Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dynamic Busan

Summer vacation couldn't have come at a better time. Six months of teaching, without so much of a vacation, will suck the best of teachers dry! Vacation fell right at the end of July, and it was the perfect opportunity to plan a trip to Busan.

Busan is the second largest, however most fortunately located, city in Korea. Located on the southeast coast, it is most famous for it's beautiful beaches and awesome city life. A city any beach-sick Californian can appreciate. Haeundae Beach heralds it's fame in a saturated blanket of well-oiled bodies and copious amounts of "parasols". Which you can rent, along with two chairs a mat, and free water, for only $15. Not the well oiled-bodies- the parasols.

The beach.

Unless one owns a car, plans to fly, or I guess navigates the city streets on your moped all the way to Busan, you must take the train. A $48 round trip ticket will save you a seat on a less than fancy, however fully functioning Mungungwa train. But, to be completely honest, it's quite enjoyable! If you're traveling with friends, bring snacks and games. The seats turn towards each other; it makes for a quite enjoyable ride! The train drops you off at Busan Station, perfectly connected to the simple Busan subway line. A short ride up line 3 will drop you right off at Haeundae Beach, and set you back a one way ticket for 1200W. Not too bad!

Unknown to us, we planned our trip on one of the busiest weekends of the year in Busan! The 15th Annual Busan Sea Festival preparations were gearing up when we arrived on Thursday, and were in full swing when we were leaving Sunday. You can probably guess what that means. Hotels we're full, at least the ones who we could call from afar, who could understand English. Though we booked in advance, I would recommend finding a room when you show up! I didn't really believe the Google Map of "motel, Busan" with it's own sea of red location dots, but it was perfectly accurate. The masses of motels is real with PLENTY in walking distance of the subway station with perfect views of the ocean! Most of which, at normal off season rates, will keep you up for $30-70 a night! Not to shabby.

Our accommodations were less than impressive, and sadly pricey. However, considering we were a short 2 minute walk from the sand, could see it from our room, and spent more time on it than in our room, it's drab soon faded and it became well worth every won. Let's be honest, you're only in your room to shower for dinner, and to crash after the sun's soaked the best out of you-- who cares what it looks like in the end, right?

On a more personal note, this trip had one goal. Relaxation. We wanted nothing more than to roll out of bed, eat delicious food, soak in the glorious sun, and do it again the next day! And that's what we did! It was delightful! I got more sun the first hour than I probably should have the whole weekend, what can you do? I have little to report about what we did during the day, except the conditions of the beach. Because my days consisted of tanning, napping, reading, music, and friends. Simple, yet sooo lovely.

The beaches however, were crazy! Literally. By 2 or 3 o'clock, no sun could be found on the sand. The beach was literally covered inch by inch with umbrellas, under which huddled folks of sun-stricken folks. Myself included. My favorite part of this was the fast food salesmen. Hunched over, most often in jeans and tennis shoes, jumping over towels and through rubber tubes, they sold everything from fried chicken to patbingsu, beer to "iced" coffee. I have never seen more people in one place with so many large objects before. And that was just on the sand.

"Parasol" city.

The water scene was an epic display as well. Thousands, literally, thousands of squealing wave riders! Many rocking the yellow inner tubes they rented for $5. Most of who were in full clothing: jeans, long sleeve shirts, hats. But my favorite were the young bikini clad women rocking the waves in hats, jewelry, denim bottoms, sunglasses, and a full face of make-up. Though comical, so impressive! How the heck do they keep it all on so well? Waterproof in all aspects of the word. Impressive i tell you. Impressive!

The masses.

We ate a lot of fantastic food in Busan. Can vacation promise anything else? I think not! Busan is known for it's fresh seafood. Fancy that. We were set on eating a delicious sashimi meal during our time, and oh, we found it! Saturday night we traveled down the coast to find a famous jazz club called Monk. Well we found it, and right down the street stumbled across what looked promising for a delicious seafood meal! We sat down. No English menu. No Korean. No English speaking staff. AWESOME! I cannot tell you what I ate, however, it was delicious! The most delicious sashimi and banchan i've ever eaten. We also found a fantastic Mexican restaurant, Fuzzy Navel, which had the most delicious taco I've eaten in Korea. Shrimp fajitas? Mojito? Um, ok! We ate it twice, once for dinner. Again the next day for lunch. How could you not?

Dinner at Fuzzy Navel

Our delicious sashimi dinner.

Saturday night, as mentioned, we visited Monk. Only a short subway ride from Haeundae, it was relatively easy to find. For 5,000W we found a table in a cozy, underground jazz club. I sipped my classy glass of house red, a chilled homeland Carlos Rossi Sangria, and sat back to enjoy the music! It was good! It's been a while since I've heard some good live jazz, and it was fantastic!

Music at Monk

Busan was fantastic! We said countless times, "Man, this really feels like vacation!" A feeling sometimes hard to come by when everything is foreign and a quiet place is hard to find. But we accomplished our one goal- relax! And well, we came back, relaxed, well-fed, and tan.
I'd say a pretty successful vacation, if you ask me!

Haeundae Skyline from the window of a random bar.

Stumbled upon this view after finding an awesome stepped path across the beach.
Gwangan Bridge.

And now we're back! Thanks for the love Busan!

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