Saturday, January 9, 2016

Busan Part II: Sight-Seeing in the City

Busan's Haeundae Beach at sunset

Busan is definitely my favorite urban place in Korea so far- it has a lot to do and see, and so many interesting neighborhoods to wander around. Plus you've got good international food, craft beer and several beautiful parks and beaches.

Here are some of my favorite things to see and do in Busan that I've discovered thus far:

  • Sample Korean Microbrewing by Gwangali Beach
Galmegi Brewery has great beers and some of my favorite American brews

I am a big fan of beer (it's hard not to be when you come from Portland, OR), and generally Korea's a hard place to find good beer. But Busan has a few pubs with Korean and imported microbrews. A small and atmospheric bar across the street from Gwangali Beach, called Owl and Pussycat, has a decent selection of beers as well as a gorgeous view of the Diamond Bridge. Their menu is mostly small, snack dishes but they do have some fun stuff like sweet potato fries. 

Another good spot for beer is the much bigger and more famous Galmegi brewery. They have some good beers from back home and great pizza, as well as their own brews. I recommend stopping in there for a beer sampler and some pizza before a night out.

  • Check out the Busan Museum of Art in Haeundae

Sam the cat! My favorite Warhol painting

We got lucky when we wandered into the museum in December and got a special discount on the Andy Warhol Live exhibit that they are showing until . The exhibit was huge and lots of fun. In my ESL classes, I've been doing a lesson for a couple years now that involves teaching my student's to draw this picture by Warhol of his cat, Sam. I loved seeing the original piece, and it was also really cool to see some of his more obscure works and discover how versatile he was as an artist. The museum also has some small but interesting exhibitions on the 2nd floor with work by Korean artists that are definitely worth checking out.

  • Walking through the park by Haeundae Beach
The park offers a great blend of natural and urban views

Looking toward Gwangali Beach from the headland park in Haeundae

This park is best during late afternoon or at sunset. You get gorgeous views of the sun coming down along the coastline and over the diamond bridge. The trails are often crowded with tourists, especially on the weekends, but who are we kidding, this is Korea, of course it's crowded. Despite the crowds, you do feel like the park gives you a little escape from Busan's urban landscape.

  • Around Haeundae
Taking a cooking class at an oden restaurant in Haeundae
Beautiful sunsets over the headland park

This is a good area to go to find restaurants, both international and Korean. It's also where we did the oden cooking class I described in the last post. You can also find a fairly big Korean market here with fresh fish and local food. And, of course, there's the beach itself which is nice place to go for a walk at sunset.

  • Gwangali Beach at night
Celebrating my 30th birthday down on the beach

This beach is really fun at night, with lots of restaurants and bars nearby and great views of the Diamond Bridge all lit up. It's legal to drink in public in Korea, so grab some beers at the convenience store and have a few drinks down on the beach at night.

  • Russian/Ukrainian food in Busan's China Town/Red Light District
The culturally chaotic street's of Busan's red light district
Eating at Samarkand restaurant - a truly cultural experience....
Our halal Ukrainian dinner of lamb and fries with Korean side dishes (pickled veggies and kimchi)

Not a great place to go late at night, but during the day or early evening it's pretty safe to wander through this area. It's hard to imagine a more bizarre mix of cultures than what you get here: it's basically a China Town that's been slowly converted into a little Russia, so a third of the shop signs are written in Chinese, a third in Hangul and the final third in Cyrillic. Scattered among the restaurants offering halal Ukrainian food or Chinese dumplings, are the karaoke places (called noraebang here in Korea), many of which offer you "special companions". While it was fun to see the mix of cultures in this neighborhood, the existence of the sex industry here was hard to ignore and pretty depressing.

We ate at a Ukrainian place called "Samarkand" that was full of Eastern Europeans. The food wasn't especially great, but it was an interesting experience all the same. We ate a plate of lamb with fries and pelmeni (Russian dumplings, similar to ravioli).

  • Nightlife around Seomyeon Station

Photo from here.

This area has tons of nightlife spots and restaurants. It's a good place to go later in the night when you want to look for a place to go dancing or somewhere with a fun atmosphere. Just wander through the narrow streets following the crowds and see where you end up. 

Go to Busan: Part I

Go to Busan: Part III

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