September 27, 2010

Busan, South Korea Part 1

Over Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) myself and 9 of my other English teacher friends went to the one of the southern most cities in Korea: Busan. (Also can be known as Pusan)

Busan is the second largest city in South Korea with the population of 3.6 million. Busan is also the 5th largest port city in the world. Busan can be described as similarly to Barcelona because of its ocean side location, second city syndrome and large night life. Also Busan is Chicago's sister city!

The trip from Seoul to Busan can take as little as 2.5 hours if you book a KTX train (speed train built like the French TGV). However, we booked our trip pretty last minute so we were stuck on the normal train that took 5 hours. The ride was actually painless and we all enjoyed the Korean country side along the way.

The train was pretty average; however, it did have a "party car", which included multiple computers, arcade style video games, noraebangs (karaoke rooms) and a snack shop. All of these amenities were in full use the entire ride.

We stayed in the center of the city at a cheap and clean Japanese business hotel. The first day was pretty rainy so we wondered around and found a Paradise Casino near the famous Haeundae beach, where Olivia won a whopping 4,000 Won ($3.40) .

That night we decided to wonder around the area near our hotel. After being rejected from a "Over 40" club, we found our way to the The Diamond Hotel. After being escorted by a staff of 10 into the club in the basement of the hotel, called Arabian Night, we found ourselves right in the middle of a low budget KPOP video. Unfortunately, the hotel club was only offering bottle service at the lowest price of 250,000 Won ($216.00), so we decided to move on to a Korean Hof (beer bar) and call it a night.

The next morning we decided to embark on our first Korean hike. Hiking is the most popular sport in Korea. The county is very mountainous and many of the major cities are surrounded by beautiful mountains with paths. Since the country is obsessed with hiking, most people think they should be wearing intense hiking gear at all times. We refer to these people as urban hikers. They wear hiking boots, gloves, backpacks, masks and visors when they are walking in the city parks and on sidewalks. Korean's also believe being pale is beautiful so they want to be protected from the sun at all times, leading to the face mask while hiking.
We spent most of the day exploring Igade Park in the southern tip of the city over looking Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches. A majority of the hike was along the cliffs near the ocean and it was beautiful. Busan really got me interested in exploring more parks and trails in the Seoul area. (Mom and Dad I know you would love all the hiking here!)

After the long hike we enjoyed a delicious Korean dinner and decided to check out the night life near Kyungsung University. It was a perfect night of street soju drinking, a bar called GHETTO that played great dance house/hip hop music and had 1,000 Won shots ($0.80). We made some new Korean friends and ended the night with some late night street food.
Overall, the first couple of days in Busan were perfect! Great city, full of fun and interesting things to do. In a couple of days I will post more about my trip including our visit to the largest department store in the world and the largest fish market in Korea!

Thanks for reading!

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