A travel journal
to Busan by michaelhudson
Quote: Busan is Korea's city on the bay, an extended urban sprawl that's grown ten-fold in population since the mid-1940s, and is one of the world's busiest ports.
As a quick orientation to the city, the main bus stations are in the northern outskirts of the city, close to Geumjeong Fortress and Beomeosa. A little further south is Dongnae-gu and its Hot Springs, then Seomyeon forms a secondary city centre just north of Nampo-dong, Jungang-dong and Jagalchi, where you'll also find the train station and Yongdusan Park. Most of the beaches are to the east, with the three most popular being Gwangalli, Songjeong and Haeundae.
Jagalchi Station is not only the closest stop for the market (exit 10) but also for the main cinema district (exit 5). Nampo-dong is strangely quiet at night, so it’s best to head for the area around Busan National University, a hive of bars and restaurants. If you’re on a budget, avoid Haeundae’s luxury hotels and stay instead around either Seomyeon or Dongnae. There are several cheap guesthouses (yeogwans) around the Lotte Department Store at Myeongnyun-dong station. If you really have to stay next to the beach, try Gwangalli.
Gimhae International Airport is to the west of the city. A taxi into the centre takes about half an hour. The International Ferry Terminal and the train station are both located in the centre itself. Busan now has a high-speed rail link to Seoul.
From the ramp up to the second exhibition building the context broadens to include historical relations with Japan then, fittingly, Joseon Dynasty weaponry, before culminating in a display on the city’s folklore traditions. From there you’re into modern Busan, a small fishing village before its port was opened in 1876; Japanese settlements and draconian educational edicts segue into the Independence Movement and the growing influence of Western culture, including mock-ups of a photographer’s shop and a barbers, plus a decree that all men should keep their facial hair in tidy order.
Contemporary Busan starts with photos of refugees flooding into the city during the Korean War and ends with a winding ramp down to a gift shop and special exhibitions hall. From the exit it’s a short walk through the grounds to the U.N. Cemetery (open daily from 9am – 4:30pm).
A sign at the main gate shows the arrangement of the cemetery. There are 2,300 dead buried here from twelve nations. A Memorial Service Hall and an adjacent Memorabilia Centre stand by the entrance, its prize exhibits the first U.N. flag to fly in Korea and the original letter of Armistice sent to the U.N. Secretary General.
Paths intersect the neatly tended rows of small headstones, continuing down to a large sculpture and monument listing the war dead and troops supplied by each country. The majority of the graves are from Britain and the Commonwealth along with almost five hundred Turkish troops and over a hundred Dutch. So far from home, I counted over fifty names from regiments raised in my part of England. As I left I wondered how many people back home even knew they were here.
Danyeon is the nearest underground station to the museum. Take exit three, do a 180-degree turn, and take the first left.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 14, 2004
Busan Museum and U.N. Cemetery
Busan, South Korea
A trail of restaurants leads to the south gate, from where directions get a little tricky. After half an hour’s aimless wandering, we finally stumbled across a section of the fortress walls and stuck blindly to them for the rest of the afternoon. Seventeen kilometres long and up to three metres high, a journey round the entire fortress would take up the best part of a day. The near nine-kilometre hike from Nammun to Beomeosa Temple, which took me just over three and a half hours, is the best alternative option, leaving the fortress by a trail that starts at the North Gate (Bukmun) and cuts straight down through the valley.
The scenery at the top is almost Alpine in places, expanses of green sloping down to huge slabs of granite splitting endless pine trees, and far below the snaking overground metro line intersecting upright rectangles of grey and white, merging into the indistinguishable as they approach the invisible sea.
At the foot of the mountain, Beomeosa is by far the best known of the city’s temples, and the one thing in Busan that you really shouldn’t miss. Founded in 678 most of the buildings now date from 18th century reconstructions. The route down from the fortress enters the temple from the side between the upper and lower levels. The temple’s main hall is at the very top, screened by a shield of bamboo trees.
