Busan in a day part 1: the morning

I finally made my way down to Busan, Korea’s second largest city. My friend the internet estimates the population at 3.6 million. It’s the largest port city in Korea and the 5th busiest seaport in the world. Busan has been on my hit list of places to visit since moving here 1 year ago. Nearly everyone speaks of their time in this southern coastal city with admiration, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad thing about the place.

It’s typically somewhere you go in the summer months to enjoy the crowded beaches. But I thought the timing of our quick weekend trip during the emergence of spring was pretty amazing. Baseball season has just kicked off and we were able to see a game at Sajik Stadium between the Lotte Giants and the Hanwa Eagles. It’s cherry blossom time in Korea and the whole country is in a frenzy. Not only did we get to see them blooming all over the city, planted in strategic locations for maximum viewing enjoyment during their short life cycle, but we were able to see them growing wild in the country side from the comforts of the train. Pretty cool considering the season only lasts about 2 weeks. We also lucked out with beautiful sunny weather Saturday morning during our temple visit, before clouding up for the remainder of the weekend. But best of all, my girl and I got to spend one last final weekend with a good friend before she moved back home to the United States of America.

We departed Seoul Station Friday night on the 10:00 pm high speed KTX train. It took a little over 3 hours to get to Busan Station. From there it was about a 20 minute cab ride to Haeundae Beach where we wanted to grab a hotel room for the weekend. As expected, there were corrupt cabbies luring the funny looking foreigners in to the deluxe black taxis, as well as others quoting higher, off-meter prices to get us to this touristy part of town. But it took us all of about 2 minutes to find a legit cab that got us there for the metered rate, which turned out to be just over 20,000 won.

Haeundae beach is littered with hotel rooms. Wanting to keep our costs down, we did the Korean thing and chose the love motel. You can spend a lot of money on accommodations if you want to, but on these trips we never spend any time in the hotel room, so the budget love motel makes more sense. Our love motel of choice on this trip turned out to be Motel Sangria. Depending on the size of the room and the bed, 30,000 – 60,000 won a night can get you a clean room, with a bed, couch, table, TV and internet ready computer. And in the case of our room, a view of what many consider to be Korea’s best beach.

We had to get an early start in order to accomplish our long itinerary of Busan’s sights in one day. So on just a few hours of sleep, we were up early Saturday morning and ready to rally. After grabbing a convenience store breakfast we piled in to a cab for what now might be my favorite temple in Korea.

Haedong Yonggungsa temple is unique in that it is located on the coast line. Most temples are found further inland, in mountain areas. Combined with the early day sunshine, it provided the perfect peaceful setting for the morning. We arrived before 9am, beating the crowds and the clouds, and spent a few hours relaxing on the water, strolling around the temple grounds and taking some amazing photos, all while listening to the waves crash against the rocks.

Luckily when we were finished, there was a cab waiting for us at the top of the hill, near the entrance to the temple. I’ve read about people having to hike all the way out to the main road to find a taxi. This cab driver took a different road back in to town, allowing us to see more of the city. Instead of traveling along the water, his route took us up and over a hill on cherry blossom lined streets, offering a view of the beaches below and more seasonal flowers. We had him take us straight to Busan Aquarium on Haeundae Beach so we could continue our morning knocking off tourist attractions.

Here is how the Busan Aquarium is described on the website:

There are approximately 250 species and up to 35,000 marine animals on display. The main tank contains 3 million litres of water and the animals can be viewed through huge acrylic windows or from the 80-meter long underwater tunnel. There are 40 separate exhibits which include penguins, otters, piranha, sea jellies and a touch tank for a close up “hands on” look at a variety of sea creatures. The aquarium will provide a mixture of education and entertainment to delight its guests and leave a long lasting enjoyable memory of the experience.

I’ve already been to the Coex and the 63 building aquariums, so I’m starting to feel like an expert on Korean indoor aquatic viewing. The Busan version is worth a visit. The giant tanks were impressive, and the underwater tunnels are fun to walk through because you’re surrounded by various aquatic animals, most notably the sharks.

We splurged and did the 3D Rider attraction, which wasn’t exactly what we were lead to believe. Notice the gaping mouths of scary sharks found in the advertisements all over the aquarium. To the contrary, it was a story about dinosaurs being air lifted by helicopters. Not sure what that was all about. And after having done a similar style 3D roller coaster ride, the 3D haunted house at Lotte World, as well as the amazing 5D show at the 63 building wax museum, the Busan aquarium version wasn’t all that.

The food court area located just outside of the 3D Rider was a letdown as well. Just the night before, we were talking about how we’d do terrible things for some Popeye’s chicken, biscuits and red beans and rice. And what did we find in the mini food court… you know it. However, it didn’t look like any delicious Cajun style chicken had been prepared there any time recently. Bummer, because the only other Popeye’s sighting I’ve made in Korea was at the mall in Yongsan. It too was closed because I was there for a late movie.

We passed on the Baskin Robbins rip off as well as the oddly advertised corn hot dog thing.

Next up… our afternoon and evening in Busan including the Haeundae Beach tour, burgers for lunch, and the Lotte Giants baseball game.

part 2: afternoon, evening and heading home
click here

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~ by ripcitytoseoul on April 14, 2010.

5 Responses to “Busan in a day part 1: the morning”

  1. FYI: There’s a Popeye’s on the campus of Korea University in Northern Seoul, just off the main quad. It looked pretty active last fall when I last walked past it.

  2. […] Busan in a day part 2: afternoon, evening and heading home Part 1: the morning click here […]

  3. Hi there, Im planning a trip to Korea for 5 days, was wondering if Busan is do-able in a day, from seoul and then return to seoul at night? Or is it better to stay a night?
    Many thanks!

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