Busan, can you be redeemed?
Unfortunately, my first trip to Busan 부산 left me with a sour taste in my mouth that I had yet to shake. I hope that by spending a few days here, my mind could be changed, and I could fall in love with the city.
After an hour and a half bus ride from Gyeongju 경주, I was several hours early for check-in to my hotel in Haeundae 해운대. Instead of exploring, I decided to go and see a movie. I don’t think we talk enough about how much we need downtime and days off while on vacation.
For many people, we are limited to only taking 4-6 weeks off a year, so when you take time off, you feel like you have to live them to the fullest. When You fill every moment of your day with activities and places to be, it takes a physical and mental toll on you.
I was definitely in need of downtime at this point in my trip. Despite having just spent 2 days with a friend, I was lonely, and the knee pain I would later find out was a torn meniscus was getting to me. I decided to take Busan at a leisurely pace by doing less.
The first step in a leisurely vacation in Busan was to take some downtime. So, I sat down to a delicious brunch at DinoBrunch before I went and watched a movie. My relaxing day continued into the evening by sitting down to a large Nepali dinner at Namaste, then walking around the area and through the local market filled with fantastic street food.
The following day I woke up and made my way into the mountains toward Seokbulsa Temple 석불사. This temple is not easy to get to by bus as the closest stop is several kilometers away. Still, I embraced the journey up the mountain and through a small village to the temple.
Once there, I was amazed at how different the temple felt compared to other temples in Korea. Its exterior was very austere, giving a bomb shelter feel to it. This made sense to me when I discovered that it was built in the 1930s.
Each temple hall housed magnificent Buddhist artwork and relics, unlike what I have seen anywhere in Korea. The gold and black mural behind a Buddha statue was as breathtaking as was the stone carvings in the mountain behind the halls. These stone carvings with the Buddha of the compassion in the middle are the crowning Jewel of the temple, filling you with a sense of peace and wonder as you gaze upon them. While you’re there, don’t miss the two small crevasses on either side of the carving of Buddha that houses statues.
Seokbulsa is a temple I would put on my do not miss list of places to go to in Busan.
My one semi-regret of my trip was not going 2km further up to the South Gate of Guemjeongsanseong fortress. However, in retrospect knowing the pain I was feeling in my knew was from a bad injury, I will have to make it a point go another time.
Hungry, I made my way down to the Samyeong 서면 area, where I found the best farm-fresh yogurt bowl and fruit tea I’ve ever had at Doco cafe. 10/10 for ascetic and taste. After some delicious Yogurt, went to find Bosu-dong Book alley 보수동 책방골목 where I hung around dusk, when I headed back to Samyeong. I wandered around for a while, taking some photos with my Canon AE-1. While exploring the area, I found my way down to the extensive underground shopping mall full of cheap Korean fashion that many people from across the world travel here to buy.
After getting turned around several times, I returned to Haeundae for a drink and pizza. Let me tell you, after 6 years of eating cauliflower or caves pizza crust due to my severe food allergies, this pizza was delectable.
With a film that works well in low lighting in my camera, I headed to the beach. For another hour, I walked around Haeundae, taking photos of nightlife in the area before having a drink at a cool bar called Vinal Pub Myujeuon and calling it a night.
There’s so much I wanted to do in Busan. However, I didn’t want to do most of it alone, like bar hopping and taking the Haeunde Blue line train. So, I spent the next day with my analog camera capturing life around The Busan International Film Festival Theater in Nampo-dong 남포동. As you wander the streets, you’ll come across food stalls filled with fish cakes, Mandu, Tteobokki, and Hotteok galore. There is a whole area with people selling Bimibap and Kimbap. If you wander far enough, you’ll find Gukje Market 국제시장 Market, and Bupyeong/KKangtong market부평시장/깡통시장.
While exploring this area, don’t miss wandering toward the bay to see the infamous Busan fish market, Jagalchi Market 부산 자갈치시장. This market is a visually stunning display of fish and shellfish displayed by locals with stories to tell if you only know the language. It’s hard to describe the market’s atmosphere, and I hope my photos from it do it justice. I honestly feel like this area I’ll always come back to wonder when I’m in Busan. After several hours of wandering around, I headed back to my hotel for more Nepali food and a good night’s sleep.
The following day I woke up and decided I wanted to spend some time on the coast. I hiked the trail that stretches from Gwangallil beach around the cliff side to Busan Harbor. This hike was relatively easy, despite some sections with stairs that felt never-ending. The views of the ocean and the city were well worth the 2 and a half to 3 hours it took me to walk it at a leisurely pace. This trail is only one section of a course that goes along the ocean in Busan, and it was well worth the hike. Exhausted and relaxed, I decided to grab some street food and Check out the Pink Gate cafe I had seen the day before. Let me tell you, the Earl Grey milk tea is the best milk tea I have had yet, and the macaroons were delightful. Just the pick-up I needed before grabbing street food for dinner and a couple drinks before calling it a night and heading home in the morning.
Did this trip to Busan redeem my previous experience?
Yes, I now get the draw to Busan from Gamcheon village to the port of Busan, from Hiking to cafe hopping. Busan is a lively city with a laid-back vibe that offers many difrent expriences for those looking to travel to Korea. Busan is definitely worth a visit.
Places To Explore
Seokbulsa Temple– free- 부산 북구 만덕고개길 143-79
Namaste– 나마스테- 14,000-45,000krw- 부산 해운대구 해운대해변로265번길 7 지하1층
Haeundae Market– Busan Haeundae-gu Jungdong 1-ro 42-16
DinoBrunch- 디노브런치- 15,000-25,000krw- 부산 부산진구 전포대로199번길 12
Doco Cafe– 도시농 코페도코- 5,000-15,000krw- 부산 부산진구 중앙대로666번길 17 시연빌딩 1층
Pink Gate– 핑크게이트 – +5,000krw- 부산 중구 광복중앙로 4
Gukje Market – 국제시장- 부산광역시 중구 신창로4가 일원
Bupyeong/ Kkangtong Market– 부평시장/깡통시장- 부산광역시 중구 부평1길 48-48 Bupyeong 1-gil Jung-gu Busan
Busan Jagalchi Market– 37-1 Nampo-dong 4(sa)-ga Jung-gu Busan
Bosu-dong book Alley– – 67-1 Daecheong-ro Jung-gu Busan
Gwangalli Beach to Busan Port
Start Guereumdari 산4-3 Yongho-dong Nam-gu Busan- End Oryukdo Sunrise Park 산197-5 Yongho-dong Nam-gu Busan
Explore With Me
- Mexico City Day 1My first solo trip out of the US was To Mexico City in 2018 at the age of 29. After spending years without aContinue reading “Mexico City Day 1”
- Explore BusanBusan, can you be redeemed? Unfortunately, my first trip to Busan 부산 left me with a sour taste in my mouth that I hadContinue reading “Explore Busan”
- Gyeongju South KoreaGyeongju 경주 was the stronghold of the Shilla 신라 Dynasty, one of the largest kingdoms in Korea; today, only relics and tombs remain ofContinue reading “Gyeongju South Korea”