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Posts Tagged ‘busan’

Does it even surprise you anymore when Evan and I head to the eastern end of the country to party in Busan? We practically live there chincha!

We boarded a bus one recent early Saturday morning with our friends Chris and Matt (Marc bowed out last minute due to a late evening at Deepin). After fueling up on Dunkin’ Donuts, I spent the entire bus ride reading my book, “The Buddha of Suburbia.” Great read, if you ever get a hold of it.

We certainly are creatures of habit. The first place we stopped was the hotel we stayed in last time we were in Busan, which was clean and reasonably priced. After dropping off our backpacks, it was straight to Fuzzy Navel for a meat and avocado burrito, chips and salsa and a whole lot of mekchu.

The group strayed from FN momentarily, to check out the Paradise Casino, but Chris forgot his Alien Registration Card and we were turned away. Interesting in Korea — gambling is only legal for expats. Hrm. Maybe its a good thing we couldn’t get in!

We returned to the busy bar until dusk, when we met up with Chris’ girlfriend Jayeon. Since we were still full from a late lunch, we skipped out on dinner (smart…but not really). We just headed over to Thursday Party, where we continued the debauchery with lots of Agwa and energy drinks. Yikes.

That’s where my night ended… in my mind. Apparently there was more singing, dancing, Burger King and me falling off of multiple chairs. Not my proudest moment people. I’m going to blame it on the nightlife being too tempting in this town.

I ended up getting a decent amount of sleep before needing to check out of the hotel the next afternoon. We headed back to Namaste for an Indian lunch before putting on our tourist hats and checking out one of the most beautiful temples in the city.

The Yonggungsa Temple is an extraordinarily scenic Buddhist sanctuary that is nestled on top of an ocean-front cliff. It is stunning. It was built in 1376 during the reign of Goryeo Dynasty, and restored in 1970. We’ve visited some other tourist traps in the city, but this was my favorite to date.

The pathway leading up to the temple was littered with vendors selling touristy trinkets and street food. One area of the walkway featured twelve statues representing the animals of the zodiac. We each took a photo with our designated creatures, being sure to leave a coin on the statue so that all of our wishes come true. Evan even found a fighting Rat to take home as a souvenir!

Chris and Jayeon’s candid snapshots turned out super cute.

The main pagoda is flanked by four lion statues, representing happiness, joy, anger and sadness. There were also two giant golden pigs, quite fitting considering the swine represent wealth in Buddhism.

There is also a giant golden Buddha and the Seawater Great Goddess Buddha for people to pay their respects to. We had to tread carefully at the temple, since there were a lot of devoted Buddhists there to pray, burn incense and lay down offerings to the various idols.

In a small courtyard, there was this awesome dragon flanked by dozens of small Buddhist idols, and coins that people left to represent their hopes and dreams. It was beautiful.

One thing to check off of the “tourist checklist” of activities we need to experience before leaving in four months!

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Since Evan and I (with our bank accounts’ help) decided to stay home for Chu Seok, we figured that last weekend we deserved a one-day trip to Busan to celebrate the birthdays of Glen and Niall, two buddies on his soccer team. On Saturday morning, we caught the 8:00 AM bus to the beach-side city, alongside Ev’s football friends, for two days of fun in the sand and surf.

We arrived in Busan three hours later, and took a cab directly to Fuzzy Navel — the Mexican restaurant that has now become a sort of vacation staple every time we go to Haeundae Beach. After devouring a meat and avocado burrito (two things that aren’t widely available or affordable), and watching Glen consume this rainbow birthday beverage…

…the group grabbed some beer from a mini-mart and scoped out a spot on the sand. The weather was perfect for being at the beach — high sun, no clouds, and lots of friends.

I splashed around in the warm salt water, exiting only when we spotted a relatively large jelly fish. Having been stung before during a fateful surfing trip in San Diego, I wasn’t too enthusiastic to relive the experience, complete with a hunt for vinegar or worse — someone willing to pee on me. Gross! Luckily, no one was harmed.

After the sun sunk below the tall buildings that surround the beach area, we headed to a nearby hotel to shower, change and get ready to go out to dinner. The hotel, found by two impressive bargain hunters in the group, had a double bed, TV, clean bathroom/shower, and a water cooler — all for W 40,000 (less than $40). Nobody does a deal like Korea.

The group headed to Fuzzy Navel for some pre-dinner beer, but Evan and I opted for dirty martinis because most places don’t have them and since we could get them, why shouldn’t we? It was vacation!

After we all wet our whistles, we walked to a nice Indian restaurant called Namaste, which ended up having delicious food — much to the delight of everyone, especially the English folk, who quite missed their curry from back home!

Even Evan, who was no fan of Indian food, was won over by the garlic naan, chicken tikka and samosas. Yummers. Even better? Dinner was accompanied by red wine, which you don’t have much of in Korea.

