Currency: Korean Won (₩)
₩1000 = 72.5p . £1 = ₩1378
Time Zone: GMT +9 (8 hours ahead of UK summer time)
With our epic seafaring adventute over we were free of our bags and ready to eat. The hostel guy was very friendly and helpful and advised we go get seafood soup 100m down the road. We didn’t want to go far because super typhoon Chaba was on its way. Although we had been given a heads up by the unhelpful guy in Fukuoka that there would be a typhoon, we weren’t too concerned because we thoughy he was a bit unreliable. But Kate’s friend who lives in Busan told us it was going to be a big one and we needed to stay indoors that night. We walked for a little while and saw no sign of fish soup so, instead of getting lost and stuck in the storm, we decided to just eat next to hostel in what turned out to be a lovely little Japanese restaurant.
The next morning our view from the hostel looked like this:
Chaba had arrived through the night and left a big trail of destruction. At least 3 people died in Busan and more in the surrounding areas. Hundreds of people’s properties were damaged by the wind or floods. It was not a storm to be sniffed at.
We had big plans to get loads of trip planning done seeing as we would be stuck indoors all day. Then suddenly the view changed pretty dramatically.
Chaba was gone. The sun was out and the sand was everywhere. By 2pm everyone had left the hostel to enjoy the nice weather! So we joined them. Although the weather had calmed considerably the ground was wet or flooded and covered in debris and glass, so we figured inside was best. We got lunch at a local coffee chain shop and headed towards BIFF (Busan International Film Festival) Street for the Trickeye Museum. They are situated all over Asia and consist of numerous optical illusions that you can stand in so that in photos it looks as if you are riding a dragon, climbing bamboo or your head’s fallen off.
It was a lot of fun and was a good way to spend a couple of hours. We didn’t come across any other visitors at all in our time there which made it so easy to get some great shots.
With out first sight being a rather unauthentic Korean experience our second stop that day was a wander around the Jagalchi fish market, a huge expanse of stalls selling fish so fresh it was all still alive. This is a bit of a theme in Korea with fish restsurants having large fish tanks out the front. The smell was strong and neither of us had the guts to try anything so we walked out the other side to see the sun setting over the docks.
On our way back to the hostel we stopped off at a craft beer pub for some food and a tipple (Kate was very pleased with her cider). They had a large selection of Brewdog beers and Kate wanted to audition herself as a brand ambassador.
The weather on day 3 was far more pleasant than the previous morning and we were off to find a temple. One of the leaflets we picked up had instructions on how to get there and it sounded so simple: one subway, one bus. We got the subway to the end of the line and headed towards exit 7 as it said in our guide. We were looking for bus 7 and according to the sign exit 7 had no bus 7. Exit 6 had bus 7. We had to pick which 7 we wanted. We figured the bus 7 was a safer bet. On ground level we found the bus stop and I did my best to read the names of the stops in Korean. I knew what I was looking for but saw no Haedong Yonggungsa (해동융궁사). After much brow furrowing a lady came over and asked where we were going so we told her. After conferring with her friend she decided the nearest bus stop was a 10 minute walk away and we wanted the 185. We made it to the bus stop and a short wait later a 185 turned up. We asked if he went to the temple but he said we needed 181. At this point I just wanted to get on a bus so the next bus (100) turned up and I just asked if he went to the temple. He nodded so we paid our fares and got on. Thankfully this guy knew his bus route and we ended up at the bottom of the road to the temple.
Haedong Yonggungsa is a beautiful temple set into the cliffs to the east of Busan. It was a fair walk to get to but certainly worth the trek.
We had been unconvinced it would be a worthwhile journey seeing as it was such an effort to get to and we had seen so many amazing temples already. We had spoken to a fellow traveller the previous night who had said its location on the sea was what set it apart. Once at the temple I was inclined to agree.
Whilst at the temple I also had my first Korean eomukguk (think fishy pancake in a bowl of fish soup). I had seen them being sold in a few places and had no idea what they were. I tried one anyway and it was lovely.
Kate tried a different delicacy: Tornado Potato!
From the temple we set off towards a walkway around Igidae Park. The coastal path winds its way around the park with great views across the water to Gwangalli Bridge.
The southern end of the path has a small glass-floored jetty where you can look down to the crashing waves below your feet but we didn’t make it that far. We got to a point around a third of the way along and noticed we were short on time for we had plans that evening and it was getting late. There was a path over a hill in the park and it appeared to lead back to a main road. I figured we could hopefully get a bus from there to the subway. Thankfully all was well and we were on our way to the baseball!
Busan’s team are the Lotte Giants. Massive underachievers but renowned for their atmosphere. We got our tickets, in a random bit that I pointed to on a stadium map when the ticket lady asked where, and went to get food. Kate got Maccie D’s and I went nextdoor for some bibimbap, a traditional dish of rice, vegetables and meat. Whilst waiting for my food I utilised my position next to McDonald’s to steal some sweet wifi and look up other people’s experiences at the game. It turns out that this stadium lets you take whatever you want in to the stadium and people were talking about seeing fans turning up with coolers full of booze and stacks of pizzas. So once my food was ready we went straight to 7-11 to get some drink. At the checkout the lady told us the regulations had changed and we thought that was it for our cheap booze dreams. She then clarified that you can still take in whatever you want but you have to pour your beer into a cup. Great!
Korean baseball is fun. Baseball as a sport is one of the few sports I struggle to get in to but when you have a guy choreographing all the synchronised dance routines and halfway through everyone puts a bag on their head. It also helped that you could just pop to the stadium’s 7-11 and buy cheap cans.
