7am but after we were there we didn’t have long to wait to board our train. I had never been on a train before and was impressed with how efficient it was and even though we were traveling at a decent speed, roughly 250+ miles per hour, I didn’t really notice it until another train going the opposite direction passed us. With 3 hours we were in Busan and riding the subway to our hotel.
Our hotel was also very nice with a nice view of the beach and a large comfortable bed. The one problem we had was that our heater was stuck on and we had to turn on our air conditioning to compensate. We were right on the beach and just a few blocks away from several restaurants that all looked good. I really wanted to get some fish and chips as I had heard that there were a few great pubs with some tasty fish and chips. I ended up going to the Wolfhound Pub which has the same menu as the one found in Itaewon.
The first thing we decided to do was go outside and walk the boardwalk surrounding Haeundae Beach. Since it was winter there were no bikini clad girls playing on the beach. This is probably a good thing as it would not do me any good to be looking at them with my girlfriend at my side. She is the jealous type. Many of the scenes from the disaster movie Haeundae or 해운대 are right there for you to see. There were plenty of people milling about on the beach and taking in the sights.
As you walk the boardwalk you can hop in to one of the most expensive hotels, The Westin Chosun Beach Hotel, where many foreign dignitaries stay. From there you can look down the beach. After checking out the raw food restaurant we headed back out onto the boardwalk and checked out the light house and BEXCO the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center. From here you have a great view of Gwangan Bridge. The walk also takes you past a major housing project that caught on fire early last year. The fire tore right through the outer wall and burned upward in a strange pattern.
There is a lot to see and do in Busan and we had to hit the world’s largest department store. The Shinsegae known as Centum City was massive. But the real let down was that there really wasn’t much difference than any of the other Shinsegaes found throughout Korea.
Since we were there just days after the New Year began we woke up early and took a taxi to Beomeosa Buddhist Temple. I think this was one of the highlights of the trip for me. It is the said that it is the first place in Korea to see the sun rise and we were there with a few other people to see the sun rise over the horizon. The problem was that the day was very cloudy and we never saw the sun come up. But we did our best to observe the tradition. Another great thing that was at the temple was these little figurines that people leave behind in hopes that their children will do well on their exams. There were hundreds of these little figures on every nook and cranny they could find.
After Beomeosa we took another taxi to back into the city and went to an outdoor market with the hopes of finding some red bean soup. My girlfriend really wanted to find this soup but ended up eating sweets instead. I found a deal for about thirty mandarin oranges for 2,000 won ($2) and snacked on them as we cruised the market and walked our way to Busan Tower. The tower is in a small park at the top of the hill that has a few statues and a gift shop. The park is notorious for old men who ask if you want them to take your picture and then tell you astronomical prices to receive a copy of the picture. We were not approached and didn’t have that problem. But we did observe it happen to another couple.
The last major site we went to was a place that I made sure we went and visited. The United Nations Memorial Cemetery. It is was a little out of the way from where we were but since my grandfather served here, I wanted to see what South Korea had done to honor those that fell in the ongoing conflict. It was fairly impressive and the only downside was that every country that came to South Korea’s aid had a nice statue except the United States. I was a little disappointed that the United States didn’t take the time and money to put up some sort of monument to honor the heroes that died defending the county.
Busan was a lot of fun and it would be nice to return to the city once the weather warms up. While we managed to see nearly every site the city had to offer I would like to see the beach full of people and as my girlfriend says “hot body girls.”