CONTRIBUTED BY QUENTIN RICHARDSON
Ok, so most people (Americans) really don’t know ANYTHING about Busan other than Haeundae Beach (Yeah! I said it). But like Seoul, there is FAR more to the city than the beaches. Yes, you will find out that Busan is very similar to Seoul in many ways except that I noticed that the Koreans in Busan are nicer than their cousins further north.
First, if you are going to Busan for the beach, go in mid-June to late August when the warmer, calmer weather is present. Also, the nicer, less crowed beaches are Songdo (opposite side of the city) and Ilgwang (northeast of Haeundae). To further drive this point, it actually better not to go to beaches inside the greater Busan area, but a little further out (unless you like the crowds).
Now, heading back inland, Busan has (like every other place in Korea) impressive temples in the mountains as well as one very beautiful temple on the coast. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is about 20 minutes north of Haeundae Beach via a taxi from Jangsan Station. There is a bus that takes you there from Haeundae Station as well (181), but trust me, it is better to use a taxi. The best views of Haeundae Beach, as well as a great place to meet locals is the Damaljigil and Moontan Roads. The hike uphill has art galleries and cafes. Between the roads are trails along the hillside that leads to a series of parks hidden amongst the trees.
On the opposite side of Haeundae Beach is the world’s largest department store according to the Guinness Book of World Records (™). The Shinsegae Dept. Store in Centum City is 14 stories of hopes and dreams. I think the only thing I can afford buy from that place is food in the basement level food court, and a few hours at the top level driving range. Still, it pretty cool to window shop and tell people you have been there. This place can be reached easily on the Express city buses (1000’s) between Busan Station and Haeundae or the Centum City stop, Line #2 on the Metro.
Just like Myeongdong in Seoul, Busan has trendy fashion and shopping districts as well. Seomyeon and Nampo are very identical to Myeongdong, but less crowded. Both also have underground malls that connect to other nearby shopping areas. Popular brands have there own stores or store in the nearby Lotte buildings. Both Seoul and Busan have towers overlooking the city, but Busan has an escalator that takes you uphill to the Yongdusan Park instead of a steep uphill walk (in your face Seoul Tower). Both Seomyeon and Nampo are connected to Line 1 of the Metro system.
Seoul has several small art districts scattered across the city, but Busan has transformed an entire neighborhood into a tourist attraction. Gamcheon Cultural Village reminds me of the favelas in Brazil, or the Santorini hillside because of the colorful homes compacted together along a steep valley. Here, painters and sculptors have turned this neighborhood into a work of art that has drawn international attention its way. This area is easily found from Toseong Station Line #1 on the metro. Take bus 1 or 2 if you can’t catch a cab (a detailed explanation coming later).
Finally, just like Seoul and Suwon, there is a massive fortress inside the city. You can take a gondola up the mountain and reach the South Gate easily from there. GET A MAP! There is a massive network of tangled trails. “Geumjeongsanseong Fortress” is the name of the attraction (just remembered as I was typing). The entrance to the park is between Myeongnyun-Dong and Oncheonjang station, just follow the brown signs.
So remember, there is more to Busan than just Haeundae Beach. I only gave a few examples to what I have seen and done during my recent visits. It only takes a few seconds to find out about these things and more during your long train or bus ride there. Before you go, here are a few helpful hints:
*Before you leave, book your KTX tickets
IN ADVANCE. Currently, the KTX (bullet trains) only makes stops in Seoul, Suwon, Daejeon, Daegu, Ulsan, and Busan. Intercity trains are slower and make more stops. Who wants to stand on a train for hours at a time? Buses are available as well, as long as you are at the correct terminal.
*Book rooms or hostels in advance, check out rooms AWAY from popular areas to save a ton of money.
*Print out or save webpages of the things you want to see or do, and figure out how you’re getting there. It’s very useful to use the webpages since the have the Hangul characters somewhere on the page as well was simple directions.
*Like Seoul, use T-Money
(a Seoul T-money card works in Busan too) or other transit cards, the only con is that you have to charge them at convenience stores
instead of the reload devices in the stations. Get familiar with the routes (i.e. use your smartphone). Both, trains and buses will get you within 500 meters of everything you need to do and see, but combinations of both are required for some, only use taxis when you are in the immediate area or after midnight
when buses and trains are no longer in service.
*Bring WON! Geez, I really can’t emphasize that enough. There are CitiBank and Lotte ATMs that have the option for cashing out with “foreign” debit cards in malls and larger intercity stations.
Busan Metro Map
Busan with Family