Thursday, February 5, 2009

Winter Vacation in Busan, South Korea -- Part 1

Julianne and I headed to Seoul last Friday night to break up our travel time to Busan. We got a room at our favorite cheap hotel near Jongno Tower and then went out to get dinner and wander around a bit.

While walking around Yongsan I saw the biggest bowl of beondegi (steamed or boiled silkworm pupae which are seasoned and eaten as a snack) I've ever seen in Seoul--awesome!

I tried to convince Julianne to try some (as I have every time we go by a street vendor selling it) but she wasn't 'buying'--lol. I've tried it before, and actually like to eat it once and a while. I think it's hilarious when Koreans who don't know me try to gross me out and get me to eat it--I chow down and watch them freak out, ha!

The next morning we jumped into a taxi and headed to Seoul Station . . .

I've never actually walked around this station much so it was interesting to see it up close from the outside, and then to be going inside to the KTX area.

I don't know what the service and English abilities of the clerks are as we already had our tickets (most likely they have enough English to get through a ticket purchase). One way KTX train fare to Busan costs 50,000won, so round trip for one person is 100,000won. If you have a Korean credit card or a Korean bank check card you can book tickets here. Be advised that the Korean Internet sucks when it comes to using any browser other than Internet Explorer and that booking tickets on Mozilla just doesn't work--period.

I walked around a little to check out the station and then we headed upstairs to the KTX waiting and departure area.

Julianne needed a caffeine fix so we went into Burger King to get her a coffee. I snuck McDonalds breakfast food in and ate it surreptitiously in the corner . . . hehe.

Walking down to our train . . .

Julianne wanted to sit by the window for the trip to Busan . . . so I had to sit in the aisle--NOT fun for a person who loves taking pics, let me tell you!

The one complaint I have about the KTX train is that their idea of luggage storage on board sucks! We had one large suitcase and the TINY luggage storage area in the entrance area of each car was ridiculous. Two, MAYBE three, people's large suitcases can fit there and that's it. Lesson for the future: bring my big backpack and a small suitcase.

I took some video with my Flip Mino of the view from the train while crossing the Han river . . . the quality is not as good as it is on my computer--oh well. UPDATE: Okay, so I'm a moron. Click on the bottom right corner of the youtube window and select HQ (high quality) and the video is pretty good . . . me babo!

From this picture onwards the pics were taken by Julianne on her Nikon D50 . . .

63 Building

After getting out of Seoul it was pretty much the typical Korean winterscape scenes . . . farms, fields, mountains, small cities, and so on . . . some of the views were really nice.

Julianne did a great job of trying to deal with the light glare and reflections on the train's window that she was shooting through--it ain't easy.

In the pic below you can see a great example of what expats/foreign teachers are talking about when they say a lot of Korean apartment buildings all look the same . . .

Ah, the Korean wedding castle (wedding hall/reception hall) . . . Korisney in all its glory.

A good picture of the KTX train . . .

The KTX runs through subway station platforms . . . Storyway is a chain of mini-variety stores that are found at the subways stations around Seoul.

The other side of the train had some breathtaking views too.

Arriving in Busan I was able to start taking pics again--woohoo! It was immediately obvious that Busan is a major port city.

The train station was packed . . .

We found our way out of the train station and walked towards the subway station entrance that is on the other side of a large open courtyard.

When facing the entrance going down into the Busan Station subway there are two hotels to your left. One is called the Hotel Busan Arirang (36,000won per night), and the second was called Toyoko Inn Busan Station I (65,000-75,000won per night).

The Hotel Riviera costs 140,000won per night for a double room--we were staying there for two nights with vouchers that Julianne had won through her recruiter's website for doing a survey. We decided on the second day that we wanted to stay in Busan longer so after checking out we came back to Busan Station because it generally has a lot more tourist stuff closer to it than Haeundae Beach does in terms of travel time and proximity (more on that later).

We walked into the Toyoko Inn first and asked for a room. The clerk looked at Julianne and I--and then looked at her co-worker. They both looked slightly uncomfortable, and then the one said to me that the size might not be big enough--yeah, cause we're both gi-normous--argh, lol! I was confused at first (looking back I'm surprised I didn't see what she meant right away), and she explained that the bed size for a double was 160cm . . . okay . . . we decided to try the other hotel and see what we found out there about bed size . . .

