Busan & Beaches!

Hello! Before I traveled to Korea, one of the places I’ve always wanted to visit other than its capital, is the city of Busan. Located at the farthest point away from Seoul, it definitely is on the opposite side of Korea. I wanted to visit because I have heard only splendid things about their beaches and scenery, and that they are the second most popular and populated city in South Korea. However, thanks to the infamous Seoul rain, the trip had been pushed back quite a bit, but we ended making the anticipated visit and it definitely was one to remember.

My friend and I had been excited about this trip for months prior, almost a year, so we already had planned places to visit, such as the beautiful Haeundae beach, their Centum Mall, the fish market, etc. We woke up on an almost too early Saturday morning to catch the 7:30am bus to Busan, which was around a four hour ride.

Bus station

The ride itself was surprisingly very relaxing and comfortable, and we could catch up on some much awaited sleeping. However, what was more surprising was Korea’s countryside scenery. Prior to this trip, we had not really ventured much outside of Seoul, so we did not know what to expect from it. However, as we rode in the quiet bus traveling from one side of Korea to the opposite coast, quite literally traveling through the entire nation, we were in awe of how beautiful and natural their landscape is.

View from the bus ride
View from the bus ride to Busan

We were so used to the cosmopolitan and modern architectural style of Seoul that the landscape that was just outside took us by surprise. The greenery was almost too vivid to be real, and there were countless hills that overlapped with others, and made me just want to get off the bus and take a nice morning stroll through the hill and take in the refreshing unpolluted air. On top of the beautiful greenery, the weather was slightly misty and hazy, and although at the time we were worried about the possibility of rain, we secretly liked the almost mystical vibe it gave.

After reaching the Busan bus station and buying our tickets back to Seoul, we immediately decided to plan out our next step. Both of us simultaneously agreed on visiting Haeundae beach, the most popular beach in Busan. I was a little worried about how to get from place to place, since Busan is not exactly a small town, rather the second largest city in South Korea. Thankfully, they also had a subway system here, and our treasured T-Money cards would work here as well. After downloading a couple apps that would help us navigate Busan and its subways, we boarded. Fortunately, the system was a slightly smaller than Seoul’s since there were not as many lines, so we reached our destination quickly.

When we stepped outside of the Haeundae Beach subway stop, we could immediately feel the beach breeze and I felt a little bit closer to home, since Florida is also famous for its beaches. There were also a multitude of tourists there, not unlikely on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the summer. We were all headed in one way, and that was the beach. As we walked, I took a look around and was surprised at how diverse Busan was. Many of the people were from all over the world, such as America, Europe, South America, etc.

The road to Haeundae beach taken from the pathway

The beach itself was crowded, but just dipping one’s feet in the water felt so refreshing and perfect for summer.

Dipping my feet into the water!

The water was cold, but it was inviting in that I wished I brought a swimsuit or a spare change of clothes so I could enjoy it a bit more. After a nice walk on the shore, we were a bit sad to leave the beach, but ready to see our next destination.

Haeundae beach
Haeundae beach shore

However, as were left Haeundae beach and started back on the pathway to the bus station that faced the city, I was hit with a sudden realization that made me stop in my tracks. At the end of 2016, before the thought of visiting Busan even crossed my mind, I had watched this show online where two friends visited this very beach, and they walked this same pathway facing the city and conversed with each other and a few kids around them. At the time, I watched happily but also slightly wistful that I probably would never have an experience like that. But now, as I pass by the very park benches they sat at, admired the same buildings they admired in the same city as them, I realized that in life, truly anything can happen to us. If someone had told 2016 me that in less than a year I would be across the world literally walking along the same beach that I had only seen through a laptop screen, I wouldn’t have believed them. It’s our choice whether or not to take the opportunities that have presented themselves to us, and I am very grateful that I did.

The same view I saw from a laptop screen almost a year ago

After visiting the beach, we chose to visit the largest department store in the world, Centum City. Both of us were no strangers to shopping, so we decided to see what it was like and hopefully buy some souvenirs. The mall was definitely larger than what I had expected, and very grandeur, even having European statues decorating the main floor. To no one’s surprise, the mall was as crowded as ever, but the shops were very unique and nice, and I was happy to even see a few American stores there. We couldn’t stay for long, so we ate lunch and headed over to one of the popular Busan fish markets to see what it was all about.

Centum City
Shinsegae Centum City’s entrance

A fish market definitely was not in my top three Busan places to visit since I am a vegetarian, but I did not mind visiting since it is a famous characteristic of Busan. Walking through the market and seeing the wide variety of fish they had to sell was very mind-blowing, as a vegetarian since I do not know much about fish or meat-related foods. However, it wasn’t just me, my friend who is not a vegetarian was in awe of all the types of fish they sold, and we pointed out the most interesting tanks to each other as we passed by. While a few did make me uneasy, I particularly did enjoy the octopus tanks and the inviting scent of the Korean pancake stalls that, while there were only a couple in the market, had an aroma so strong that you could smell it from a distance. Just strolling through the market made me feel as if I was watching the Busan shop owners’ lives through a window. This fish market might be a tourist destination for us, but it was their livelihood and how they get by and it was very eye opening to see it firsthand.

Unfortunately, we did not have much time for anything else, so we decided to head back to the bus station so we could make it in time for our ride back home. As we got back on the bus and returned home, I reflected on the memories we had there and while I was extremely satisfied by this trip, there was one thing that surprised me more than anything else: The diversity of Busan. While there were many Europeans, North Americans, South Americans, etc, what surprised me the most were the Indians. I am fully Indian, and I did not expect there to be many, if at all here, since Seoul only had some as well. However there were groups and groups of them, some tourists and others who actually lived here. This baffled me, because I did not know Busan was a top tourist destination for Indians, even my grandparents who have lived their whole lives in India were shocked when I told them. On the road to the beach, there were at least three different Indian restaurants, and one Indian man even tried to convince my friend and I to eat at his Punjabi restaurant. At Centum City’s food court, there was even an Indian food area, where there was not one at the Coex Food Court, back in Seoul. While I am still to this day surprised by this turn of events, I definitely am glad to have a little taste of home while in Korea, and now I realize that the world is a little bit smaller than what I had thought.

Gwangandaegyo Bridge

The trip to Busan was definitely amazing and unforgettable, teeming with lessons learned and realizations that hit home. While it was rather short, I hope that I can return soon and tour more of Busan, and while I’m at it, see what the rest of Korea has to offer as well.

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