Our first time in Busan was an accident – it was an overnight layover we were forced to spend outside the airport. As it turns out, this is the only stamp we have of Korea in our passports except for the one we got when we first started our teaching stint here.
That time, Busan looked a lot seedier than it really is. After a day of traveling, your ability to be flexible is a bit depleted, and we probably approached that overnight layover five years ago with a not-so-great attitude. After a quick weekend trip with the boys last year, Cameron got to see the cooler side of Busan, and was hooked. He was determined to make sure I got to go before we left Korea, so we found a weekend in June when we would not be either tied up at work or other commitments.
In some ways, it would be unfair to say we went to Busan. We went to Haeundae Beach and stayed there for the vast majority of the weekend. Haeundae Beach is incredibly entertaining, and beautiful in its own right. It was what we thought Qingdao could be if it were properly developed (maybe in a few years Qingdao will get there now that it’s becoming the Hollywood of China).
Haeundae Beach is an extensive stretch of coastline – it has beaches and some rocky cliffs, making the coastline rather diverse. The beach has golden sand, and despite strong winds, almost no waves. That doesn’t deter the locals from trying to catch some waves on their surfboards in the late afternoon, which makes for great people-watching. For a North Asian beach, Haeundae Beach is possibly the one that has seemed most inviting to actually go swimming in (when you are born and raised in the Caribbean you kind of become a beach snob). Haeundae has lots of beachfront hotels, restaurants and bars right across the water, so there is really no need to go very far. One other thing I loved about this beach is the facilities – coin-op showers, small pools and air pressured guns to remove the sand from your feet, bathrooms, and quite a few shady spots if you need a sun break.
Our favorite find at Haeundae beach was a walkway that takes you through the cliffs next to the beach. Among it, we found some interesting finds, including a stone carved in the 9th (?) century with the name Haeundae – this stone is what gives the beach its name.
Our time was mostly spent people-watching, playing darts at the Wolfhound (a local Irish pub) and trying some of the street food available around the Haeundae area (mostly fried chicken, because there is no such thing as bad Korean fried chicken).
Our one fail of the trip was attempting to go to a baseball game. Baseball games in Korea (as in Japan) are an event on the field and on the stands. Coordinated cheers, cheerleaders, bring your own food…all goes. Cameron went to a game last year and loved it, so naturally, knowing how fun games are in the Dominican Republic, and being well acquainted with my love for baseball, he wanted to take me to one. Based on what the stands looked like the day prior, and the fact that the local team (the Lotte Giants) was playing terribly, we figured getting a (cheap) ticket would be easy. Well, we were wrong.
Upon arriving at the stadium the following day, we found out the game was sold out. To our comfort, we weren’t the only ones.
Busan was a great weekend getaway to get a respite from Jeju. It might seem odd since Jeju is also beachy, but…the key here is beach plus amenities. A beach in a city you can easily navigate on the subway for very little money. And a beach that is seemingly popular with lots of other people (there were lots of Russians!) which makes for great people watching.
In summary, my old perceptions of Busan have been dispelled and I would definitely go back. Gotta catch that pending baseball game!
Next, we’ll take a page of our travel journal to pay our respects to one of our great inspirations in this nomadic life.