Busan – South Korea’s Seaside Gem

After a few days in the capital, we were looking forward to heading south and getting back to being by the ocean. We were also interested to see why Lonely Planet had named Busan as the number one spot to visit in Asia for 2018.

Our three hour trip from Seoul to Busan on the high-speed train (total ticket cost of 179,600 KRW/$233 NZD) was pretty uneventful; we walked into Seoul Station without even a hint of any security measures, found our gate with no problems and headed down to the platform without anyone asking for tickets or needing to put them through any machine to gain entry. The boys were happy with the really good Wi-Fi on board so they did some online schooling for a while and then had some free time on the devices. We settled in to our comfortable seats and in no time at all we were at the southern end of South Korea. We exited the station and still had not had any need to use or show our tickets.

We only had a short walk to our hotel (read our review here) as we were staying near the railway station, and also a metro station as we find the underground systems in Asia to be a clean, efficient and pretty cost effective way to get around. 

The first few days after we arrived we were full of energy and rearing to explore Busan, so first up we visited the very colourful, Gamcheon Culture Village. This area has been revamped to provide more tourism to the area and we had a nice few hours wandering the lanes and alleyways exploring the hillside village and it’s murals, artworks and sculptures created by the residents.

During our travels we had connected via Instagram with a Kiwi family (@kiwisinbarefeet) living in Busan; so an evening meal with Riki, Sonita and their cute two and a half year old, Lilah was planned. We were meeting them at Hueundae Beach so we headed there in the afternoon to check it out and the boys had a swim. The beach was heaving as it was still summer time and very hot; the boys enjoyed playing in the waves and cooling off before dinner. We had a very nice evening discussing South Korea, travelling and living away from New Zealand while the kids played around the boardwalks.

Our second Kiwi meet up came about after one night when we were out in Shanghai. Daryn and Juliet had heard us talking and picked up on our accents; they told us they were living in the Busan area so we made plans to meet up with them and their three year old son, Max. They actually lived on Geoje Island, a pretty decent sized island off the coast from Busan and accessible by road. So we caught a bus and made the one hour trip over, stopping at a beach recommend by Juliet. It was a little windy as the edge of two typhoons were making their way towards Korea but we still had an ocean swim as we knew we would soon be heading into cooler North America weather, so we had better make the most of it. Daryn, Juliet and Ben kindly picked us up from the beach and took us on a little tour of part of Geoje. There are two major shipping ports on the island and they both work for one of them; it was interesting to hear of their lives here and plans on returning to New Zealand in the near future. We had another delicious meal, with them taking us to a Korean soup restaurant which conveniently had an area where the kids could play. They dropped us at the bus stop afterwards and we returned back to the bright lights of Busan.

Hueundae Beach (top) and Heungnem Beach on Geoje Island

We saw that the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was on all the lists of things to see in Busan but perhaps we were getting a little  “templed out” or the windy, drizzly weather caused by the typhoons had put a chill on our moods, but we didn’t feel like travelling over an hour via two buses to see the seaside temple, although the photos of it do look interesting. Instead, we made an afternoon trip to the much closer Yongdusan Park, where Busan Tower stands. The tower was closed due to the wind but we saw some of the city views and out towards the port as we wandered around the park. Yongdusan Mountain is one of Busan’s three famous mountains and has been renamed a few times over the years. In 1960 it was last renamed to Yongdusan Mountain as the mountain peak was shaped similar to a dragon’s head (yongdu), protecting the area against foreign invaders.

While Lonely Planet believes that Busan is the top place to visit in Asia right now, I think we would prefer other places to visit (or even re-visit) but it was still a nice area to see; particularly with not one, but two, Kiwi meet ups. Within South Korea itself I would have even preferred more time to explore Seoul further and of course, visiting other areas; including Jeju Island, of which photographs look incredible. Maybe next time….

Average Daily Spend for 10 nights in SK – $213.80 NZD ($41.30 over budget per day)

– Paula

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