Aaaand I’m back with the 3rd part of my travel series! It has been 2 months since our trip to South Korea and I haven’t been able to write as much as I planned I would. It’s been hectic at work lately and the time I usually spend in collecting my thoughts and translating them into words has inadvertently turned into moments of rest. But this new passion I have for sharing my experiences and photos through my blog has been nothing but fulfilling so far. I enjoy this so much! So even if I’m behind schedule (a schedule I set for myself. haha), here’s another post from our trip! Now let’s talk about Busan.
Busan is the second largest city in South Korea. It boasts of seaside attractions, beaches and cultural centers among others. It’s more than 300 kilometers from Seoul and it’s one of the places my sisters and I visited outside the capital city.
To get to Busan, we boarded the KTX (Korea Train Express), which is South Korea’s high-speed rail system. It’s also the train in the popular movie Train to Busan. If you watched the film, you’d also probably feel cool boarding the same train and headed to the same place as in the movie. I sure did! Couldn’t help but think of rabid zombies running after us at one point of the trip. Lol.
There are many attractions to check out in Busan. We only had to look at the tourist map to know this. Whether you’re into cultural sites, parks, scenic views or food tripping, this laid-back city will have plenty to offer. Here are the places we visited during our two-day stay in the city.
Gamcheon Culture Village
The sky was still overcast from the early morning downpour when we arrived at Gamcheon Culture Village, but the splash of colors to greet us made us forget the dull weather. Once a settlement for refugees in the Korean War, this bright, hillside village became a tourist attraction after it went through a makeover in 2009.
Houses of various colors and artworks in the form of murals and sculptures pepper the village. A number of these were crafted by the residents themselves. If your Instagram feed loves bright colors, you might just find yourself posing in different spots. Haha.
As for the biggest artwork of them all? You’ll see it when you climb the stairs up to the viewing deck.
Because of the terraced feature of these rows of houses, the village is known as the Machu Picchu of Korea or Santorini of Korea – plus the colors. The view actually reminded me of a similar-looking village in La Trinidad, Benguet. It’s nice to see how these communities are turned into works of art and are currently enjoying the limelight from locals and tourists alike.
Since Busan is located on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula, you can expect a number of beaches as attractions here. Haeundae Beach is one. We knew this beach from the movie Tidal Wave (Haeundae) so upon learning that it’s located in Busan, we instantly included it in our itinerary.
Haeundae Beach has this cool city-meets-the-sea character. Instead of tropical trees to complement the beach (and we’re used to this, living in a beautiful tropical country), towering buildings and tons of dining places stretched along with it. It’s a different but nonetheless refreshing sight.
Our timing was quite good when my sisters and I went to the beach because the locals had just had their sand festival. That meant we were still able to see the massive sand sculptures exhibited on the beach. There were about ten of them, each impressively molded! My favorites were the mound of castle with a wizard battling a giant troll and the face of a smiling woman. The eyes of this sand lady were made in such detail I had to get close to see what’s in them.
Haedong Yonggusa Temple
Haedong Yonggusa Temple sits atop a cliff overlooking the sea. It’s a Buddhist temple built in 1376 during the Goryeo Dynasty. From Haeundae beach, we set out to the north eastern part of Busan. It was quite far from all the other attractions but the scenery would make the trip worthwhile.
There weren’t many visitors when we dropped by the temple so we had a quiet leisurely walk in the premises. The sky was clear and the sea calm. A monk could be heard singing a prayer through a speaker. The whole place was peaceful and calming and I could imagine it to be great for meditations and retreats.
We noticed a number of huge Buddha statues at various locations within the shrine. Ate remembered from one of her travels that the reason for this was so that people could pray to Buddha in all four cardinal points – north, east, west and south.
Haedong Yonggusa Temple usually draws tourists on New Year’s Day where people come and pray for a prosperous year. And since the temple is facing east, it’s typical for visitors to go there early in the morning to watch the sunrise. This must be a marvelous sight. While we didn’t see any sun rising as we were there late in the afternoon, we basked in the serenity of the place for a little bit longer and waited for the sun to set before moving on to our next destination.
Looking for a vibrant night life in Busan? Head to Gwangalli Beach! If you stand on the beach facing the sea, you’ll see the Diamond Bridge gleaming not far from you. The bridge is equipped with thousands of LED lights and impresses tourists and locals with its regular light shows. Now if you turn around and face the boulevard, bright lights would greet you still, but from restaurants and establishments this time. Even at 9 PM, the streets were very much alive with all the music and crowd. The place is said to be popular with the city’s younger generation.
It was time for us to have the last meal for the day. I personally think this is where we had the best dinner during our stay in South Korea. It’s not because we ate in a flashy restaurant or anything. I just loved the feel of a relaxing late dinner surrounded by locals and eating Korean food. I reaally love that Korean cuisine includes a variety of side dishes. Our main dish was Samgyeopsal and the side dishes automatically came with it. I remember slathering the pork belly with a flavorful paste while grilling it then gobbling down the juicy meat along with the leafy veggies, vegetable strips and rice. My tummy’s rumbling while writing this. I suddenly miss eating Samgyeopsal!
In contrast to our packed itinerary on our first day in Busan, we spent our second day just strolling around Gwangbok-dong area. Our bus ride back to Seoul was scheduled at 5 PM so we didn’t wander off anymore. We made sure to manage our time wisely to avoid a repeat of the other night’s Amazing-Race fail. Lol.
Gwangbok-dong Cultural and Fashion Street is known as Busan’s Myeongdong for its rows of beauty shops, restaurants and food stalls. It’s also where Gukje Market, one of South Korea’s largest markets, is located. We checked it out along with some shops and tried out some street foods in the area.
I was supposed to include the street foods that we ate here but decided to compile all of those goodies, along with the ones we ate in Seoul, into a separate post. It deserves an entirely different entry! Haha.
And that’s it for our Busan tour. I hope you got a glimpse of how nice this city is through this post. Next up! The two lovely places we went train hopping for – the beautiful Nami Island and Petite France.