Wednesday, October 3, 2012


The plaza square in front of Busan Station at night.

Day one

Dwaeji gukbab돼지국밥

We started the day by going for a dish our friend Justin recommended: dwaeji gukbab (돼지국밥), or pork soup. As to dish is something of a Busan specialty, most restaurants have it. We found a place around the corner from of hotel and walked right in to order it. What arrived at our table looked quite like the pork version of seolleongtang, or beef brisket soup. It even had the same broth and similar side dishes, but there was one key difference: our orders came with side dishes of that delectable red pepper paste we know and love so well: gochujang. You could work the pepper paste into into the meal in a couple ways; taking out the slices of pork and dipping them in the paste was one way and spooning the paste into the soup was the other. We opted for the dipping. It went down quite well. The pork tasted tender and the soup broth, bland as it was, got my approval because Korea's got enough spicy soup broths as it stands anyway. Get this soup when you get the chance! We paid a reasonable 6000won each.

The beaches and Centum City

Next up on the day's agenda: the beach. We'd been eager to make up for our rainy sojourn to Gangneung by getting in some quality beach time. Again, Justin recommended the lesser-known Gwangin Beach over Haeundae because he found it less crowded. We got there easily enough. Remnants of sea shells and stones peppered the coarse beach sand but it didn't bother us. I wrote the previous "Live from Gwangin Beach" post while sitting on the sand and drinking OB with R by my side.* We hung out there and watched the holiday beachgoers for a while before we took a stroll along the water. We didn't see anyone see anyone swimming in the water--actually, we saw less than 5 people with their feet in the water.

Centum City came on a whim because it looked interesting when we'd read about it. The area's notable for the dueling Lotte and Shinsegae department stores that are built next door to each other. Neither one was open because Sunday was a national holiday, but the Shinsegae CGV movie theater was open. We went inside and took a look around for the hell of it. We stopped by the nearby Lotte Sunshine Park and looked at the Suyeong River for a bit. The park was large and inviting. We didn't stick round long enough to see much of it but getting away from the crowds felt good.

Haeundae Beach came next. We figured we might as well go there to compare it with Gwangin. Night had fallen by now and the weekend crowds were out in force. We plenty of foreigners out as well. There isn't much I can say about Haeundae Beach that others have surely said: it's famous for good reason. The said's fine, the shoreline's pleasant, and there's no shortage of hotels and restaurants nearby. The waves did come harder than Gwangin, though. I snapped this picture of the full moon and thought it turned out well.

Day one notes:

Haeundae to Busan Station via subway takes the better part of an hour.

*The wifi gods were smiling down on us that day because in addition to the live post, we called up my good friend Dick the Random Plebeian on Skype and got updates on what's happening in Wisconsin. That was good for a couple of reasons: we hadn't spoken in a while and I was overjoyed to have an Internet connection on the beach. Normally I'd scoff at playing with an iPad on the beach because it seems frivolous, but the novelty of making trans-Pacific calls for free won out.

***Busan travel lesson: the Busan subway system does not allow you to recharge T Money cards. You have to buy individual tickets, day passes, or use a Busan Metro card if you want to use the subway when your T-Money card runs out. The Busan subways will accept T-Money cards if they have money on them. This seemed strange because the T-Money cards have worked in Suwon, Chuncheon, and Daejeon in the past. I've been able to recharge the card there too. Busan shouldn't be different, but it is.***

Day two

Nampo and Yongdusan Park

We'd read that Nampo-dong (the area around the Nampo and the Jagalchi stations) was good for eating and shopping. It was. It looked like the Myeongdong areas of Seoul and Chuncheon: throngs of people, crowded shops, big and little stores, and cars inching their way along the streets. I can't figure out why the city planners allowed cars to drive on the streets because it doesn't do anyone any good. The drivers never get anywhere quickly and the pedestrians always have to deal with idiots in an Audi trying to move past them as if they own the road.* Nonetheless, Nampo and Yongdusan Park were fun places to visit.** The park offers some good views of the city and its series of staircases will give your legs a workout.

A side street in Nampo-dong (the district around the station)

View from the top of Yongdusan Park.

