2014 Our 15 days in Busan, South Korea

We were delighted with Busan. It is a very picturesque city, with mountains rising from the sea. We liked our room at the Sunset Business Hotel and the location in the center of Haeundae Beach. Originally we had booked only one week in Busan. We didn’t know it beforehand, but we were arriving in Busan at the beginning of the annual film festival. It was/is a very big deal. Haeundae was packed. We actually stayed 15 days, including days after the festival closed, and enjoyed ourselves. We ate well, we did some good hiking and we also used Busan’s free bikes to tour around.

Very important to our enjoyment of a place is to have good accommodations. We did and our stay was made even more memorable by the ceo/general manager of the Sunset Business Hotel. He was visible/accessible (which we really like a general manager to be) and he made us feel like VIPs. In addition, he befriended us, introduced us to his wife and his new baby and invited us to lunch at The Pho in Centum. It was great to get to know him and his family.
Lunch with Mr. Moon and his wife, baby and babysitter
There was lots of great hiking and, using the bikes that the city makes available for free, lots of great biking by the shorelines. See the Busan city website for information on the free bikes: http://english.busan.go.kr/SubPage.do?pageid=sub041002. The city website is generally very good. with lots of information. Our first bike ride was along the Suyeong River. We went to the rental location (under the Jwasuyeong-gyo Bridge (Suyeong Bridge No. 3)Suyeong riverside next to the Centum Middle School), left our drivers licenses and off we went. The dragon boat races were going on at the time so we got to see all of that activity. It was great fun. 

Our first hike was directly from our hotel and we walked the shoreline past the Westin Chosun to Dongbaekseom Island. It was a beautiful day with gorgeous sea views and a lovely walk on the boardwalk.
Our coastal walk to Dongbaekseom Island with Haeundae Beach in the background
Our first Korean meal in Busan was one of our best in Korea. It was at Yeyije Korean Restaurant (1150-8 Jung-1Dong, Haeundae-Ku, Busan, South Korea, tel. 051-731-1100).The space was lovely and the service was very good.
The ginseng dish was unusual for us; we took so many pictures of the beautiful food, have a look at all of the snaps by clicking here
This restaurant was full at dinner; including one large private room with traditional tables that had about 40 loud, westerners sitting cross-legged obviously from the Busan Film Festival.
Another day we hiked the orange trail at Daecheon Park. We hiked about 3.2 miles and it was delightful. Seeing the avid Korean hikers was fun outfitted in their latest fashion (multi-colored) hiking clothes often matched with the same multi-colored trainers or serious hiking boots and hiking poles. We didn’t get to the summit of the mountain but we had a very nice outing.

Before hiking, we had a noodle soup for lunch in a very tiny “mom and pop” shop. (Noodle (Guksu) Restaurant, on the way to Daecheon Park on Yangun-ro on the east side of the street, just north of Yangun High School in the shopping center, basement B1 first store on the right, tel. 051-701-3224.) The noodles were made on the spot by “the mom” and they were tri-colored and delicious, with just the right amount of chewiness.
The "mom" at her noodle making machine
The place was tiny and hot but they made the air conditioner colder and we took off our long-sleeved shirts. The soup had vegetables and sesame seeds in a thick and tasty broth. It was huge and came with spicy daikon and delicious bean curd strips. It cost KRW 4,500 and was very satisfying.

Once in Maryland in 1999 or 2000, we went to a Korean restaurant where a man was making noodles. He would knead the dough by throwing it against a Plexiglass window between him and the customers. It was a blast watching him and hearing the “thump” of dough against the window. We thought that we would find noodle makers throwing dough against windows all over Korea. We never saw even one. The closest we came was “the mom” putting her dough through a machine in the tiny restaurant.

We had trouble finding “wash, dry, fold” laundries in Korea. But we did find laundromats in Jeju City and in Haeundae Beach. Right across from our the Sunset Business Hotel in the Sea Cloud Commercial Street (1F (Ground Floor) was a dry cleaner and coin operated washing machines and dryers, tel. 051-744-4560. It cost KRW 4,500 for a wash and a dry. No detergent was necessary—it was automatically dispensed.

We went to a Chinese restaurant owned by Koreans near our hotel. It was called Mao (Haeun-daero 634-5, Haeundae, Busan, South Korea, tel. 051-746-3888). We had a delicious set meal for 2 people (KRW 35,000 each) and one bottle of beer (KRW 4,000). They served hot tea which made Dimitri very happy. The set meal started with a soup called Cantonese scorched rice seafood soup. It had good vegetables and pieces of seafood in it. The scorched rice was no longer crispy once it was put into the soup. The next course was Peking Duck and it was outstanding. The pancakes were small and delicate and the duck had crispy skin. The sauce was good and the green onion and cucumber were all fresh and crunchy. The third course of sweet and sour pork was surprisingly good. The sautéed shrimp had a crisp coating and were quite tasty. Instead of eggplant we got a dish of sautéed green beans. We asked for plain rice instead of fried rice or noodles. The last dish was Fried Plain Rolls with Sweet Dipping Sauce and we really liked them. This menu was created by Chef Hwang Won and he did a great job. We were happy and spent KRW 74,000.

Another coastal walk we did was 2 hours to Dalmaji-gil on Moon-tan Road towards Cheonsapo harbor. It was part of the Gal Maet Gil Trails. The Busan Metropolitan City Government publishes trail maps (the one map for Trails 2 and 3 are in English) that are very helpful (even in Korean).The Moon-tan portion was in a forest above the sea. We were practically the only ones on the dirt trail. When we emerged, we were on a road and we took the first bus (a mini bus) that came by (the #2). It took us right to a subway station where we could get the metro back to our hotel. How cool was that?

