I was super excited when my bestie from Cape Town, South Africa emailed me to say she was going to come and visit South Korea! I was only living in Seoul for about 3 months, and I was excited to show her around the city. Luckily her visit coincided with a two day-long vacation period in March so I decided to include a visit to Busan to do something special. It was my first time playing host and I wanted it to be perfect, so why not include a bit more if South Korea where we could both explore.
March is still pretty cold in Korea, so many are still wearing coats and thick jackets, there’s usually the last bit of snowfall before the Spring comes. The weather isn’t too bad during this time, but the nights can be chilly. Wearing coats and layers can be a bit awkward while travelling, but Busan is a major city that has grown a lot since our visit in 2011.
A Brief History Of Busan
Busan has always served as a trading post, especially between Korean and Japan. Since Korea’s economic boom it has grown to become the second largest city in the country. It continues to be the main trading post and where many large industrial companies and manufacturers ship off goods. Busan’s port is also the 5th busiest on the world today.
How to get there
We decided to take the KTX train. The KTX is an intercity express train that travels at a super-fast speed. You can get the KTX at Seoul Station. There’s no need to book in advance unless it’s peak season. We simply went to Seoul station and booked one way tickets to Busan. There are regular trains so the wait was not long. In 2011, a one-way ticket cost KRW 50, 000 ($50).
To get to Busan, you can also drive by car, take a flight or go by bus. Busan is really far from Seoul so the KTX is probably the quickest and easiest option. It took us 3 hours by KTX from Seoul to Busan.
Accommodation in Busan
Ok, so I decided not to book beforehand. As it was off-peak season, I thought we could stay near Haeunda Beach and just simply find a nearby hotel. I had not done much research into Busan, and the beach seemed like a good idea. We arrived at Busan Central station and then took the metro to the beach. There were plenty of available accommodation and most hotel were about KRW 40, 000 a night which we could split.
Most of the hotels were Love Motels, so the interior décor was a tad bit raunchy. The location was comfortable and there a few coffee shops and restaurants nearby. We were only going to stay 2 nights, so we just needed a comfortable place to sleep in.
One our first day, we went up to Beomeosa Temple. It is located at the foot of Mount Geumjeongsan. It was built by the monk Ui Sang and King Munmu about 1,300 years ago. It is considered to be one of the most luxurious constructions of the Joseon dynasties.
The temple is situated overlooking the city of Busan, and it offers amazing views o the city. We got off at the nearest metro stop and then walked up the steep hill to the temple. The climb wasn’t so bad as it was all paved. You could also take a bus up.
It was still the end of winter so the trees were still bare and the snow melted. Apparently, it is at its best in Spring during late April.
On our last day we decided to visit the Busan Aquarium. We already checked out and had time to spare before catching the train home. Sadly, my friend was getting a really bad cold and the meds at the pharmacy wasn’t being that helpful. We weren’t up for anything to rigorous, so we wanted to do something chilled. Plus it was still cold and she needed rest.
The aquarium was pretty good. It had a nice collection of unique marine species found only in the part of the world.
Nightlife in Busan
We didn’t plan on painting the town red, plus we realised we weren’t in the centre. We did a bit of shopping in the nearby streets and got some dinner. We ventured into a bar near the beach front which had a live band from Manila. They seemed friendly and we took some photos. Being sick and tired, we had an early night as we had to head out back to Seoul the next day.
It was early March so it was still freezing. We chilled a bit on the beach and took some photos. It’s packed during the summer months with locals and most of Koreas coming down to enjoy the cool waters. There is another temple along the coast with a giant Buddha statue worth seeing.
Today, Busan continues to be a growing cosmopolitan city. It hosts many festivals that attracts business tourists and regular tourists all year round. The city centre has grown and more stores and business are setting up home offices in the city. It’s a really cool place and it has both the benefits of modern Korean city and a beach.