Chuseok is the Korean Thanksgiving festival. This year it occurred not too long after I had arrived in Korea, in September. I actually had no idea about it until a couple weeks beforehand when a new Aussie friend of mine said to me ‘you realise we have like 3 days off coming up?’
Chuseok is traditionally celebrated by visiting family and giving gift sets of Spam. No, really. Although I did not partake in either of these traditions, I did take the opportunity to visit Busan, Korea’s ‘second city.’
Busan is down on the south coast of Korea, and it has a great reputation as being a lively city, full of good food and entertainment, but a bit more relaxed than Seoul. Now, I LOVE Seoul, but I still find it mind boggling. And at this point, I’d only been in Korea a few weeks, and in Seoul a few times, so I was looking forward to exploring another Korean city that was perhaps a bit more chilled out than Seoul.
I had a disgustingly early train trip on the Thursday morning, but Chuseok had begun on Wednesday so I’d had at least one day of chilling out and doing nothing at home. I was off to Busan until Sunday night, when I would come back to Suwon station by around 1 A.M. Thank god I don’t start work early…
I was up and at ‘em, made it to Suwon station and was ready for the train with ages to spare. The trip to Busan was similarly uneventful, a little lengthy perhaps because I was too cheap to spend on the KTX (Korean version of the bullet train) but hey, it took me back to those glorious days of chuffing through the rolling green of the Balkan countryside.
I really love trains.
My hostel in Busan was a little empty of good company for my taste, but it was a really nice place. I had deliberately not chosen to stay in Haeundae (beach/backpacker/party area) because although I was keen to go over to the beach – the weather was still REALLY nice- it’s not my scene. And I was staying, my boss assured me, in the middle of a lot of great things anyway. Apple Guesthouse was clean and had helpful staff, although some could not speak English THAT well. As I said, unfortunately for me it was full of other Koreans/Asians traveling together, so I kind of missed that atmosphere of European hostels where there are lots of solo travelers looking to make new friends. But nonetheless I had few complaints.
Haeundae made me homesick!
And indeed I was. I was near the famed Fish Market, and in the middle of an area where street vendors filled up the streets at night time; I subsequently spent hours almost every night just wandering the alleys, eating fried chicken and mandu and hotteok for the first time. I was in heaven.
You can tell I was near the Fish Market
Korean Street Food
Sit down dining… in the street
So much pajeon!
Nighttime is when it all happens
My beloved hotteok
One of the best things I did was visit Taejongdae Park, which my hostel highly recommended. I had to take a bus for about half an hour, but when I arrived, despite the searing heat, I was able to walk the full circuit around, and enjoy the aptly named ‘Pebble Beach’, as well as some nice sea views.
Something something historical significance…
I also visited Haedong Yonggusa Temple, which remains the only Korean temple I have seen, thus far. I’m not hugely knowledgeable about this aspect of Asian culture, as my interest lies more in Middle Eastern and European history and religion. So, I’m not going out of my way to visit every single temple in Korea. But I was very happy I visited this one. It’s historically significant, having been one of the earliest temples, and is built on the coast, so is incredibly beautiful.
Once again, I was surrounded mainly by Koreans also visiting the temple, which is one of the nicest things about going to ‘tourist’ destinations in Korea – you’re actually always surrounded by locals. Koreans have a strong sense of pride in their country and the many wonderful things there are to see and do here. They are always out and about on weekends, making the most of their nations natural attractions, or the never ending array cultural attractions offered in the big cities.
There is SO much to do in Busan, and although I did a few more things not mentioned here, I know I barely scratched the surface. In any case, these were the highlights of my little jaunt there, and I hope it gives you an idea of the city.
Sorry for the photo overload, but I loved Busan. I’ll be back!
Until we meet again
Has anyone been to Busan? Or has tips for the next time I visit? As always, like, comment and share!