Since Thursday was a holiday and Daniel had one more vacation day left at work, I suggested he take it on Friday so we could have a four day weekend. He did, and we went down to Busan, the second largest city in Korea. We’d both been wanting to go there but hadn’t had the chance yet. It was the first time we’d gone on a trip in Korea without a group but it was very easy to do on our own with a little research.
We ordered train tickets online a month in advance. They cost ₩57,300 each from Seoul to Busan and ₩43,900 each from Busan back to Suwon. (I wasn’t exactly sure the best way to get to the Suwon train station from where we live and I didn’t want to take any chances of missing our train. But I figured we could find our way home from there easily enough…) Riding the KTX was a great experience. So easy to get our tickets and find the correct train and seats. And they even had free wifi on the train! We took the fastest train which got us from Seoul to Busan in two hours and 37 minutes. (On the way back the train was a little slower, getting us from Busan to Suwon in two hours and 56 minutes.)
We had booked two nights at Hello Guesthouse (for ₩25,000 per dorm bed using Hostelworld.com) near Haeundae Beach so we hopped on the subway and headed over there. It was a good place to stay but I did have some complaints: mainly the dirtiness of the bathroom and shower rooms. The kitchen, common room, and dorm room were nice and clean however, the location was great, and the employees were very friendly and helpful. They had free breakfast and wifi and a cute resident bunny as well. (Unfortunately it didn’t look like the bunny got much attention and its cage wasn’t cleaned very often either.)
I think Haeundae Beach is a place best visited in the summer. It was cold and drizzly our whole trip and there wasn’t much we wanted to do at the beach. We walked around and took a few photos but that was it. We had dinner the first night at The Wolfhound (they also have a location in Seoul) and explored the market the next day. But there were lots of restaurants, bars, and love motels so I think it’s a happening place when it gets warm.
On Friday we headed to Haedong Yonggung Temple. (Take bus 181 from exit 7 of Haeundae station for about 30 minutes.) This was my favorite part of the trip. It is a temple by the sea and has lots of cool statues and shrines. I loved exploring it and it seemed like there was something beautiful or unique around every corner. Usually I think temples in Korea are pretty lame, especially compared to those in Thailand or Bali, but this one was sweet. Definitely my favorite temple in Korea (so far).
Later that evening we headed to Gwangalli Beach (Geumnyeonsan station, exit 3, make a U-turn and then your first right). We both much preferred this beach to Haeundae. There were lots of restaurants and bars right along the strip. We had Gorgonzola pizza for dinner at Burger & Pasta. The view of Gwangwan Bridge was beautiful, especially all lit up at night, and there were people lighting off fireworks. At the other end of the beach was Millak Raw Fish Town. Daniel really wanted some seafood but was full from the pizza. The ajummas were friendly, even when we explained we were just “eye shopping”.
On Saturday we checked out of Hello Guesthouse and headed back to Busan Station. We stowed our backpacks in a locker (₩1600, luckily between the two of us we had all that in the required ₩100 coins!) and walked around Chinatown for a bit. There were some cool Chinese murals but mostly I saw lots of Russian writing (Cyrillic?) and Filipino restaurants. We had some fried rice for lunch… New Hawaii Pub looked sketchy, but the food turned out to be good.
Next we headed to Taejeongdae (Busan station, exit 7, walk to the bus stop in front of Cold Stone Creamery and take bus 88 or 101 for about 30 minutes). Go here if you want to get some exercise!! Usually they have a tram that goes around the park but it wasn’t running that day. They also have a ferry which we wanted to take back to the bus stop once we got to the lighthouse area but the waves were too rough for it to come into shore. So we were shit out of luck!
First we stopped at Taewon Pebble Beach. We didn’t walk all the way down to the beach, since we knew we’d be doing a lot of walking that day anyway, but we did take the short trail out to an overlook that gave us a great view.
After what seemed like a lot of uphill climbs, we made it to the main area. There were statues and overlooks to stop and explore on the way down the many stairs. At the bottom there was a lighthouse, a cafe, Sinseon Rock, and some seafood tents.
Daniel decided he wanted to go down to the seafood tents so I told him to go ahead while I slowly climbed back up the stairs. I don’t like seafood and they would have charged me even if I didn’t eat. He had a blast and I was able to climb back up at my own pace so we were both happy.
After meeting back at the entrance, Daniel won me a stuffed heart by popping some balloons with darts. 🙂
After taking the bus back to Busan Station, we checked into Arirang Hotel (no reservation, we just walked in). For ₩42,000 we got a spacious, clean room with a bathtub!! Well worth the price even though the place hadn’t been redecorated in several decades…
We had a fun time in Busan despite the less-than-ideal weather and best of all, all the places we went were free! So we just had to pay for transportation, food, and accommodations. We could have made the trip a little more action-packed but we wanted to relax a bit and Busan doesn’t have many “must see” attractions anyway. I think groups like Adventure Korea and WinK are good for other places in Korea, but I would definitely recommend going to Busan on your own as it’s compact and easy to navigate. Just a few random observations:
*Our T-Money cards worked on the subway and buses here but we weren’t able to charge them at the machines in the subway stations. Which was strange… So then we started buying tickets for the subway (₩1200-₩1400) and paying cash on the bus (₩1200).
*There was much more shoving and elbowing in the subway and to get on the bus than in Bundang/Seoul. Not cool. But the bus drivers were more patient and didn’t seem to be in such a hurry.