The season was drawing to a close and the Lotte Giants were out of the running so the stadium was a tad lacking in numbers but that didn’t stop the atmosphere being fantastic.
Our 4th day in Busan was a Friday and the hostel we had booked only had space for our first 3 nights so we needed to move round the coast from Gwangalli beach to Haeundae beach to another hostel for the weekend. Pobi Guesthouse was thankfully just the one bus ride away from The View and we found it no problem. We did a little more research this time after the previous near miss. On dumping our belongings we set out for lunch near the beach.
We had received news from Kate’s friend in Busan, Laura. She works in radio and had been very busy with the film festival but because of this we were able to get tickets to a midnight film marathon. With it starting at 23:59 we decided to have a nap which was especially necessary after our fun at the baseball. We met up with her for tea and she gave us our tickets.
With many evening hours left to while away we sorted out a few hostels and flights for the coming weeks. We made our way to the BIFF Centre.
It has its own metro stop but there is the world’s biggest department store in the way so you have to walk a little bit. Once there we took our seats and waited for “Midnight Passion 1”.
Midnight passion is a movie marathon of 3 films back to back starting at midnight (or 1 minute before to avoid confusion with the date). The passion refers to the passion for new and exciting films in a specific style (the other nights featured thrillers and mysteries). We had been sent to a collection of sexy films, specifically “Roman Porno”, a genre started in 1970s Japan that was renowned for pushing the boat out with regards to nudity with very strict nudity laws with regards to media in Japan. Now that nudity is everywhere in mainstream film and TV the genre’s popularity has wained but it retains a cult following. We thought this meant it would be no more raunchy than your average episode of Game of Thrones. We were wrong. The first film, “Aroused By Gymnopedies”, was about a washed up director whose wife was in the hospital. The storyline was difficult to follow due to all the sex he kept having with various people, but each romp was preceded by the classical piece Gymnopedie No 1. All very strange. The second film, “Wet Woman In The Wind”, was a little easier to follow. A young chap had isolated himself in the woods to avoid women due to previous love triangle dramas and to focus his mind on his writing. A woman comes along (on a bicycle, into the sea) and won’t leave him alone. Despite all the sex it was funny and overall enjoyable. At this point, at 3am, Kate had had enough so we left before the third film. We managed to flag down a taxi and asked him to go to Haeundae market (near our hostel and where the bus had stopped earlier). After a short detour to the local supermarket we made it to near enough to our hostel and the taxi driver very kindly discounted our fare because of the confusion.
Day 5 started a little later than most after our late night evening of culture. The weather was dull so we planned an indoor day at the world’s biggest department store.
Shinsegae is set over 14 above ground floors and a couple of basement floors. It also has many branded shops in the adjoining mall. If shopping isn’t for you there are hundreds of places to eat and drink, a kids zone and an ice rink. We looked around a bunch of shops including a Cath Kidston store that got Kate very excited due to their stock of Disney themed wares that had sold out in the UK.
After all this tiring shopping and trailling up and down escalators we needed a drink so we went to the complex’s microbrewery of course. After that it was to the supermarket to attempt to get the ingredients to make some ramen. We headed back via a gyoza stall (still in Shinsegae obviously) and cooked our tea. Unfortunately what we bought did not include noodles (despite the picture on the packaging), but it was still tasty nonetheless.
We had planned to have a night in that night but a friendly Canadian called Dave asked us if we wanted to join him for a drink in the local Irish pub, The Wolfhound. Kate needed to get changed so we agreed to meet him there. 5 minutes later we set off and 5 more minutes we were there. Dave was not. We had a couple of drinks thinking perhaps he had been caught up (the reason we had spoken to him was because he was asking about ATMs for his friend) but Dave was a no show. So we left.
Day 6 was checkout day but we only had a short bus ride to our next stop so we met Laura once more for lunch. We had food in a Western-style pizza, pasta and burger place. I had hoped we could taste local Busan offerings so after lunch we went across the road to a more local restaurant. It had the live fish outside and although we had a small selection of local food there was one item I was there for: wriggly octopus! It is arguably the pinnacle of adventurous Korean food. They chop up the octopus fresh out of the tank and due to active nerve endings it continues to wriggle for some time. This means you need to chew it a lot or it sticks to your tongue and it’s weird. It doesn’t taste of much but you dip it in salty oil and spicy sauce to prevent suction and they’re nice but the fun is to watch it wriggle.
After the fun of the food it was time to leave Busan to head towards the light!
The first hostel was The View Guesthouse. We were recommended a bunch by Laura but this was the only one available for the dates we had originally intended to stay for. We had a double room with sea views (although I maybe picked the wrong time to document it…) and it was right in the heart of a busy district. The one member of staff we saw was a great help and good fun. The free breakfast of eggs and coffee was tasty and a nice opportunity to meet our fellow guests. The only niggles were that the showers had no doors for that authentic onsen feel and it was a 10 minute walk to the bus or subway but we wouldn’t have had the view if we were closer.
Hostel number two was Pobi Guesthouse, situated 5 minutes from Haeundae beach and on the doorstep of Haeundae market. The hostel is named after a cute not-so-little cat that was rescued by the owner 12 years ago. Apparently she was 3kg heavier than when we met her but thanks to having her food thrown around the hostel she had become significantly more slender. The hostel itself was a little rough around the edges but had everything we needed. We couldn’t get a double room so we got 2 beds in a dorm. It had a very noisy clunky fan and the beds were a bit rickety but they were comfortable and we had a curtain for privacy. The staff were keen to help and once more we had free eggs for breakfast but we were far happier at The View.