We had a couple of credibly good Indian meals in Haeundae. At Punjab (1393-31 Joong-dong, 3rd floor, Haeundae-gu, Busan 612-010, South Korea, tel. 051-731-1947 (in front of Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Shop)) we had a Special Punjabi Masala Curry with chicken and lamb (KRW 18,000). It was delicious and Dimitri thought had unique flavors. We had one naan (KRW 2,000) and one lassi (KRW 3,000) that was a little too sweet. The room was pleasantly decorated and there were lots of people eating there. We had a very nice lunch with good service; we recommend this restaurant.

At breakfast at our hotel, we met and talked to other tourists. One day we sat at a table for two and beside us was a delightful couple from Iceland on one side and a charming couple from Syria (living in Saudi Arabia) on the other side. What fun! Speaking of breakfast, our hotel's buffet has good fruit at breakfast. We were in Busan when the persimmons were in season and the ones we had at breakfast were absolutely delicious. 

Dimitri decided to try Oriental Medicine to relieve his nocturnal leg cramps. He went to Jese Oriental Medicine Clinic, Haeundae-gu, U1-dong 627, LG Harbor Town, 6th floor, Busan, South Korea, tel. 051-746-3303. He went 3 times (KRW 21,700) before he decided that the acupuncture was not working.

By the middle of October in Busan, the weather was getting cooler during the day and downright cold at night. We started wearing long-sleeved shirts during the day and jackets at night. The trees were beginning to turn orange too. Nice sights.

Our last bike ride using Busan's free bikes was both too long and too short. It was in Eulsukdo Park Island. It was too short because the island is small. It was too long because Dimitri's bike was too small for him and parts of his body hurt that should not have. The location was very far from Haeundae Beach but we took buses the entire way and did sightseeing (Bus 1003 to Lotte Dept. Store and then 58-1 to Eulsukdo Island.) Buses are so much for fun than subways because of all that can be seen.

Our best bike ride with Busan Free Bike Rentals was from Gwangalli Beach to Apec Building. The rental shop (Location: in front of 301-dong, Samik Beach Apartment in Namcheon-dong, Suyeong-gu) said we could have the bikes for 2 hours and we went 9 miles. We rode along the beach and scoped out places to have dinner and watch the Gwangan (Diamond) Bridge light show at night. It was great.

The Igidae Park with its rugged cliffs and lush greenery was our best hike in Korea. It was a seaside hike with the sights and sounds of crashing waves. The boardwalk was a great engineering feat, hanging on the side of the cliffs. There were birds chirping and a pine forest. At latitude 35°10’46”N 129°04’32”E we are almost at the same latitude as Vail. There are magpie birds in Busan, just like in Vail! We went past the teetering Nongbawi Rock at the beach where the women divers worked. At the Oryukodo Cruise Wharf, 5.2 km and 2 1/2 hours later, we had climbed 160 m (up and down stairs). The Oryukdo Islets were in front of the wharf and we could see (faintly) Tsushima Island in Japan. We walked towards the Oryukodo Cruise Wharf and found bus #27 to take us back to Station 212 (Kyungsung University-Pukyong Nat’l Univ. Station) of Line 2.

We had scoured the area for the best view of Gwangan Bridge (The Diamond Bridge) at night.  The View Buffet, Igidae Seokgari (Namgo Yongho dong,5-4 (above the Igidae Coastal Trail), Busan, South Korea, tel. 051-984-0001, 051-626-6170) has a magnificent view of the bridge and we reserved table #1 for the best vantage point. We saw the extensive buffet they had at lunch and thought they would have the same at night. They certainly did; the buffet was truly enormous (cost per person: KRW 35,200). The advantage of buffets is that we get to try things that we might not otherwise find at a restaurant. For instance we found marinated fish roe at this buffet. Previously we had only seen it sold at fish markets. We arrived at 6 p.m. when they opened and were the first people there. We stayed until 8 p.m. and no one else arrived for dinner. The room was enormous and it was odd and not particularly fun to be the only ones there. The sashimi was the best part of the buffet. There were selections from Korea (of course), a pasta and pizza section, soups, stews, salads, fruit, desserts. Everything we tried was okay except for the tempura which was truly bad having been made hours (or days) before. There was an espresso machine and a soft ice cream machine. We wondered what would be done with all of that food? With our 2 hour meal we had a bottle Spanish red wine called Viña Lambilla (KRW 3,000). We spent KRW 100,400 for the evening’s bridge entertainment. Oh, the Gwangan Bridge light show was merely seeing the purple lights on the bridge—no changing or dancing lights. The taxi back to Haeundae Beach cost KRW 8,400.

After visiting the Jagalchi Market during the seafood festival (a yawn), we went to Yongdusan Park and to the Busan Tower for fabulous views. We saw a sign about cultural tours in English. We inquired and minutes later Mr. In Sik Kim arrived. (Busan Culture Tour Guide, e-mail: kims4610@hanmail.com, mobile: 82-16-866-8758, www.heritagebusan.com.) He was everything a guide should be: personable, friendly, knowledgeable, understandable and he clearly liked his work. He took us up to the tower's entrance platform and gave us an introductory tour of the sights we could see from there. Then he took our Busan map and marked all of the place we should visit and where we should hike. It was totally great!