My Trip to Sk & J No. 5
I am currently riding the Shinkansen back to Fukuoka after a couple of fantastic days in Kyoto. I will get to Fukuoka & Kyoto later as I still have to describe my week in Busan.
Busan! The second largest city, after Seoul, in South Korea. A fantastic and vibrant seaside city which is very friendly and dynamic. Getting around on public transport is a breeze, truly and honestly a breeze and a pleasure to ride.
I had used the metro in Seoul quite frequently and the system used in Busan is the same – even the T-Money card I purchased in Seoul was valid in Busan. While in Busan I decided to try the local bus service, which after some very helpful tips from my host – Li Li – who I was staying with, turned out to be smooth.
My first couple of trips I showed the destination I needed to reach to the driver. He nodded and motioned me to sit close by and then made a point of advising me once we reached the correct bus stop. Fantastic and always extremely polite.
So now, having mastered both metro & bus system (both systems have verbal announcements as well as visual informing passengers of which stop is next) I began exploring Busan. What a lovely city which had a fresh smell of sea in the air, something which I love. The atmosphere down at Haeundae Beach was such that reminded me of Marsalforn on a windy spring day. Haeundae turned out to be my favourite spot with countless restaurants and cafes all along. You could easily spend a day doing a café crawl!
Now, Busan is a large city, however it is set within a very hilly/mountainous area so there are only a few points in the city where one would be able to view more than the locality in which you find yourself. It is a city set within the valleys in between these hills/mountains and connected by countless bridges and tunnels. The bridges are all designed beautifully and add much to the scenery.
A little side note here – back home in Malta there is a raging debate on the current administration’s intention of building a tunnel between Malta and Gozo. A very contentious subject. Many are for the connection while many more are against. Personally, I am against the plans as I fear that by building a land connection between the two islands Gozo risks losing its charm and attraction. Thus, it would not be such a popular place to visit anymore and subsequently Gozo’s main source of revenue – tourism (local & foreign) will suffer. Anyway, after seeing the beautiful bridges in Busan I started thinking that, if such a connection MUST be made, a bridge would be the better option. But then again, aesthetic beauty in construction in Malta was never the current administration’s top priority.
Back to Busan..
I did a lot of walking, again, but this time did not walk for an hour in the wrong direction. GPS was working quite well, and I managed to sort out a better Wi-Fi connection.
Walking the full length of Haeundae Beach occupied a good part of the day for me – from one end where there was a small fishing port all the way to the other end where there was a beautiful walk around a promontory which was rocky but also heavily wooded (it was lovely and cool after a long day in the sun). The pathway meandered up and down the steep wooded slope, across a wooden bridge, and on to a lighthouse & small shrine on the tip. Just beyond that, and on the far side of the promontory a modern and stylish building appears. It turns out that this was the location for the APEC meeting that took place a few years back.
By the way, weather in Busan can be quite frustrating. Being an oceanside city there is invariably quite a strong wind, and this wind can be quite cold. Yet, if it is a sunny day and you are protected from the wind, or there happens to be a lull in the wind, then it can get quite hot. So, it is always quite complicated to decide on what to wear, you will either be over or underdressed no matter which way you go. Most of the days I ended up carrying my jacket around while I was boiling at times and cold at others. If it decides to be a rainy day… well it would rain for the whole day.. so, an umbrella would be a very good idea (another thing to carry as you still have the hot/cold problem). Maybe it is just the time of year that I was there, Summer I hear can be extremely hot, while winter is the complete opposite.
So, while battling with the problem of what to wear, each morning I would check the map of Busan and see which way I would go that day. I explored the streets of the area where I was staying which turned out to be quite an interesting walk.
I visited Busan’s Sea World which is a fantastic Aquarium with all types of sea creatures on display. I even got to see the Shark feeding time. Quite a sight as three divers got into the shark pool and began feeding them. Two divers kept the sharks organised and at bay while the third would feed each shark individually using a special rod. It must take quite a lot of guts to go into that pool full of sharks, so I enthusiastically joined in with the applause of all those who were watching.
One day I was just wandering aimlessly around the far end of Haeundae Beach and came across an old railway which, it turns out to be is a very popular walking spot for many locals. I started walking along the rail track not knowing how far it went… and it went on quite and I decided to head back after about an 45 minutes walking. It seems I chose to turn back too soon! Just beyond the corner, maybe another 10 minutes walking, was access to a picturesque road lined by Cherry Trees – when in blossom these would be fantastic to view. Oh well, next time! 😀
On Friday I decided to go to the Busan Passenger Terminal to do some scouting on where I would have to go when catching the ferry to Fukuoka, how much earlier I would need to be there and finally check if there is anywhere I could leave my main luggage until I get back. As mentioned previously, and I am still kicking myself about this, although I planned to pack light I did nothing of the sort, so I had to get myself a small luggage to supplement the one I had. Thus, I could use this second smaller luggage for Japan and leave my main in Korea. And yes… they have such a service.. FANTASTIC. Even better is the fact that the Ferry Terminal is just 10 minutes’ walk away from the train station – even more fantastic.
Another side note.. As mentioned at the start, I am writing this while travelling the Shinkansen bullet train back to Fukuoka. A three hour train ride covering 321.70km as the crow flies and it is a very smooth ride, quite similar to a trip by air.
So, Saturday morning went back to drop off my larger luggage keeping the smaller luggage I purchased from a department store in Busan for my trip to Japan (and for all the extra stuff I have). The rest of the day was spent wandering around just enjoying the street views – also finally came across a photography shop. Well, not one but a dozen of them. It seems to me that shops are grouped together according to their type of wares here in Korea. I noticed the same in Seoul where all the jewellery shops were located along a busy thouroughfare.
Sunday, my last day in Busan.. ferry leaves early on Monday morning, I got onto the metro and went towards Gwangalli Beach to see the beautiful Gwangandaegyo Bridge that traverses across the mouth of the bay. When I got there I stumbled across a marathon that was underway. Thousand of people were participating and it was just fantastic to watch. The atmosphere was lovely and vibrant although it was a very hot day. So, what was planned as just a morning ended up being most of the day there. Then it was the long metro trip back, about an hour by metro – so that should give you an idea of the size of the city – and in search of some supper before heading back to the flat and an early night.
That is Busan done and dusted and what a fantastic experience it was.
A final note as a thank you to my hosts Li Li and her husband Lee who’s apartment I was staying in. A lovely couple who were very helpful. So should anyone be visiting Busan and are booking through AirBNB please check their place out. You won’t be disappointed.