Outside the restaurant, chicken fighting ensued on the way to Thursday Party, a local bar.

Things got quite silly there.

Eventually, we decided to make our way to Rock something-or-other, a club on the 14th floor of a building in Haeundae. The hotspot turned out to be a frat party transplant, complete with 19-year-olds, beer pong, and more foreigners than I have seen in one place during the past 5 months in Korea.

We stayed for a brewski, then chatted with friends at Burger King before turning in for the night.

On Sunday, we enjoyed burgers, fries and the view at the oceanfront TGI Friday’s down by the sea. After relaxing in the sand a bit, we headed home to Jeonju, refreshed from our mini-vacation.

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Our last day in Busan, we decided to visit Haeundae beach — the most popular beach in the city, and definitely deserving of a separate visit.

We decided to go to the bus station early in the day, to guarantee we had seats on the 7:30 bus ride home, so we didn’t make it to Haeundae until around 3:30. No matter though — the weather was incredibly nice, and we were able to relax on the hot sand for awhile.

You’ll notice that everyone in the photos are fully clothed — here in Korea, everyone wheres swimsuits UNDER their clothes, and jump into the water fully dressed. It is a modesty thing.

No smoking on the beach! Only sunbathing — I laid around in just my bikini for awhile, then decided to blend in and wear my dress :)

There was an international dance show going on during our trip — the girls all danced so beautifully with their fans!

After lounging on the beach for a bit, we decided to make our way to a Mexican food restaurant we saw near the subway station — Fuzzy Navel. I have been dying for Mexican food, and the tacos were pretty good. Our food took forever to come, and I gobbled it down so quickly!

At this point Evan, Smiley and I were in a serious time crunch to get to the bus station on time. We hopped aboard the subway, all anxious, and decided that when we arrived at the station, the men would get the luggage from the lockers and my duty was to find the bus and make sure it didn’t leave us!

We arrived at the station with 10 minutes to spare, sprinted up the stairs… and had no idea where we were. We had gone out an exit we hadn’t used yet, and were totally lost. We spent the next eight minutes sprinting around the street, looking for signs, grabbing luggage, asking where the Jeonju bus was, running running running.

Lungs burning and completely out of breath, we made it to our bus at 6:58. Thank goodness Evan has been running on the treadmill at the gym, or we would all have been screwed. We sank gratefully into our seats as the bus roared to life, people crammed in the aisle, sitting on newspapers.

We later found out that Mike, Kristie and their pals tried to buy tickets for the 10:30 bus at 7:30, but it was already sold out. Thankfully, they knew how to take the train home, but we couldn’t help wondering what on Earth we would have done if we had missed our bus.

Next time, we’ll leave earlier.

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After we explored Nampo-dong — and I found the perfect Korean-style club outfit — we showered and changed back at the hotel, then headed toward an Italian restaurant that Mike and Kristie found that day, Aglio e Olio.

We were NOT disappointed with dinner. The menu was only in Korean and Italian, but thanks to those two years of studying in college, I was able to order without too much difficulty. I opted for the risotto ai funghi (mushroom risotto), Evan ordered the spaghetti ai frutti di mare (seafood spaghetti), and Smiley got the spaghetti bolongese (spaghetti with meat sauce).

Oh my goodness — the only photo we managed to get was of our empty plates. We inhaled our food! My risotto was creamy and rich with chunks of sauteed mushrooms and onion and a dash of garlic. We washed down the meal with the house red wine, which was a nice break from beer.

After dinner, we decided to start drinking at a local bar. After being turned away by a few places, we finally settled at PIFF.

Before coming to Korea, we bought a decent amount of books on the country and culture, but really you can’t know a place until you experience it. That said, a few of our guidebooks cautioned that we may encounter xenophobia during our time here. Korea remains one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, and we have not been exempt from experiencing some anti-foreign sentiments here, just like one would most anywhere you go.

It is likely we were turned away from a few small, mostly empty and solely Korean bars for being foreign, but for the most part, we have escaped being victims of any sort of racism or bigotry. Koreans in general have been extremely friendly, and especially eager to help foreigners. I just wanted to point out that while this has happened here, I have found it to be rare.

We played some games at PIFF, then started searching for a place to rock out on the dance floor. Smiley asked a friendly local on the street, who graciously wrote down an address in Korean for us to give to a cab driver.

The club was awesome! We had to order food with our drinks, which is customary at nicer establishments, so we ordered a fruit platter and beers. The place was full of smartly dressed, young Koreans who were looking for a classy night out — so we got our groove on with the locals.

The DJ was killing it, and the dance floor was jam-packed full of people. At one point in the evening, a live band even dropped down on a stage from the ceiling!

