The first day in a new country is usually a tad hectic. You have to get through immigration, buy a new SIM card, figure out transit, find your accommodation, etc. It can be a challenge. Despite this and feeling pretty exhausted on our 1am flight, Liam and I took one look at the sunrise over Busan as we descended and were ready for it.
Grainy yet oh so beautiful
Turns out, it wasn’t much of a challenge at all! We quickly learned that South Korea is wonderfully efficient, clean, and filled with amazing public transit. Its wild how these things seem even more impressive after spending a few months in South East Asia! We checked into our motel which I was at first skeptical about because I just kept thinking it’d be “Bates” style, but that could not be further from the truth. It was a big comfortable room, and we got a full line of mini complimentary skin care products. After a nap and a shower we were feeling awake and oh so pampered so we decided to go for a wander. Our stomachs were growling so we ducked into the first restaurant we saw. The menu and everything else inside was completely in Korean. Google translate did it’s best to reveal the menu options for us but the only thing that made even a bit of sense was one “soup”. So, with no other information, that’s what we went for. A few dishes were put down in front of us, one of which was a big bowl filled with pickled daikon and cabbage in a chili sauce that we assumed was the soup we ordered. Cold and rather acidic, but soup nonetheless. Luckily the waiter came by real quick and showed us that it was to be used as a side. Our main dish followed soon after and was a delicious bowl filled with noodles, mushrooms and fresh green onions. Paired with the various small sides and it was the perfect first meal in Korea, it’s even better that we will never really know what it was.
Picture of our delicious sides when we thought they were the full meal
Our wander continued through a market with small shops and produce stalls, onto a main street filled with fashion stores and cute mascots promoting restaurants and coffee shops. It was colourful, kitsch and fun. We even found a stunning traditional Korean temple. We still have temple fatigue but the style of this one was novel and cool to see.
Incredibly well maintained temple
One of the places that comes up on the few blogs that do exist about traveling Busan is Gamcheon Cultural Village. This old village where locals still live, has been massively redeveloped. The houses received colourful coats of paint, murals were painted throughout the village encouraging artists to set up shop here, and several cafes and small eateries followed. The whole place felt like a living modern art museum. Many small houses were converted into galleries, and there is so much street art it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve seen. At the entrance to the village we got an interactive map where, throughout our walk, we could collect stamps at various points of interest and exchange them for post cards. It was like adult Pokémon and kept us even more entertained than we already were. This is an absolutely amazing experience and I’d definitely put it at the top of the list for anyone visiting Busan!
A piece of street art capturing the spirit of the village!
A quick bus ride later and we were at Anaman Park. The map was in Korean so we winged it and managed to get in a nice one and a half hour loop around the area. There no shortage of wildlife, gorgeous seaside views and green spaces to see. It was so good to just breathe the clean air and listen to the quiet sounds of nature around us. And I do mean quiet. Korea is the quietest country I’ve been to. A night bus absolutely rammed with people sounds quieter than most libraries in the US.
Boats for days
Of course the best part of the park was the dinosaur exhibit near the cable car. Before even looking at any of the plaques Liam excitedly listed off the names and quick facts about all of the animatronic dinos. They even had his favourite, Carnotarus. Couldn’t ask for a better park feature!
It was like a dino celebrity sighting by its no. 1 fan… to think he’s 29 soon!
The main attraction here was the cable car. Built across the water and sturdy enough to withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake, it’s quite the feat of engineering. We had the whole car to ourselves to enjoy the views from above. Definitely a memorable way of getting across the bay.
360 views from above!
After a full on day of sight seeing we decided to take it easy the following morning and just checked out a few beaches before catching England play the rugby world cup final. The first beach we went to ended up being closed because as it turns out one day a year they host the Busan fireworks festival and that day happened to be the one we went to visit! Oh well. Onto the next one, Haeundae. We spent a few hours hanging out building and destroying sand castles by hand as the sun slowly set. The Irish bar and rugby was calling our names. Turns out the one sports bar in the area was also the place where all of the South African fans came to watch the game! It was one of my first handful of rugby games that I’ve watched and unfortunately England came out on the losing side of it. “Welcome to supporting England” Liam says. One of these days though surely, England will go all the way.
Some waves to wash away the pain of an England defeat
We woke up to another day of lovely weather so we decided to go check out Taejongdae Park. There’s a 5 km loop to walk around this peninsular park and check out a variety of things: a pebble beach, lighthouse, temples. You end up walking under incredible fall foliage with views of the sea in the background on one side and autumn hued hills to the other. Beautiful. The fresh smell of pine and flowers mixed with a sea breeze filled the air and bird song followed us wherever we went. I couldn’t have dreamed up a more peaceful park day.
Korea has so much natural beauty
Since Busan is a port city on the sea it makes sense that the top “must do” experience is to see (and eat) some of the delicious seafood at the Jagalchi Fish Market. The whole area near this fish market is filled with multilevel buildings filled with tanks of octopus, eel, lobsters, pretty much anything from the sea you can dream up. The one we ate at wasn’t even the Jagalchi Market and it was packed to the brim with rows and rows of fresh fish tanks and tables where you can sit and watch the fish you just picked out get freshly prepared for you by the chef / stall owner in front of you. It’s an amazing and social experience. Liam and I had a huge mackerel and a bottle of Soju for about £14. Seafood this fresh, delicious and affordable is so hard to come by! It was the first time I had mackerel as well and I loved it. Probably my favourite dish after salmon. Liam, having lived his life by the sea, was suitably impressed with the whole experience. The four days we had in Busan were beyond amazing and we both came away thinking this is one of the nicest big cities out there. I can only hope the rest of South Korea is as amazingly surprising.
I’ve been Emily Colorado and you can check me out on Instagram