Busan, South Korea

Busan, South Korea
April 7th – 8th 2011

Another 3 hours bus-ride brought me from Andong to the 2nd most populated city, Busan. It’s best known for its beach (Haeundae Beach) and the Jagalchi fish market.

Not much happened on the 7th. I arrived late so all I could muster up in the cloudy, wet weather was to check into my hostel, then take a walk at night to check out the “Golden Gate Bridge” of Korea at a nearby beach, which was supposedly lit up very pretty at night to go with the lit up coastline. Spent a lot of the night catching up on my entries on Korea.

The next morning, I woke up early to visit the fish market, hoping to catch the locals unloading fish from the ships but arriving at 7:30 am isn’t going to cut it for that purpose. It was another wet cloudy day and my trusted (but already semi-broken) travel umbrella was fighting the strong gusts of wind. At the rather large fish market complex, I walked around and saw so many varieties of seafood that I’ve never seen before. I can’t list any here since I don’t know their names so please check out the pictures. It was an interesting place and although I was saving my fish market enthusiasm for Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, this was a fine substitute. I went upstairs where all they served fresh seafood. I had originally pictured a place where all the local fisherfolk to be eating seafood for breakfast but the area upstairs was empty and the patrons lit up when they saw a potential customer and the prices were quite high (ranging from 20000-50000 Won) so instead, I left and stumbled upon a local joint nearby which served simple rice and broth at 3500 Won.

(Seafood heaven. Just follow the light.)

(There were a lot of these red-shelled mollusks around.)

(Sting rays.)

(I call these “sea roaches” because they have feelers.)

(For lack of a better name, “sea-penises”.)

(Terror from the seas.)

(Working together to clean the catch.)

(A long morning deserves a nice nap…)

(… or a good meal.)

A subway ride, a short walk, and another short bus-ride uphill brought me to Beomeosa Temple. There were colorful lanterns lining up the paths and the temple complex. A bunch of Buddhists were praying inside the temples and there were several monks about, wearing their grey robes. The architecture itself was what I expected from most Korean temples so it wasn’t mind-blowing but it gave a peaceful feeling.

(Stairway to heaven?)

That afternoon saw me make my way to a Korean oncheon (hot spring spa). The Hurshimchung Spa in Busan is considered the largest indoor spa in Asia. I’ve never been to a Korean spa before so why not now. After getting off the subway, I walked about 15 minutes amongst beautiful sakura-lined streets before arriving at a nice looking building where the spa was located. I paid 8000 Won, put my shoes and bag into appropriate lockers and didn’t know what to do. The place is segregated by gender so I was around a lot of nude Asian men. No one wears bathing suits around here and it would be silly to do so. I never brought one anyway so I stripped and walked around and as long as you don’t make extended eye contact with anyone (or walk right into them), you’re fine. The spa was indeed a very nice-looking place although its architecture lacked the old beauty that was present in the Gellert baths in Budapest (old Euro spa with lots of history vs new Asian, it’s expected). I sampled each of the different pools available, each at different temperatures, going so far as to sit in a pool that was filled with (and I’m not kidding) bright neon-yellow looking water that looked a lot like piss (holding the water in my hand, it looked transparent, so it may be the tiles or lighting playing tricks on me). I see guys just sitting around in the nude, soaking up the heat, and some were lying face up in their beach chairs, taking long naps. Oncheons are popular places to get away from it all. This was a higher-end spa and I don’t think they allowed people to sleep overnight, unlike most other oncheons in South Korea (which you’ll read about in my next entry on Jeonju). So after 2 hours of soaking and napping, I took a shower, got dressed, and left.

By the way, no pictures. (!!)

(Cherry blossoms.)

Haeundae Beach was like any other beach. Most Koreans consider this THE summer beach spot but at this time of the year, no one was in their swimsuits. It was sunny but very chilly and I could only spend an hour sitting around before it got to me. It was a good spot to people-watch.

When the girl working at my hostel told me that Busan was home to the biggest department store in the WORLD, I had to make my way to Shinsagae to see it so I could brag to all my lady friends about it. The only thing I bought there was some octopus bibimbap (which was dreadfully bland) in their impressive food court but the floors and stores upstairs were another matter. So many shops, most high-end. Did I mention I have store burn-out? With so many stores, I made my way briskly to the top before going back down and leaving. A shoppaholic with a massive wallet (or more appropriately, purse) would’ve been in heaven.

Busan, South Korea Pics.