I have been in Korea for over two months now, but had never even left Seoul. I decided that this needed to change, so I booked a three day trip to Busan. Busan, next to Jeju Island, is one of the top destinations outside of Seoul that everybody keeps talking about. It’s Korea’s second largest city with a population of about 3.6 million and is located in the South-East, right near the ocean. It is the largest port city in Korea and hosts one of the busiest cargo ports in the world.
To get there, I took the KTX express train (imagine a Korean version of the ICE, I guess). You can book tickets online and they are not all that expensive (compared with German prices, at least). You could also take slower and cheaper trains, but I’d argue that the ~35€ per trip I paid are well worth it. The ride is smooth and takes about 2:45h, which is pretty damn fast if you consider that you basically have to travel from one end of Korea to the other to get there.
Getting around in Busan can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s not too bad. I have gotten very used to Seoul’s subway system, but have mostly avoided the buses as they seem more complicated and less pleasant to ride. However, in Busan you will pretty much have to take the buses most of the time as the subway system is not very extensive. All in all, it’s pretty easy to get around. Google Maps will give you reliable connections and the buses arrive frequently. Since the main attractions can be pretty far from each other, get used to some long(ish) bus rides. If you’re coming from Seoul (or somewhere else) and are used to using a T-money card for public transportation, you can use it in Busan as well. However, it seems like there is no convenient way to reload the card as you can do in every station in Seoul. I guess you can do it in banks and I’m sure there are other possibilites, but it’s probably easiest to just load it up beforehand so that you never have to deal with that at all. And remember that you also have to ‘check out’ with your card when leaving the bus, as you will otherwise be deducted the maximum fare for the trip.
Booking a set on a city tour bus would be a wise investment, as it is definitely more convenient if you want to hit some of the top sightseeing spots. More on that in the next entry.
Hostel / Lotte Tower:
I lived in a small hostel near Nampo Station, which seems like a pretty ideal place to stay. It’s right near the famous fish markets and the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). These are very busy areas that host a lot of sightseeing activites, stores, and a wide variety of street food. But more on that later. I did go to the nearby Lotte Mall to kill the time before I could check in. I do not care much for shopping in general and malls in particular, but I’m sure this would be a great place to visit for many people. There are thirteen floors full of countless shops of all varieties. There are also a ton of restaurants and a really cool water fountain in the lobby. You can also find some other stuff there like an area dedicated to Korean stars, and the one houndred billion won chair. As the name suggests, it is made out of one hundred billion won’s worth of shredded gift vouchers and is supposed to be some sort of lucky charm. Didn’t seem all that interesting to me, but it is often listed among Busan’s top sightseeing spots. So I dunno, maybe go check it out. This is also a great place to get a nice view of Busan as there is an observation deck on top of the building that is free to visit. However, it was closed due to the very stormy weather when I was there.
After arriving, I wanted to make my first trip, and decided to go to Taejongdae. It’s a big natural park located right at the ocean front and includes a lot of different sights. Be aware that you’re in for a bit of a hike though.
One of the first sights you’ll come across after hiking up a mountain for a bit is this beautiful rock beach. I really can’t do it any justice. It was a beautiful sight. Incredibly windy though, so hold on to your belongings. And as a bonus, I had wifi there!
There are also a few small temples in the park:
The views are amazing:
You can go down to the light house and all the way down to the coast, where local fishermen and -women are hard at work. And you can walk up on that rock you see in the first picture. It was a bit scary and I was certain that the winds would blow my phone into the ocean, but definitely an experience I won’t forget for a long time.
I’m not sure my words or even the pictures can do this place justice. Going there, I was completely blown away – figuratively, but almost literally as well. If you’re into nature and hikes, then this is a fantastic place to check out. Cannot recommend it highly enough.
After that, I was pretty beat, so I just walked around near the hostel for a bit and went up to Busan Tower. Walking around the waterfront and over some of the many bridges is a good idea in general as you will get a lot of great views of the city and the sorrounding areas.
It’s a landmark in the middle of a small park that was right near my hotel and which gives you a great view of Busan. Then again, the view on the roof of Lotte Mall might be even better since it’s free and you’re not stuck behind glass windows, but it was closed when I went there. Either way, it’s a neat little place.
All in all, it was a fantastic first day. However, many of the real highlights were still to follow. Stay tuned for the next parts.