Rochelle in front of the big bell at the park


Rochelle's co-teacher told us about this place and we'd made it something of a mission to go because of its culture relevance. The bus stop for going to the Taejongdae Resort Park was outside of exit 6 at Nampo. Three routes will take you there: 8,30, and 88. We quickly saw that Taejongdae draws massive holiday crowds, for the roads were jammed with traffic on the small island. I took some pictures from the bus window on the way because of the sea views and narrow winding neighborhood streets when we got stopped at long lights.

We didn't stay too long at Taejongdae, but we did get down by the water. There's a small rocky beach at the launching point for the ferry boats and we rested there for a bit. The sun shone brightly and the ocean looked like glass. The pictures came out darker than they should have because it wasn't actually that dark. You'll get the idea of how the place looks. Check this out if you get the chance: the views are great and it's free to get in. All you need is the transportation fare to get there. The Korean families abide: we saw more families than couples or foreigners there, though Taejongdae does make for a good place for couples to go because of the romantic seaside location.***

Rochelle and I capped off the excursion by meeting a nice young family from Seoul who asked us for directions to Haeundae while we waited for the bus. The mother spoke excellent English and we explained how to get there. She thanked us and we bantered some more. But that's not all. What happened next explains why Koreans rank among the nicest, most generous people in the world: The mother and her son gave us two oranges as a present. We nearly fell over ourselves saying "Thank you." To think that we'd merely explained what subway to transfer at--wow. (If she ever comes across this page, thanks again. Those oranges tasted great!)

Filipino food near Busan Station

Our adventures in Busan concluded with dinner at a small Filipino restaurant named Kamusahan near our motel. I'd never had Filipino cuisine before. I'm glad I did. Like the recent African dishes, this was a quality culinary experience.

This is the kind of restaurant that's geared toward locals: it looked like it was a family business or a hangout for local Filipinos. The co-manager had to search for menus for us, though they were of little help because only gave prices and names of dishes. She showed us the pictures outside and offered brief explanations instead. Rochelle picked the self-explanatory fried tilapia and I went for caldereta, which is a chicken, potato, and vegetable stew. We also picked lumpia as an appetizer.

The food took some time to arrive, but we felt it was worth the wait. Portions were more than generous (our eyes overwhelmed our stomaches) and we found everything quite tasty. We both liked the caldereta--the yellow stew broth gave it a jab of flavor and I loved the hearty potatoes. The lumpia looked and tasted like fried mini tortillas with meat in them--good stuff!

This was our most expensive meal of the trip at 34,000won in case you're wondering. If you want to go, go the first side street near Busan Station's exit 7. It's on the corner.

Day two notes:

*Maybe those people just like feeling frustrated.

** Yongdusan also has a museum of world musical instruments.

*** We were, with the exception of one young white man and his Korean girlfriend, the only foreigners there that afternoon.

Day three: Goodbye Busan

We got up, paid the hotel bill*, and ate our go-to foodstuffs of kimbab and mandu at the Kimbab Cheonguk cafe in the station. It made for a good breakfast. The Americanos were weak but at least they woke us up. We shot upstairs, got our tickets in the massive open concourse, and went down the tracks. We arrived in Seoul five and a half hours later.

Slightly intriguing stuff dept: No one checked our tickets at any point on the return journey.

Final notes:

Hotel notes: We stayed at the Busan Inn. Small but comfortable rooms. Water coolers on every floor. Quiet rooms. The website wasn't lying: the rooms really are quiet. We never heard a thing. The computer in the room worked fine but we couldn't get any sound out of the speakers. This bothered us because we couldn't watch any videos, but considering that we paid a cheap 125,000won (~$111) for three nights, I suppose we can let that one pass.

Altogether, a great time.

Bonus pictures

Busan Station during the day. It's a major train and subway station because it serves the KTX and the Mugunghwa trains. Note the tasteful architecture. 

I took this shot on the way to Taejongdae because the road intersected a side street that directly connected to the roof (the green area) of an apartment building. Imagine walking up your roof and stepping onto a road. I've yet to see something like this anywhere else.

Sinsegae holds the Guinness World Record for World's Largest Department Store. Picture dedicated to Kara. 

For dear old Dad: I saw this and couldn't help snapping this pictue of a Miller Time pub across the street from Gwangin Beach. Miller beers aren't widely consumed here from what I've seen, but they are available in most convenience stores.

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