Busan, the second largest city in South Korea, is on the southeast coast and is known for its beaches, which was a prime reason why I wanted to pay it a visit. Tons of other people also like to pay Busan a visit during the summer, which I found out the hard way when the free bus from Seoul to Busan was booked for the next month and no hostel had more than two night’s availability. (I guess you do need to plan ahead to do some things. But, as the theme of this trip is to just go with whatever happens, I didn’t let this obstacle ruin things.)
After a long morning and afternoon on the slow train (I didn’t take the KTX, the high-speed train, so I could save some won), I arrived at my hostel late in the day. Due to the limited availability, the hostel I booked was in Nam-gu (gu meaning district) and far away from the main beaches of Busan, but it ended up being an amazing place – it was on the second floor of a high rise condo with close views of the famous Oryukdo islets, a series of five/six uninhabited rock islands (the fifth island turns into two at high tide) right off the coast. As it was soon to be getting dark when I dropped off my luggage, I decided to do a quick exploration of the area around the hostel.
I was very excited to find that there is a long trail extending along the coast from the viewing point of the Oryukdo islets all the way to the other side of Nam-gu where the Gwangan bridge connects Nam-gu to the gu with the main beach. The view along the trail was absolutely gorgeous.
The trail itself went up and down, winding around the coast through trees and rocks for 5 km, and was very slippery in parts due to a rainfall earlier that day.
It was a challenging walk – one might even go so far as to classify it as a hike – and it was great fun. Despite the strenuousness of the walk, I felt a combo of exhilaration and peacefulness being right by the sea. (Or the ocean. Or the sea passage. Or the channel. I’m not quite sure how to refer to the Korean Straight.)
My only full day in Busan was going to be spent at the beach, rain or shine. Miraculously, I woke up on the top bunk in my hostel dorm room to sun glaring in my eyes. I jetted off to Haeundae (that’s Hi – yoon – die, not Hyundai like Sunday), the main beach in Busan. I had heard that this beach gets ridiculously crowded, especially during the tourist season, but I figured if I was only going to be in Busan one day, I should see what the main attraction is all about.
The beach WAS really crowded. The entire beach was covered in umbrellas under which hundreds of people were relaxing. (Koreans, like most Asians, don’t like to sunbathe. Smart people, but missing out on a great pleasure, I would say.) I was lucky, though – right away, a beach attendant rushed me to an umbrella and got me all set up. I had to pay 10,000 won for the spot on the beach, which was my entire food budget for the day, but I didn’t care. Because I was on the beach. In the sun. (I used my umbrella to protect my kindle from overheating.)
I spent all day soaking up rays on my 50 spf’d skin. When the sun finally disappeared, I walked along the beach, cooling off my skin, listening to live music blasting from a band on a stage that had been set up at some point without my noticing, and basically just zigzagging across the sand. I finally made it to the end of the beach and climbed a huge set of wooden stairs to Dongbaek Island (which is actually no longer an island due to a build-up of silt and sand). I loitered around Dongbaek for a while, taking in the view of the sea (yes, I decided to call it a sea) and watching the dozens of fisherman trying to catch dinner or maybe their livelihood. What a great day! Hours of Vitamin D absorption always makes me feel wonderful.
I’m headed to the airport bright and early to catch a flight to Manila tomorrow. Philippines, here I come!