After our visit in Gyeongju, we made our way about an hour south to the coastal city of Busan. Busan is the second-largest city in Korea and provided a striking contrast from the quiet hills and tombs of Gyeongju. After our bus ride we made our way on foot to our new hotel, which was actually a room in a Korean family’s apartment. The apartment was in one of what seemed to be hundreds of high-rise buildings. We’ve seen these buildings everywhere in Korea – from the most populated areas of Seoul to in the middle of fields and farmlands in the center of Seoul. At first, the buildings seemed creepy, with building after building of the same design sprawling anonymously. This particular apartment was in LG Metrocity in Busan, in a neighborhood of Busan that has over 72,000 people living in just 7 km. The same building, over and over again, rambled for as far as we could see.
The apartments inside, though, are beautiful and spacious. The family we stayed with was so sweet. Every time the mom ran into us, she would feed us something. A few of these somethings happened to be hot dogs and fish sticks for breakfast, but these oddities also came with sweet pastries, delicious curries, baked squash, and fresh fruit. A popular afternoon snack was a tomato topped with whipped cream. When we left, she gave us a bag of pasta for the road.
The first evening in Busan we wandered down the road to find some food at a nearby beach. The view across the water was spectacular, with the Gwangan Bridge spanning across the ocean.
We were surprised to see the array of bike paths and walking paths in Busan, and even more surprised to see that no one used the bike paths. Either bikers were in the middle of the road or constantly asking us to get out of the way on the sidewalk.
The next day, we went on a walk out of our neighborhood. Starting out we saw this huge black and yellow spider, of which we have seen many more since.
Our walk evolved into a seaside cliff hike with beautiful views of the city across the ocean and waves crashing against ragged cliffs along the coastline. We had wandered into Igidae Park, with paths hiking up Mount Jangsan and other paths running along the coastline with stairs and boardwalks zigzagging up and down.
On our third day in Busan we made our way to Haeundae Beach. One of the most famous beaches in South Korea, parasols and innertubes trail as far as the eye can see – and we were there on a Thursday.
We rented a beach pad and parasol and camped out in one of the endless rows of parasols, joining our sun-avoiding Korean neighbors on every side of our parasol. Throughout the afternoon we played in the waves, watched the insane number of people around, and listened to warnings about sexual camera predators occasionally blasted on the speaker. After chicken and beer for dinner, we made our way back to the beach for a concert, part of the final day of the Busan Sea Festival. A (somewhat strange, somewhat entertaining) show ensued, which involved a mixture of Korean and English songs from Broadway shows like Chicago and Fame and an insanely long commercial for some type of company that just kept saying “innovation”.
The next day we had to switch hotels due to availability, so headed to a new area of Busan. Our hotel was across the street from Busan Station, where a huge fountain provided a place for everyone to cool down.
Over the next few days, we frequented a quieter beach, found a Cold Stone (miraculous!), and located
Russiantown, doubling as the city’s red-light district, next to our new hotel, which also happened to be the first place we’ve seen roaches. However, the time there was short-lived. Tuesday morning we got an unexpected call to start work a week early, so we headed straight to Fukuoka to get our visas.