At Hotel Busan Arirang the guy behind the desk spoke pretty good English (and was a little 'smarmy,' lol)--and the price was drastically lower. We did get what we paid for though . . . the room was barely clean enough, and I had to take the sheets off the bed and go down to ask for a clean/cleaner set. The bathroom looked like it had been cleaned by middle school students (their technique is generally to 'splash water around and make everything shiny and wet, lol--ugh) . . . so if you decide to take the cheaper route I'd recommend bringing or buying some bathroom cleaning products and clean the bathroom if you're staying there for more than a night . . . on the upside the room was big, had a computer with Internet in it, and a TV with cable.

Back to the subway ride to our hotel at Haeundae Beach, we had to endure 3 different sales pitches . . . this is something that is fairly common for people who travel the subways in Seoul and apparently Busan too. For those of you reading this blog from outside of Korea here's a little video,

We arrived at the Hotel Riviera Haeundae.

Julianne noticed this sign outside--interesting, eh?

Oh yeah . . . there is a discount department store that is a part of the same building that the hotel is in. Luckily, the noise and customer traffic didn't reach the 15th floor where our room was.

The hotel has a 24 hour Internet room which was really convenient.

This was the view from our hotel room balcony.

Our hotel was two blocks from Haeundae Beach--awesome! We had a Dunkin Donuts, KFC, and Papa John's Pizza all within 3 blocks of the hotel. Emart and a McDonalds were also within a 15 minute walk.

Pizza . . . aughguughaghghg!

After eating some awesome pizza for dinner we headed to the beach to check it out.

A fair number of Koreans (some families, and a lot of 20-30 somethings) were walking along the beach.

The beach was very tranquil and nice to walk around . . .

I set up my tripod and took some pics of Julianne and I . . .

It looks like I'm standing in front of some kind of a green screen, lol--I really was there!

Some of the people there were walking in the freezing water! This was not really something Julianne and I had on our agenda for the evening!

I found it a little strange that Koreans are almost always saying "Choowa, choowa!" ("Cold, cold!") and yet Julianne and I were the only ones on the beach wearing warm winter jackets.

I also used my Flip Mino here . . .

I put my camera on its timer setting and got some nice pics of Julianne and I with the sunset.

I then noticed someone setting off fireworks and had fun using an ISO of 100 to capture the color streaks of the fireworks.

Triple! Awesome!

Julianne and I fell in love with this bed--seriously! A thick, soft, cushiony, mattress with a gorgeous thick cotton duvet cover . . . oh my god!!! After having lived in Korea for four years now--and getting the typical low-end single mattress that comes with foreign teacher apartments provided as part of the contract--I think I was even more enamoured with the bed than Julianne. Needless to say we spent some time fantasizing about how we could 'steal' the bed and get it back to our apartment in Chuncheon--sadly the fantasy didn't come true.

After traveling from Seoul to Busan, eating yummy pizza from Papa John's, and walking around the beach we watched a movie and luxuriated in the comfort of the bed . . .

More pics and stories to come . . . just have to edit the pics, and put some more videos together (I seem to be getting more familiar with the Windows Moviemaker program) . . .

I still miss the thick, soft, cushiony, mattress with a gorgeous thick cotton duvet cover . . .



packfamily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AM said...

I am super picky about hotels. I always take my own sheets/towels and even my down comforter! Looks like the other hotel you stayed in was nice though.

Do you remember how much the pizza was? We have a Papa Johns near us but havent tried ordering yet. I've heard pizza is pricey here.

(the deleted comment was me. I used the wrong account to post my comment)

A said...

Hi there! Great post on Busan. My boyfriend and I are going to Seoul in May. I've been before, so I'm thinking we'll do a day trip to Busan -- is it worth it? What's there to do other than the beach?
We're thinking about staying at the Hotel Riveria because it's so close to Haeundae Beach -- did you like it? If not, do you recommend another neighborhood/hotel?

I am sorry for the 20 questions! There is a surprisingly limited amount of information about South Korea!

Jun said...

congratulations on first foot dip into Pacific ocean!