Thursday, October 11, 2018

Busan Bucket List

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person that knows a really great secret.  When I arrived in Busan, I was often struck by how pretty it was — the striking architecture of the bridges, the vibrant flowers adorning the roadways, so many trees and green spaces, the way the neon lights of the city looked like jewels in a treasure chest from my apartment at night.  But it seemed like not that many people knew how great it was — at least in West.  

Finally, though, word seems to be getting out.  I’m not the only person who thinks that it’s a beautiful and interesting city.  Busan played a key role in one of the most popular movies this year, Black Panther.  This past summer, the city topped Lonely Planet’s list of places to visit in Asia for 2018   

There’s a “Busan Bucket List”.  It includes Tajeongdae (which I wrote about here), Gwangan Bridge which was part of my husband’s daily commute, Gwangalli, Haeundae Beach and Dongbaek Island, both of which I could see from my apartment and walked to frequently.  But there were lots of places I hadn’t been to — Beomosa Temple, the UN Memorial Cemetery, Jagalchi Market, Haedong Yonggungsa (aka Temple by the Sea), Gamcheon Culture Village, Songdo Beach and Busan Jin market and much more.  And when we returned from the States at the end of July, I realized it was high time I saw some of these places.

First up was Haedong Yonggungsa, aka the Temple by the Sea, aka The Most Beautiful Temple in Korea.  

Set along the rocky coastline with the turquoise water, it really is an exquisite place.
In August, it is also maybe one of the most crowded places, and it is exceptionally hot.  There was lots to look at and contemplate, and also, much to our relief, a market selling Korean street food and icy cold drinks right outside the temple.  

We also got to to Gamcheon Culture Village.  This is an artsy little corner of Busan with lots of murals and swoon-worthy photo opps. 
There is also The House of Peace, which is basically a room with words of peace written in it.
And the Gamnaegol Happy Power Station — Happy Power is something we need more of, am I right?
Gamcheon, though, is mainly about the art.  
One of the critiques I’ve heard about it is that it’s just a place to pose for Instagram pictures.  Wellllll.... kinda yeah.  
Check out Exhibit A: this was the line to pay roughly fifty cents to pose for a picture. 
 If you thought you could come up and just pose for free, think again: there were signs everywhere warning of the always-watchful CCTV.  

While there’s maybe nothing inherently wrong with going to a place just to take pretty pictures, it’s not exactly a purpose that translates well to kids.  The minute we got out of the taxi, my younger ones were complaining about the heat and kept saying, “So what’s there to do here?”

“Ummm, take pretty pictures.” (Obviously!) 

“We don’t wwaaaannnt tooooo!”  It’s toooooo hot!”

Then we found a cute little shop that sold *****GIANT MACARON ICE CREAM SANDWICHES*****!! 

 They were huge and delicious and refreshing.  Oh and also, there was water.  After that, my children decided they wouldn’t disown me — yet — and I even got a few smiles in pictures.  

And we actually got a little adventure because the taxi ride was longer (read: more expensive) than I’d anticipated + I had less cash on me than I’d thought.  Also, there is no global ATM, it turns out, in Gamcheon even though it is a main tourist attraction.  The nearest one is in Jagalchi.  We did have our metro cards so we were able to take the bus to Jagalchi and took out money to take a taxi from there to our place.  (The metro would also have been an option, but my kids were running out of patience, so forty minutes at least on the metro was daunting.) 

I couldn’t get the kids to go to Jagalchi even though the bank was right outside.  Jagalchi is a fish market, and I remember that when we were moving to Busan, I read something that said it was, and I quote, “quite possibly the stinkiest place on earth”.  (I wish I could remember where it was to cite it properly! Sorry!) So that is, largely speaking, why my kids didn’t want to go.  Besides, Haeundae Street Market has lots of fish for sale too, and we’d spent plenty of time there.

The third and final stop I managed to visit was Busan Jin Market.  This is a fabric and hanbok (traditional Korean dress) market.

You can also buy some Korean handicrafts there.  

The hanboks were so beautiful, made of stunning fabrics. 
 I would have taken much longer and spent probably way too much money, if not for my younger traveling companions.  So while they didn’t always smile for those pictures I wanted, they kept me from buying a lot of things I didn’t exactly need!  I have to say, they were very good sports, too, especially since the market is indoors and air conditioned! 

But even with our efforts, there are still places on the bucket list that we need to see.  Fortunately, we’re in the same country still, with lots of friends to visit, and plenty more of Beautiful Busan to see.  I’m so thankful for my time in this stunning city, and I hope word really does get around that it’s a must-see destination!


  1. I was surprised, too, what a fun city Busan was. I loved the performers along the boardwalk and the sand sculptures. I would like to add my hearty endorsement!

    1. I loved that too! It became part of my weekly life, but was nevertheless entertaining!


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