For the 3 day long weekend in June, we decided to take the KTX speedtrain to Busan for some sun and sea amidst the never ending hustle at school. Busan is the second largest city in Korea and dubbed “Korea’s San Francisco”, as it’s got the largest port making it home to fish markets, famous bridges and beaches resembling San Fran. It’s not the easiest city to get around if you are short on time as most of the attractions and subway lines are quite spread out, but if you know where you’re going it’s pretty easy to navigate.
GAMCHEON CULTURE VILLAGE
Our first stop on a rainy, but crisp morning was this curious village nicknamed the “Santorini of the East” or “Korea’s Machu Picchu.” A collection of Lego-like houses, painted in a rainbow of pastels and set against the coastal hillside. Though bright and playful now, the beginnings of the village were not quite so happy. During the Korean War these houses were built to serve as living spaces for war refugees. Many homes in the village have since been abandoned, but local artists have decided to decorate it with cheeky murals, sculptures, galleries and charming cafés making it one of the most popular tourist attractions. It is no Santorini, but it is a place of colour and creativity definitely worth the visit. This place has been on my Korean bucket list for quite some time now so I was super excited to finally be able to tick it off!
Artists and art students constantly create projects to be exhibited at the village. This mural of a huge fish made up of smaller, painted wooden fishes is part of the “Culture Garden” series where the villagers were asked to contribute a piece of their creativity and then it was all put together to form one big fish. Pieces of these wooden fish are also used all around the village as markers to help visitors find their way around all the secret paths, stairways and alleys.
One of my friends back home asked me what the big deal is with this place because it looks like nothing more than a township. I guess we all have our own opinions of what is visually aesthetic because to me it was a place where beauty meets history and I appreciated how people could work together to turn a once sad and dreary village into an enchanting, culturally rich neighbourhood just by using art and a little imagination.
My kind of adventure… Exploring in the rain – just my camera and umbrella in hand.
Standing in line to buy Odeng – traditional Korean fishcake on a stick.
Korean couples stood in lines to take selfies at this mural and put up love locks with messages on the fence to “secure their love.” Koreans are inlove with love ♡ #fact
Coffee with a view. My favourite kind ☺
I couldn’t agree more Mr. Chaplin!
How to get there:
Take the Metro Line 1 to Toseong Station and walk out Exit 6. Walk to the corner and turn right. Walk about 1 block to the bus stop in front of the hospital. Hop on Bus 2 or 2-2 and ride for about 10 minutes. You will get off at the top of the hill next to the school. You should be able to see the entrance, if not just ask someone to point you in the right direction or look out for the big signs all around.
HAEUNDAE BEACH AND GWANGALLI BEACH
Haeundae Beach is definitely the most popular and well known beach in South Korea. There are a lot of nice cafés, pubs, luxurious hotels and buildings along the beach. Like most places in Korea, the beach is absolutely PACKED with people every summer. Not surprising on August 8, 2008 Haeundae Beach made the Guinness Book of Records for the most umbrellas on a beach!
If you walk all the way to the right end of Haeundae beach and follow the wooden path and stairs laid out along the coastline, you can catch magnificent views like the one above and eventually reach Dombaeksom lighthouse, a well-known landmark in the area.
Gwangalli is Busan’s 2nd most popular beach. When the sun sets, grab an ice cream and sit on Gwangalli Beach to look at Korea’s second-longest suspension bridge. The lights of the bridge change color and reflect beautifully in the water.
As you can see from the dim pictures, it rained 2 out of the 3 days we were in Busan so most of our time was spent playing darts, people watching and drinking(too many) cocktails at the beachfront bars instead of lazing on the beach. But I still can’t complain about the stunning views and endless selection of bars, cafés, restaurants and even clubs that are literally right on the beachfront. Waygookin (foreigner) favourites include:
- Beached Bar – owned and run by a New Zealander and has a good selection of foreign beers and rugby themed interior.
- Cocky’s Pub – for great atmosphere, bar games and awesome western menu.
- Spain Club – a restaurant that’s more on the pricey side. They serve authentic Spanish dishes and have a great atmosphere. Perfect if you’re looking for finer dining and like dressing up for dinner instead of the usual pubfood.
- Thursday Party – serves a mean English breakfast for that morning after hangover.
One of my fave night sights in Korea – Gwangalli Bridge.
NAMPO-DONG, BIFF-SQUARE & GUKJE MARKET
On our last day in Busan we went to Nampo-dong, one of the coolest neighborhoods to explore in Busan. It’s mainly known for shopping and mouth-watering streetfood. We also stopped by BIFF Square, famous for hosting the Busan International Film Festival each year as well as the nearby Gukje Market.
One of my favorite things about living in South Korea is visiting the markets. There are markets everywhere! And a market for everything! The smells, sounds, and sights are always fascinating and almost overwhelming. I can spend hours wandering around, looking at all the people and all the different stalls.
The first thing we bought when we got there, was one of our favourite Korean streetfoods – Hotteok or seed stuffed pancake (호떡). This “pancake” is deep fried then cut down the middle and stuffed with brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, a little salt, crushed peanuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Sweet and salty, gooey goodness! Even though it was piping hot, we gobbled it up in seconds.
In Korea you can never really be sure what you are putting in your mouth. We chose to stick to the somewhat more familiar streetfoods, but for the more adventurous there’s always plenty on offer like this infamous snack, Bundeggi or put simply, silkworm larvae! It apparently explodes in your mouth with every bite. Old Korean men love gulping down a cup of these along with some soju or beer. And then there’s also dried squid and octopus. See below.
A pretty ajumma preparing odeng(fishcakes on a stick), mandu(dumplings) and some tteokbokki(chewy ricecake noodles in a sticky, sweet and spicy sauce).
And now my favourite Korean street snack of all time: Gyeran bbang or egg bread. An oval shaped bread, slightly sweet like waffle dough, with an egg cracked on top and baked into the bread. The mixture of sweet and savoury flavors had me craving this day and night. It’s the breakfast of champions!
After stuffing my face with hotteok and eggbread, I came across the strawberry version of candy apples and had to try one. This one gets two thumbs up!!!
Another Korean favourite: Some seasoned corn. Habana?! Haha.
JAGALCHI FISH MARKET
We decided to go for a stroll to walk off all the delicious streetfoods and randomly stumbled upon the iconic Jagalchi Fish Market (자갈치시장) just a few minutes away from Nampo-dong. Located right on the water in Busan, you can find some of the freshest seafood in the country here. Even if fish isn’t your thing, walking through the rows of stalls selling the catch of the day, most of which still swimming around in tanks, is an unforgettable and unique experience. “Ajummas and ajjoshees” (old korean tannies and ooms) pride themselves on their little stalls and will call you over to buy THEIR fish because it’s the freshest. You can check out the daily catch and then have the seller cook it for you inside. Trust me if you like seafood, this is the place to eat it! I do love me some seafood, but the thing is, seafood in Korea is, well, different. A lot of times, it is pretty fishy, and I’m just not a fan. Oh, and then there is the dried fish. No thank you.
We wandered through the stalls, past tanks filled with some of the largest crabs I have ever seen, baby sharks, eels, snails, squid, octopus and manta rays, just to name a few. Most of them still alive.
Note: Busan prides itself on “freshness of the catch”. So maybe just make sure the creatures on your plate aren’t still wiggling before you bite into them.
Raw baby crabs were fermented in chilli paste or soy sauce and bottled in jars.
How to get there:
From BIFF Square, turn left down Junggu-ro (heading toward the bay). Cross over Gudeok-ro and walk for about 3 blocks then turn left.