Hi everyone! Last week my friends and I decided we wanted to go to Busan. We decided we would just wing it - with the exception of our train tickets to Busan we were not going to make any reservations - Anthony Bourdain style. We didn't book a hotel or plan anything out for the weekend. I went to Busan with Sara, Rebecca, and David - all from Wisco- and then met another friend down there. We had some trouble reserving our tickets for the train initially, but thanks to Rebecca becoming a Korail member we will never have trouble booking tickets again. We all met at Seoul Station around 7 to get some dinner - McDonalds of course. Then we spent the rest of the time making sure we had everything in order, namely reading material and alcohol for the train ride. Our train didn't leave until 9pm so we were there in plenty of time. We hopped on the train with our boxes (yes boxes!!!) of soju in hand and prepared for our 2 1/2 hour ride on the KTX bullet train to Busan.
Waiting for the train on the platform with 2 boxes of soju to get me through the train ride
Travel buddies Megan and Patrick
Me and Rebecca on the train
The train ride there went by very quickly. We arrived into Busan just before midnight and the first thing we noticed was that even though it was the middle of the night it was significantly warmer than Seoul. We hopped in a cab once we got off the train and went to Haeundae Beach - the area in Busan we were staying. Busan is located on the southeast coast of South Korea and most of the action is around the beaches. Busan is sort of the Miami of South Korea - although its not warm all year round, it does have more mild weather and has better weather than Seoul. We had the cab drop us off where we estimated a good place to be to find a love motel - super sleezy places intended for Korean businessmen to take their mistresses but a travelers dream because it has all the amenities of a hotel but not nearly as expensive. We decided on a pink hotel lit up with neon signs. Can never go wrong with a pink hotel. It ended up having a room available and so we booked it for 2 nights and went to our room. The room was pretty big - a king size bed perfect for us girls and had a couch we made David sleep on. Only issue was that the shower/whirlpool had a door, but the wall of the bathroom was a huge window looking out into the rest of the hotel room. Awkward. Overall though it was one of the nicer love motels I've stayed in, but just to remind us what the room is really intended for we had a condom vending machine at the door:
A condom dispenser with an AIDS lollipop. Um?!
After putting our stuff down we decided to explore the area - it was close to 1am by this point but things are open pretty much all night in Korea so we had no trouble finding things to do. We walked down by the beach and ran into the PIFF pavilion. Busan just finished hosting the Busan (Pusan) International Film Festival. Josh Hartnett was in town for the event and it was a huge deal for the film festival to draw in such a big name American actor. The beach was amazing even at night - it was full of people sitting around and drinking or just hanging out.
Me, Sara, and Rebecca on the beach
Haeundae Beach, Busan
We walked around on the boardwalk and ran into a little area with coin-operated bumper cars. So dangerous. I have no idea why they think its a good idea to have those readily available for whoever might stumble past but we definitely took advantage of the situation. All you have to do is put in a 500won coin and the music on the little cars start playing and you can just bump into whoever else is driving around. So fun.
We went back to our hotel around 3 or so, but the boys decided to hit up the casino. The next morning we woke up pretty late - our room didn't have windows so it was totally dark and we just kept on sleeping thinking it was the middle of the night still. We all took showers with limited lighting since we didn't want to give a free show to the other people in the room. So there I am showering away when A HUGE FREAKING SPIDER pops out of nowhere and is hanging out in the shower with me. Now, I know people probably think I'm exaggerating when I say that this spider was huge, but for once I'm not. This was a fat juicy hairy black spider. I didn't know what to do. So there I am in the in the see-through shower while I'm being held hostage by a giant spider blocking the exit. Terrifying. Naturally, I started screaming at the top of my lungs and having no other defense against the spider, I unhooked the detachable shower head and used it as a high pressure water gun to shoot the sucker to the other side of the shower so I could grab a towel and run for it. I ran out of the bathroom and sent in someone to kill it. I could hear the crunch it made as it was smushed. Absolutely disgusting. I steered clear of the bathroom as much as possible from that point on.