There are three gates at the main entrance to the temple, the final one balanced on four circular stone pedestals leading down to a stop for the bus to Beomeosa Station.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 14, 2004
Busan, South Korea
Gwangalli Beach is closer to the city centre and no less packed in peak season, though the adjoining attractions are far more redolent of the jumbled mass a few kilometres west than the soulless international commerce of Haeundae. The beach curves sharply at one side, almost as if its trying to turn its back on the huge span of the Gwangan Great Bridge, which juts across the bay in front of the horizon on its way east. The narrow front is clustered with bars and restaurants like the glass fronted Beach Bikini and the enormous Beachfield, a wooden bar extending in front of the fairground with balconies overlooking the beach and an outdoor patio with a stage for live musical performances and seating for hundreds. Gwangan Station is about a five-minute walk from the beach. Take exit five, then do a 180-degree turn and take the first right.
My own favourite place on the coast is Taejong-dae, a 6,000 won taxi ride from the train station or a twenty-minute ride over the red Great Busan Bridge to Yeong-do Island on the number 88 bus. Before dawn it’s a ten-minute walk from the park entrance along the road to the two hundred year old white lighthouse above the rocks. A path leads down to a pebble beach, deserted restaurants of wooden boards strung across rocks with canvas sheets for roofs, and fishing boats already bobbing on the water, intermittently lit by the revolving light above. Spots of dark pine climb the cliff faces and the lights of the city flicker dimly against the brightness of the returning squid boats. Container ships are silhouetted against the gradually reddening sky, and the grey wisps of cloud lift to reveal tiny islands taking form in the distance. The smell is of lilac and salt, the sound of joggers, the chug-chug of fishing boats, silence, and a man chewing on his breakfast as a bright streak of fluffy white cloud escapes the full round, red oriental sun.
At 7:20 busloads of schoolchildren begin pouring into the park, huge ships congregate for their final approach to the port, and another day settles into its rhythm.
Busan, South Korea
The tower is mildly interesting architecturally, and just about worth the 2,500 won admission fee (or 3,200 won combined with entrance to the tiny aquarium at its base). The lift opens to a café, with the main observation floor up a further flight of stairs. The views of the city -- spreading back from a sea of blue to one of grey marked with explosions of high rise blocks and punctuated by tree covered mountains and container depots -- are impressive, giving at least a little order to the chaos down below. The photos of old Busan hanging on the walls -- the port in 1910, the railway station twenty years later -- are more likely to have come from different world than just a different century. Busan, with the exception of its tower, is not a city that stands still.
Busan, South Korea
Attraction | "Dongnae Hot Springs"
Coming up the stairs from the changing rooms the various baths are arranged around a large central pool. The water here is no more than tepid, though there are warmer pools to the right, and one containing almost scalding water next to the freezing cold waterfall pool. A small flight of stairs to the right of the entrance leads up to the second level, where a miniature swimming pool is located next to the door leading to the outdoor spa, whirlpool, and sauna. A walkway leads to the other side of the room and the body scrub pool, massage tables, and three more saunas, including a Ginseng steam one. The saunas are faced by two saltwater baths and shower cubicles which spray water on seven points of the body simultaneously.
Back downstairs try the Jasmine bath to reacclimatize yourself to the colder air before continuing round to the spray massage pool to the right and then the ‘Event Baths’ in the corner next to the waterfall. Inside a faux-cave TV screens show the latest news above a Mugwort Jacuzzi, Chinese medicine bath and charcoal enrichment pool. Sheer bliss for 6,000 won.
The most important cultural rule to remember is to always shower before you get into the baths, and to shower again before leaving. The baths themselves are for therapeutic purposes, not for cleaning your body. Don’t forget to take your shoes off and place them in the lockers at the entrance or to drink plenty of fluids before entering the pools. Finally, I wouldn’t recommend trying to cover your modesty with a bathing suit. If you’re not comfortable with nakedness, it’s probably best to stay away.
The hot springs are uncannily difficult to find from the station, always in sight yet never in reach. Take exit number one out of Oncheongjang Station, turn left, and cross over the first footbridge. Exiting the bridge via the set of stairs in the right, take the first left, continue to the end of the street, and walk through the car park towards the big hotel. The bathhouse is immediately to the right.
Dongnae Spa Hot Springs
Busan-si Dongnae-gu Oncheon-dong
Busan, South Korea
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