After a minor delay I boarded the budget Peach aircraft and hit the cloudy wet skies bound for Busan. Immigration was a breeze and eventually after people seemed to have gone my bag appears on the carousal with a snapped umbrella poking out. I got chatting to Verena, a German girl in the bus queue and we boarded the airport limousine bus, greeted by the most miserable driver imaginable, for Paradise Hotel (the closest stop to my hostel) for 7,000 won (£4.50) which I guess isn't bad for an hours drive. I found and checked into Story Guesthouse, which had been recommended to me and despite the guy being unfriendly, the hostel looked nice with a huge and welcoming common area. I chatted to a Czech worker, who was a lot more approachable and advised on where to go etc, so despite the depressing rain and freezing cold which I'm certainly not equipped for, I headed out to find some food.
I made an emergency umbrella purchase in the 7Eleven shop and had a quick walk up and down the nearest main street in the Haeundae area before deciding on a little shack selling Korean food. I ordered Kimchee Fried Rice and hid from the rain in their makeshift restaurant area. The food was great and the guys tried to help me pronounce some Korean words for thank you and goodbye. Put off exploring by the rain, I headed back to the hostel and chilled out chatting to a couple of people also staying there.
For my first full day in Busan, luckily the sun was out and after I rustled up some breakfast, I went to meet Verena for a day of sightseeing. We hopped on the underground to Beomeosa, north of the city and had a caffeine kick at the first coffee shop we came across in order for us to both do a bit of planning on how we wanted to spend our time in Korea, especially as I had no idea what towns where here, let alone what they had to offer. Eventually, we headed off in the direction of Beomeosa temple up in the mountain and I was impressed by the amount of colour and decoration on the buildings. It was so peaceful up in the temple, being in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. The only noise was from the wind chimes hanging on the buildings with a few monks going about their daily routine. Also up in the Beomeosa area is the Geumjeong Mountain Fortress, originally built in 1703 (but since had many modernisations). The walk up to the North gate, behind the temple, runs through a forest and pretty steep but the view from the fortress overlooking Busan is well worth it. The walk along the fortress wall down to the East gate is a nice walk with the city to one side and the sea to the other side. I can’t complain at getting the exercise! The walk took a few hours and at the East gate we jumped on a bus to Beomeosa train station and back to Haeundae. That evening I went for a walk down Haeundae beach and when looking back, it makes a nice evening picture with all the skyscrapers lights on. I grabbed a stodgy pizza which comes with a honey dip!! I didn’t know honey and pizza went so well together! Before meeting Verena for a drink in an Irish bar, where don’t these bars crop up??
This was already my last full day to sightsee around Busan, after breakfast I went down to Haeundae beach for a walk and headed round the peninsula to some lighthouse which made a pleasant walk. I took a look at and walk around the UN Cemetery and that really was a beautiful and peaceful spot and did the fallen soldiers, of all nations, complete justice I thought. The gardens and graves were beautifully maintained and for a busy city, it really did provide a tranquil getaway. Everyone should visit and pay their respects to the soldiers here. Then I went on to the district of Jagalchi, known for its fish market. I couldn’t quite bring myself to go into the thick of it as the smell of fish makes me gag. So instead I disappeared from that area and went for a walk up to the base of the Busan Tower and sat in the small park for a while to soak up the sun. Getting a bit restless, I went to Choryang Foreigner Market but I was either too late in the day for it or it was virtually nothing to see, I assume the former option. But there was a long shopping arcade which I had a brief skim around before heading back to hostel for a bit. Deciding I was craving an Indian, I went to one I was recommended even I felt a bit of a loser going on my own when it was full of couples and friends catching up, but it was a proper curry, couldn’t fault it. I went down to Haeundae beach’s peninsula to look across to the double tiered Gwangan bridge with its lit up pink and purple lattice pattern. Then met a girl from the hostel and we went for a drink at the nearby Fuzzy Navel for a couple of cracking cocktails before sloping off to bed.
I have to say, so far neither Korea or the Korean people have wowed me, especially after the overwhelmingly friendly Japanese and its brilliant country. But I will have to give it a bit more time to grow on me. Maybe Gyeonju will change my mind.