Once the spider drama was over, the 5 of us went to a burger place near the beach (my first since I arrived in Korea!) and had some lunch. After that we went to the beach and layed out for a few hours. The water was freezing and it was even a little chilly to be laying out in swim suits, so we just sat on the beach in our clothes but when the sun came out it was soooo nice. Here's some pics from the beach:
In front of the "independent filmmakers lounge" from the PIFF
On the beach!
Haeundae Beach, Busan
Eventually the boys decided to go back to the casino to try to "win their money back" from the night before, and us girls decided to give the Busan seafood a try. Now, I've never really liked seafood very much, but I decided to be a good sport about it because I've been all about trying new things since I got here. Busan is supposed to have really good seafood so I figured this would be the place to give it a go. We found a place that had several people sitting outside which is always a good sign. Our choice? Fresh clams. They were fresh out of the tank, and cooked right in front of us. We really didn't have a clue how to eat them. The other girls enjoyed them, but I wasn't a big fan. Ah well. I tried.
View from the restaurant
How do we eat this?!
After dinner we stopped at Starbucks to pick up some cheesecake, and then bought some wine and beer for the night. We made a quick pit stop at our hotel to drop some things off and pick up others. We met up with the boys and then hopped in a taxi to Gwangali Beach. Once a year there is a huge fireworks show at Gwangali Beach in Busan and people from all over Korea come here to enjoy the show. Everyone brings blankets and sits on beach eating and drinking and watches as the fireworks are lit off the Rainbow Bridge. I have seen a lot of things and been a lot of places and I have to say - this is one of my favorite things I have seen or done. The whole atmosphere was amazing. Sitting on a beach on the edge of a huge city surrounded by mountains watching fireworks.
We arrived about 2 hours before the show was schedule to begin, and it would have done us good to get there even earlier. We managed to find a spot on the crowded beach to put our stuff down. We passed the time by lighting sparklers which entertained a lot of the children around us. The fireworks show was the best I have ever seen - every second was like a grand finale, combined with the lights display from the bridge. All of the high rise hotels and apartments shut off their neon lights to make the beach darker, and at some points we weren't even watching the fireworks in front of us. We would turn around and watch the buildings sparkle from the reflection of the fireworks. The show was set to music of course, blared over several loud speakers set up throughout the beach. Throughout the show we ate our cheesecake and drank our beer and wine.
Playing with sparklers on the beach :)
Waiting for the show to begin
The show lasted about 45 minutes and once it was finished we shoved our way through the masses of people and found a small carnival that had been set up on the beach. Rebecca and I decided to take a chance on a ride called "Crazy Flip". It pretty much just spun us upside down a bunch of times. Nothing too crazy but still fun.
After the carnival we walked through the fish market where you can choose your own live fish. Here's a bit of what we saw...
Of course, what's a fish market without some live octopus (octopi?)
We stopped at a traditional Korean restaurant near the beach and had a quick meal. We went to a bar for a drink, and then headed back to Haeundae where we made lots of new friends and hung out until the wee hours of the morning, as usual.
Experimenting with our Asian style :)
Checked out of the love motel around noon and went to Starbucks on the beach. We spent an hour or two on the beach before hopping in a cab back to Busan Station where we were lucky enough to catch the next KTX to Seoul. Grabbed dinner at Seoul Station once we were back and then headed home. I highly highly recommend Busan for anyone to decides to come to Korea, it was definitely worth the trip and we will be going back again once the winter is over for some more fun in the sun. So that's all for now - I need to try to get the sand out of my hair, shoes, iPod, etc. Hiking Monday, Everland (amusement park) Tuesday, no classes Wednesday (still have to go to school but no teaching necessary). I'll get paid to watch movies and skype with all of you! I hate to brag - but I really do have the best job ever. I have yet to take a vacation day but out of the past 20 possible days for me to teach - I have taught 8. Life is good :)
I'm on the beach and you're not. Ha ha!
"I dig my toes into the sand. The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds strewn across a blue blanket. I lean against the wind, pretend that I am weightless. And in this moment I am happy." --Incubus