Busan is the ideal summer vacation spot on the Korean peninsula. It has white sand beaches, cocktail lounges, and party districts. The weather is moderately warm and often cooler than Seoul due to the ocean breeze. Busan is positioned on the southern-most tip of Korea and is a bustling city with the second largest population.
The city is a quick train ride from anywhere, with access to the KTX bullet train. Seoul to Busan takes about 3 hours and a return-ticket costs about 103,000 KRW. There are also buses that leave regularly and are an easy mode of transport for those who cannot access the train services.
Koreans flock to Busan in the summer, often staying in the hotels that line the beachfront in Haeundae and Gwangali. The appeal of the destination is its perfect balance between the city and sea. There is an aspect of relaxation as well as the bustle of a big city. Busan is also located nearby plenty of beautiful islands and sanctuaries. One of them being the famous Taejeongdae National Park - that boasts some of the most beautiful views of the Southern coastline.
Travelling to the east of Busan is the famous islands of Tongyeong. The city is impressive - hosting in recent years the Triathlon World Cup and famous for a weekend getaway to the surrounding islets.
So.. how do I get to Busan?
Busan is easily accessible by train and bus from anywhere in Korea. You should visit the Korail website for train information and the Kobus website for bus information. You could also use easytickets to navigate bus routes and prices all over Korea. If you are not sure how to find the quickest route you can give the tourism hotline a call - 1330 - and they will advise the best possible route.
The new speed train from Seoul to Busan known as the KTX III has cut time in half and can travel 350km/h and reach Busan in 1hrs 50 minutes. This has significantly changed the lives of commuters who travel weekly from the region. Also, it is a great travel adventure to experience transport technology that your own county may not have access to.
If on a budget you can opt for the Mungunghwa or Saemual trains that take about 6 hours to get to Busan. Plenty of foreigners catch the last train on a Friday evening and arrive in Busan on Saturday morning.
Where should I stay?
Haeundae beach is where you want to be in the summer. It is the most popular foreign beach in Busan and also resembles similarities to beaches in the West. The sand is whiter and waves are bigger, unlike the rest of the Korean peninsula that is flat.
It is also the most active in the evening, offering an array of restaurants and partying spots. The beachfront is filled with clubs and the main street has some well-liked bars such as the Wolfhound, Fuzzy Navel and Thursday Party. You can also enjoy Korean BBQ in the open, catching the Summer breeze.
One of my favorite spots is the Spain Club, a Spanish tapas restaurant that is the ideal spot to watch the sun set over Haeundae.
A highly recommended hostel to stay at is Pobi Guesthouse. I have stayed there numerous times and have only great things to say about the staff working there. I arrived once from Seoul at 1 am in the morning, and they had arranged a key to be left for me in the post-box. Also, breakfast is in included and can save money on eating out.
Airbnb in Busan has been another great source to find cute little apartments near the beachfront and for affordable prices. A hotel would cost a lot more than grabbing some friends and sharing a house together.
Where should I go?
There is so much to do in Busan and too little time. If you are making a weekend trip in the Summer you will have to pick and choose. Tip: catch the Monday morning train back to your city, since the great thing about CDL is that most classes only start in the afternoon! Then you have Sunday and Saturday to explore.
Taejeongdae is absolutely breathtaking! When I first traveled there I was blown away with how beautiful the coastline was and actually took my sister there one year later. The seas are blue-blue and the walks along the forest and lighthouse are relaxing and peaceful. It is a great place to have a picnic and relax with nature.
Haedong Yonggunsa Temple is my second favorite coastal temple in Korea (first - Naksansa in the North, Seokcho). The temple is easily accessible via bus and the walk to the temple is full of Korean culture and etiquette. You can sample traditional hiking trail foods like Makoli or Dried Squid. The temple overlooks a sea and has plenty of traditional relics that are accustomed to Korea's heritage.
Gwangalli Beach is a trendy beachfront with alternative restaurant and bar options to Haeundae. The difference is the area is more relaxed and you can see a night time view of the Gwangalli bridge - which is lit up at night with various colors. A typical thing to do is run around the beach with sparklers and sample live seafood. Yes, live seafood! I wasn't too happy to see my octopus tentacle squirming around my plate, but was happy to have experienced it.
What should I eat?
Bingsu! So, this is not a Busan-specific food but, it is a dessert you must eat on a beach vacation in Korea. It is traditionally composed of ice-shavings, fruit, condensed milk, tteok (rice cake), cornflakes, and red bean sauce. There are various kinds so you can have anything from mango and ice-cream to chocolate and strawberries. It is the perfect icy-treat on a hot summers day!
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!