Before we continued our Seoul discovery, we wanted to have a free-and–easy time to recharge after our Jeju Island road tripping adventure (refer to Gaya Traveller in Issue 13.4), and Busan seemed like a suitable destination for that. Apart from the ‘Train to Busan’ movie, admittedly we do not know that much about this port city.
Known for its beautiful sandy beaches, mountains and temples, Busan is South Korea’s most populous city after Seoul. That being said, it was hardly a ‘free-and-easy stopover’ like we had originally anticipated because it turns out that Busan is filled with interesting places!
We took an hour flight from Jeju Island to Busan (Gimhae International Airport). Alternatively, AirAsia operates five flights to Busan (PUS) from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) every week. It takes just under six hours to get to Busan from Kuala Lumpur.
We opted to stay at an apartment next to Busan Train Station, which was a good decision because it made our commute easy due to its central location. From Busan, we intended to go to Seoul by KTX (Korail Train Express) – hopefully there would be no zombies on board!
We love to revisit Busan and stay longer stay for a truly enjoyable and relaxing holiday.
What We Did in Busan
Street Food Hunting at Nampodong Street
Korean street food culture is vibrant. It is always a feast for the senses whenever you find yourself walking along a street like Nampodong. Travellers should come here in the evenings as the street is filled with stalls selling Korean street food.
Be sure to try ssiat hotteok, a dessert unique to Busan. It is essentially fried pancake filled with nuts and seeds; the taste is wholesome due to the combination of chewy dough and crunchy seeds.
Nampodong is also Busan’s well known downtown shopping district. There are many shops offering various items at attractive prices, making it a haven for shopaholics.
BIFF (Busan International Film Festival) Square is located on Nampodong Street as well, which serves as the venue for the annual film festival before it is relocated elsewhere. The site is dedicated to the South Korean film industry, and you might be interested to look down on the pavement while walking to witness plenty of plaques representing the palm prints and signatures of the movie industry’s who’s who.
Also read: To Travel Under the K-Drama Spell
Fresh Seafood Ogling at Jagalchi Market
Since Busan is located by the sea, one can expect the availability of fresh seafood at the local market. Not too far from Nampodong Street is the multi-storey Jagalchi Market that sells various unique sea creatures in aquariums.
There is a food court on the top floor of this market where you can savour the delicious treasures of the sea. You can buy the seafood downstairs and then ask the stalls to cook it for you.
We had our dinner here, which was a wonderful way to end our first night in Busan!
“Hiking” at Gamcheon Culture Village
Please allow at least half a day here so that you can discover this village by walking along its steep streets. This village was built by Korean War refugees back in 1950s on mountain slopes. Thanks to the initiative in beautifying the village, Gamcheon is now a popular tourist attraction. Amazing what a fresh coat of coloured paint and creativity can do to a place!
Gamcheon Culture Village has many works of art scattered all over. One of those most sought is the statue of The Little Prince.
There are residents still living at this hillside labyrinthine settlement, and we were awestruck to see grandmothers wearing sneakers going up and down the really steep stairs with much ease.
Do remember to buy a map at the information centre at the village entrance, which costs KRW2,000. Admission is free.
“Whale Watching” Songdo Beach
Songdo Beach is a man-made beach that was completed back in 1913! It is merely 3 kilometres away from downtown Busan, therefore popular among city dwellers.
Songdo Beach has a few interesting attractions to lure the crowd, the main one being the cable car and glass-bottomed walkway. We did not have time to go on the cable car, but we did walk along the walkway. We find it amusing to walk while looking down to the sea below.
Unfortunately, just like the beach, the whale here is man-made. It is a statue, placed right above water, adding a fun element to the whole place!
“Walking on Water” at Oryukdo Skywalk
Since we enjoyed our walk along the glass bottom walkway at Songdo Beach, we checked out another similar attraction in Seungdumal called Oryukdo Skywalk.
It took us about one hour from Busan Station using the touristy hop-on hop-off bus to reach Oryukdo Skywalk, and the journey along the way afforded us the views of Busan’s urbanised environment. The bus also traversed the Busan Bridge, which overlooks the Busan Port.
Oryukdo Skywalk is a 15-metre horseshoe-shaped cantilevered viewing platform, set up against a 35-metre coastal cliff. The walk here is more thrilling than the one we had at Songdo Beach since the walk is longer.
Considering the skywalk overlooks Oryukdo Island, the path leading to the bridge is simply breathtaking and serene.
Getting Around Busan
From Gimhae International Airport to city
We opted for the Airport Limousine, which is a comfortable bus that took us from the airport to Busan Station. It costs KRW 6,000 per person.
Alternatively, if you do not have that much luggage, a taxi ride would be more convenient. Like Malaysia, the taxis here have NGV tanks mounted in their boots, hence offer limited space.
Busan City Tour Bus
If you are like us who were in town for only a short period but wanted to make the most of the time, do go for the Busan City Tour bus. This is a hop-on hop-off bus, similar to those found in other cities all over the world. These buses are convenient because they stop at most places of interest.
Tickets can be bought from the bus driver when you board. The cost is KRW 15,000 per person.
Since there are four of us travelling together, a short taxi ride would more or less cost the same as getting on the public bus or metro. Though the drivers might understand a fair amount of English, be sure to have the address you are heading to at hand for easier communication.
Public Bus and Metro
It is fairly easy to find your way around town using public buses and transit system. Be sure to get yourself a T-Money (similar to Malaysia’s pre-paid ‘Touch ‘n Go’ card) for convenience. Fares are cheaper if you use T-Money compared to paying with cash. You may get one at any of the convenience stores, or you may get a complimentary T-Money Card and discount vouchers if you take a survey and register at Korea Tourism Office (KTO) website. Please visit www.visitkorea.com.my for more information, and search “Discover Korea Your Way”.
This article is featured in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 14.1. Read other contents HERE.