On Wednesday, January 6 (Episode 48), I had travelled to Busan to stay for six nights with my friend Ji-hyun (not to be confused with Ji-hyeun from Ace, although the two names are pronounced the same). Like Charles, I had met Ji-hyun in Canada, where she had been studying English, before I left for Korea. Again I thought it was an amazing turn of events that would allow me to meet my friend again, on the other side of the world.
On Thursday, January 7th (the next day) I was reminded again that Korean breakfasts consist of more or less exactly the same thing that was served for supper the night before. On this morning that meant I ate fish, rice, kim, and kimchi. Following breakfast, Ji-hyun took me out for a tour of Busan.
First up was a visit to Yongdusan park, and Busan Tower located at the top of the hill. Yongdusan is essentially Busan's version of a smaller Namsan, with Busan Tower the counterpart to N Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower). Like Namsan, Yongdusan also contains a Pagoda at the top, but the pagoda atop Yongdusan contains a bell on the inside and a number of old men offering to take your picture in front of the bell and tower for a fee.
(Busan Tower, atop Yongdusan.)
(The pagoda in front of Busan Tower. I cropped the old men out of the picture.)
After Yongdusan park, Ji-hyun and I went to the area of Busan that plays host to the Busan (Pusan) International Film Festival (PIFF, for short). There wasn't much to see at this time of year though, except for the sidewalk with the hand prints of famous stars. The only name I recognized was Jeremy Irons (Scar, from The Lion King, and Simon Gruber from Die Hard 3).
(Jeremy Irons has huge hands.)
About this time, Ji-hyun and I became hungry, so we stopped at one of the street vendor stands for lunch. I have also seen and frequented a number of these street vendors in Seoul, and have written about my experiences many times. However, in Busan the food at such vendors (and even in restaurants), on average, is much cheaper than in Seoul. We were both able to fill up on ddeokbokki and odang (some sort of fish on a stick snack) for $5 total. I was both pleasantly surprised and greatly relieved - if I come back to Korea again I'll now be further able to stretch my budget simply by avoiding Seoul.
One of the things Busanites are most proud of is their seafood. In a nation that loves seafood, Busanites claim to have some of the best tasting seafood around. If that last statement is true, I'm not surprised; when Ji-hyun took me to the Jagalchi raw fish market, all the vendors have to do is turn around and buy a bucket of freshly caught fish from the fishermen taking it off the boats about 25 metres behind them. It's quite an incredible scene, to say the least, and subsequently it's hard to eat fresher fish unless you're a penguin.
(Women selling fish at the Jagalchi raw fish market.)
(The boats that the fish come off before travelling all of twenty metres to the fish market.)
My favourite part of Busan though, are its beaches. There are three main beaches in Busan - Songdo, Gwangalli, and Haeundae. Today Ji-hyun rounded out my tour with a visit to Gwangalli.
In the summer, the beaches in Busan are filled with people, but today I was able to stroll along the sand of Gwangalli beach as I fancied, while listening to the peaceful, monotonous sounds of the waves crashing against the shore.
(Walking along the nearly deserted Gwangalli beach, with the small waves crashing against the shore, and Gwangan bridge in the background.)
Gwangali is also famous for its night view of Gwangan bridge. The massive suspension bridge is not the longest in Asia, or even in Korea - that honour goes to the Incheon bridge that takes passengers from the airport to the mainland. However, at night it is lit up, and it creates quite a view from the beach, and from the air, too, as you can see from the photo at this link.