After Seoul, the next Korean mega city would be Busan, home of the renowned Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) that stakes an Asian presence in the congregation of Euro and American rooted film fests. That's also how I heard about Busan, through BIFF when Singaporean director Roystan Tan beat other acclaimed Asian filmmakers to clinch the top prize with his film "69" in 2012. I've participated in one of Royston's experimental film projects many years ago so we're sorta friends and on each other's Facebook list. His status updates introduced me to Busan.
Having just come into the knowledge of Busan's existence, I was naturally very excited to visit so soon. The modern city is the first stop in my whirlwind 10-day vacation in South Korea, which included a 3D2N tour with the K-Shuttle deluxe bus. We boarded the bus in Busan and travelled up to Seoul, passing various minor cities and provincial attractions along the way. Find out the sights I visited with K-shuttle en route to Seoul here.
Beginning with this post about my first day in Busan, I'll be sharing more about my explorations of Korea during the 10 days in upcoming entries. Hopefully the information provided will be useful in helping you plan your Korean escapade!
|Incheon Interntaional Airport (ICN) in Seoul. Rated the best airport worldwide for 7 consecutive years (2005 - 2012), the airport resembles a massive futuristic spaceship waiting to take off.|
|We collected our pre-ordered SIM card from Evergreen Mobile at a bookshop at Incheon Airport. Mobile plans for travellers are not available at the airport so if you want to stay connected, you have to pre-order online at www.egsimcard.co.kr and collect upon arrival. You have to set up the SIM card and connection yourself. After inserting the SIM card, search for and connect to the operator 'Olleh'. The signal is really strong whether it is in the subway or up on the mountain!|
|As our destination was Busan, we proceeded to purchase bus tickets to Gimpo Airport for our transit flight. The bus ticketing booths are located at various exits outside the arrival hall.|
|After a 30-minute bus ride, we arrived at Gimpo Airport for our transit flight to Busan.|
|After an hour's flight, we arrived at Gimhae International Airport, the doorway to Busan! An easier way would be to fly directly to Gimhae instead of going through the plane-to-bus-to-plane transfers.|
|To get to downtown Busan, we took another bus from Gimhae International Airport. The bus ticketing booth is located at the end from Exit 4.|
|There are various routes and drop-off points so find one that's closest to or at your hotel. Our bus dropped us at Seacloud Hotel for W7,000. Ride duration : 1 hour 15 minutes.|
|I remember my breath escaping me when I saw this waterfront scene of downtown Busan for the first time.|
The metropolitan city also has 3 large : largest beach in Korea, longest river in Korea, and largest departmental store in the world!
I got to spend 2D1N here and checked out some of the fabulous sights this city seemingly built on water has to offer and had lots of fun in the
|We lodged at Seacloud Hotel which is next to Haeundae Beach. We can see the beach from the hotel's pool.|
Jjimjilbang : What? I Need to be Nude??
Our next destination is Shinsegae Centum City, the world's largest departmental store. However, we were not there to thin our wallets with shopping but to relax our tired buttocks from all that travelling at a jjimjilbang.
I know, I don't get the double 'j' in the spelling but that's how it is spelt. A jjimjilbang is basically a public bathhouse that offers hot and cold pools, jacuzzi, steamrooms, saunas and sleeping area for overnight stays. They are usually open 24 hours and many Koreans may spend the night after working late or after a late night out and do not want to spend the cab fare home.
This was my first time going to a jjimjilbang so I was pretty shy about having to go nude at the wet areas initially but after a while, it felt really liberating and surprisingly, relaxing!
|Off to my first jjimjilbang experience at Shinsegae Centum City.|
|Rest area with deck chairs. Can suntan here! No nudity at the dry areas though as they are co-ed.|
|Roman steambaths and urn-shaped sweat rooms are just some of the 13 themed steamrooms and saunas. In addition, the jjimjilbang houses 22 spas that are fed by 2 different kinds of natural spring water pumped from 1,000 meters underground!|
BEXCO Yacht B : Adrift at Suyeong Bay
With bodily knots bubbled away and my skin all soft and supple from the jjimjilbang session, we packed into a cab and headed to Busan Yachting Center for an hour's cruise along Suyeong Bay onboard Yacht B operated by BEXCO.
Starting from the yachting center in Haeundae, the catamaran sails past the Marine City, Dongbaekseom, and Nurimaru before drifting at a rendezvous point below Gwangan Bridge. Light food and beverages are catered for onboard and guests can get a foot soak on deck, go fishing and snap lots of memorable shots with the scenic marina for a backdrop.
|Photos : (Left) Cruising out of Busan Yachting Center with the city's height-defying skyline waving bon voyage! (Right) Yacht B's crew ensures guests have a good time.|
|What are they looking at?|
|The couple was awestruck by the grandeur of the Gwangan Bridge seen upclose. The double-deck bridge connects Haeundae to Suyeong and is the second longest suspension bridge in Korea.|
|Not Captain Hook, but a peace sailor :)|
|Shine like a diamond... Gwangan Bridge (a.k.a. Diamond Bridge) as seen through a pothole in Yacht B's onboard suite. With a boatful of activities, the cruise felt like it ended as soon as it got started! Price : W60,000 (adult), W40,000 (child). Reservations : http://www.yachtb.co.kr/_ENG/index.asp|
One of the 3 popular beaches in Busan, Gwangalli forms a half-moon coast that's perfect for admiring Gwangan Bridge (Diamond Bridge) from a distance, especially when the bridge comes alive with a glittery light-up at night.
|The beach is popular with youngsters and a bevy of cafes and restaurants skirt the sandy waterfront. Water quality and clarity is much like what we get at the beaches in Singapore.|
|Gwangan Bridge living up to its nickname as Diamond Bridge.|
|Dinner was a sizzling affair at Jinmi Eonyang Bulgogi. The restaurant is located at a back lane parallel to Gwangalli Beach where a number of Eonyang Bulgogi eating houses are found.|
Haeundae Market : Getting Acquainted with Local Flavours
Before turning in for the night, we headed to Haeundae Market with the intention of a quick browse and get a feel of the local traditional market but ended up stuffing ourselves with delicious street food instead.
Located just behind our hotel (Seacloud Hotel) and near Haeundae Beach, the market sells an assortment of vegetables, meats, groceries and is lined with restaurants hawking fresh eels, sannakji (live octopus sashimi), and some weird looking seafood I've not seen back home.
|Photos : (Left) Entrance to Haeundae Market. (Right) Restaurants with tanks of live eels (the grilled eels are a favourite snack for Koreans) and nightmarish seafood. I wondered if they will taste like a wet dream.|
|Up for some fishy business, I flounder an aquatic clown that made me feel sorry yet laugh at the same time.|
And this is only Day 1 of my Korea trip! Although I was tired, I wasn't exhausted (maybe the jjimjilbang helped) and I can't wait for more adventures up ahead...
This post has been made possible by Korea Tourism Organisation Singapore.
Sole companion : Timberland.