I danced with this guy and his friends for a few songs. They were hilarious, getting down with me and singing along to every song. So fun.

Smiley used the toothpicks from our fruit platter as props for this picture. So chic.

All in all, we had a fantastic night. We didn’t get back to our hotel until the wee hours of the morning, after dancing until our feet couldn’t move anymore.

Moral of the post: always ask locals to point you in the right direction of the party!

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Last Saturday morning, Evan and I woke up early, rubbed our sleepy eyes, and headed down to the bus station to catch the 7:30 ride to Busan. We wanted to catch McDonald’s breakfast beforehand, but we woke up too late. The bus was freeeeezing, but luckily my awesome boyfriend gave me a pair of his socks and a shirt to snuggle under, so I was able to sleep for most of the 3-hour trip.

Once we arrived downtown, we were starving. In some weird stroke of luck, we walked out of the station and came upon a Mickey D’s — before 11 am! Breakfast time baby! I then ordered the best sausage McMuffin, hash brown and hot coffee I’ve had in a long time, while Ev opted for a sausage McMuffin that came egg-less. Bryan, you would have died!

After chowing down, we followed the directions a Korean teacher from school gave us (thanks Lui :)), and took two subways to reach Nampo-dong, the sea port neighborhood where we booked a room at Hotel Busan.

The main stretch of Nampo-dong had tons of import clothing stores, including an American Apparel (which was even more overpriced than it is in the States). The streets were full of people, and more tourists than I have seen in the five weeks we’ve been in Korea.

The weekend was the Lotus Lantern Festival, and pretty paper lanterns were strung up all around the city.

Ev and I were eager to explore, but had trouble finding the hotel. In our rush to locate the accomodation, I stubbed my toe bad. I mean, really bad. Blood started gushing everywhere as I limped around.

Now, Koreans think that bare feet are gross to begin with, so you can imagine the disgusted faces I got as I bled all over the street, limping around. Finally, the blood stopped… until I stubbed it AGAIN. Then it started gushing again, and I began to whimper.

Finally, we ran into Mike, Kristie, Brent and Matt and they were able to direct us back to the hotel. I cleaned up, changed my clothes, and headed out to explore with Ev.

We all visited the Busan tower, which was amazing. It cost a couple won to go to the top, but the view was well worth the money.

Absolutely breathtaking.

Evan and I grew hungry while we walked around the noisy streets and outdoor markets. Luckily ,we found a woman selling homemade dumplings and scallion pancakes on the street. Nom nom nom.

During our exploration, I hunted for a perfect Korean dress to wear to the club that night, and inadvertently ran into a street dubbed Moekja golmok — “Let’s Eat Alley” — and this particular one is called “Original Bossam and Jokbal Alley.” The street was full of makeshift restaurants, and vendors serving everything from dumplings to meat and noodles.

Here, the women serve up jokbal (boiled pig feet), with bossam (lettuce leaves) and — like every other meal here — kimchee, while their patrons sit on plastic stools, eating and gabbing, in the middle of an alley. It was such a fun sight to see! The smells and noises and crowded streets… I only wish I could share it more authentically.

All in all, I am very happy we stayed here. We originally tried to book something in Haeundae Beach, but things worked out for the best. Next time, it will be a romantic, seaside vacay.

The only downside is that my poor little left foot — which has a gnarly cut on the top of my big toe — is STILL sore from my clumsiness this past weekend. I’ve been hobbling around all week, wincing as I attempt to stretch out my achy foot. It hurts all over!

But hey… at least it was an excuse to stay home from the gym. I only went once this week. :P

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This past weekend in Busan was so incredible, and one of the highlights was visiting the Jagalchi Fish Market in Nampo-dong, the neighborhood we stayed in.

The entrance to the fish market has a large archway with a giant crab on top — very fitting for what you are in store for!

The bottom floor of the market is full of every kind of fresh seafood you can imagine, from every kind of fish and crustacean to octopi and sea snakes. Patrons can choose their seafood to go, or pick out an ocean friend to enjoy upstairs. We slipped along the wet floor, praying not to fall face-first onto the fishy ground.

Upstairs, you will find many eager cooks just waiting to fry up your selection from downstairs. The Jagalchi ajumas — literally meaning “married women” — will grab your arms to coax you into their kitchens. There is a lot of competition for patrons!

We also took a stroll through the dried fish market. Dried squid is a common snack here — the snack of choice, actually, for soccer games. Now, I love a good calamari steak and fried squids, but I am not a big fan of the dried delicacy. Imagine beef jerky, except fishier and tougher. Ew.

We opted not to eat at the Jagalchi market, because we needed to meet up with Smiley, and we visited only a few hours after eating lunch — but Mike did get the card of one restaurateur, who promised us the freshest and cheapest sushi next time we visited Nampo-dong.

Trust me — I will be back!

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