Today, Jiyeon and I began our journey towards Busan, where the Inside Backpackers family will very soon have a second home!
Busan is a major port in Asia and South Korea’s second largest city (about 3.6 million inhabitants; 4.6 if we include the whole metropolitan area which spreads over the cities of Gimhae and Yangsan). It harbors many major international events (such as the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF)), great shopping areas and a whole lot of historical monuments, which make it a vibrant city throughout most of the year.
Busan, which can literally be translated as “Cauldron Mountain”, owes its name to its spectacular geography, as it is nestled in between the sea and a ridge of hills on top of which the city sometimes spreads. This makes up for a pretty awesome view, as you can see from the pictures.
Jiyeon and I headed to Busan from the capital city of Seoul. There are several ways to get there: train, KTX (fast-speed train), or express bus, the latter being the cheapest option and the mode of locomotion we picked! Note that there are many buses heading to Busan each day, with prices varying from 23,000₩ to 35,000₩. Also, you can even come to Busan from several cities in Japan by ferry! Cool, isn’t it
By express bus, our journey lasted 4:30 hours, including a 15-minute lunch pit-stop in a huge gas-station/rest area on the highway. There, you will be able to choose from a wide selection of very affordable snacks and meals to satisfy your growing appetite (ramen, ramyeon, udon, donkatsu, skewers of all sorts, bread, and many more)!
From the bus terminal arrival, it is very easy to travel around Busan. The subway lines are straightforward and well indicated, and you’ll reach the huge Busan Train Station in about 30 minutes, station from which our hostel will be conveniently located within 10-minute walking distance!
Although we didn’t get to see much of Busan on our first evening, one thing I can share for sure is that Busan looks quite amazing! We climbed a set of stairs which led us to a stunning view point from which the harbor and a nice portion of the city unraveled below our eyes!
Busan has at least two magnificently illuminated bridges at night: Gwangan Bridge or Diamond Bridge and Bukhang Bridge or Busan North Harbor Bridge, the one pictured here. The latter was completed in April 2014, and connects Nam-Gu (south-central Busan) to YongDo island. Its dynamic night illuminations are the result of a partnership between the city of Busan and Philips Color Kinetics (http://www.colorkinetics.com/showcase/installs/Busan-Harbor-Bridge/) and are definitely a must-see when strolling around Busan during night time!
When hunger finally woke up our guts and distracted us from such beauty, we headed to a very cheap restaurant (3,500 ₩ for a traditional lunch box), located mid-way through a densely-built hill of small houses, 5/10 minutes away from Chinatown. This restaurant (168 도.시.락.국.) is part of a concept implemented by the City of Busan, which aims to employ elderly people within government-owned businesses so as to reinsert them back into society by providing them with a regular wage.
The restaurant in question was managed by two very charming and happy elderly women, which made the meal even more enjoyable!
From there, we opted for a good night’s sleep! If you are unfamiliar with Korean housing and architectural traditions, here is something of interest! Koreans have implemented floor-heating systems for hundreds of years (some even suggest it might already have existed 1000 BC.). These are typically called OnDol/ 온돌 in Korean, and can be found in most common areas and rooms in Korean houses.
In my case, I like OnDol so much that I decided to abandon my comfy bed to indulge in a long nap on the floor, wrapped up in my blanked cocoon! Make sure to give it a try!