South Korea’s second largest city, Busan, opened its port to the Western World back in 1876. Since then, it has expanded in a rather Western way (out instead of up, though they’re making up for that with some of their department stores now). The city is much more relaxed than Seoul and makes for a nice extended weekend getaway.
Getting There and Around
While Peach does have one flight a day to Busan (and one returning), it is midday and therefore requires 年休 to make worthwhile. Should you have this luxury, this is what I suggest. Most of the Korean airline websites do not play well with non-IE internet browsers or foreign credit cards. My traveling companion and I had a hell of a time trying to purchase Jeju Air tickets. I cannot even tell you how many times we tried to buy the damn things (one time made Visa block my card due to suspected fraud), before it was seemingly approved. It took longer to be completely confirmed due to the pending limit on my account, but happily it went through anyway.
From the airport, you can take either the bus or the train into the rest of the city. Both are quite affordable (especially if you get the ₩5000 All-Day Metro Pass), but the bus is honestly terrible and the driver may kick you off before you get to your stop. Also, the train system and its staff are great. They’ll even help you track down your passport which you’ve let go on a joyride! To aid their rescue efforts, try to take pictures very soon after you step off the train so you can narrow down which train you were riding.
Should you screw up as badly as I did, Air Busan will work as a backup return flight to Japan. You can buy tickets and get checked in at the same time (though if you manage to get the WiFi to cooperate, the online price is cheaper). This will deposit you into Fukuoka, where you can catch the 新幹線 at Hakata Station and ride the 2 hours to Shin-Kobe. Expensive, but when you have class the following morning and the Busan Airport closes at midnight, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Where to Stay
We stayed at this Airbnb spot, which was great and within walking distance of Haeundae Beach. There’s a convenience store on the first floor of the same building, as well as many restaurants both nearby and along the walk to the beach.
What to Do
The very first thing we did after arriving and eating was pick up some drinks from a convenience store and enjoy them on the beach. Until 3AM. We liked this so much that we returned the next evening to do it all again, including our timing.
Near Jeonpo Station is Dola 100% Chocolate, along with a bazillion other cafes and restaurants. There, we had a chocolate dinosaur egg filled with chocolate ice cream (and a baby dinosaur, of course) over かき氷 with cookie bits and chocolate chips. It was delicious and is easily split between three people. Two if you’re ambitious.
The observatory at the Lotte Department Store was really cool. You can see a bridge that changes colors from one part of it! Somewhat nearby is BIFF Square, which houses a lot of street food. If you want to explore yet another gigantic department store, there is also Shinsegae. You can hit up the Busan Museum of Art while you’re in the area too!
My favorite part of Busan was easily the Gamcheon Culture Village. You can take a bus to avoid walking up the incline for fifteen minutes. Even though we KNOW we hate climbing up hills, we still opted for this. That’s how awful the buses are. Once we arrived, we were quickly swept up by a volunteer tour guide who was very sweet and taught us way more about the area than we probably would have ever bothered to learn if left to our own devices. The buildings are beautiful and make for some incredible pictures.
Last Minute Points
-Littering, smoking, and setting off fireworks on the beach are prohibited and subject to fines. This stops no one after dark.
-Gwangalli is apparently a really nice bridge.
-Kimbap is essentially a giant sushi roll stuffed with a whole bunch of goodies (one we got had freaking tonkatsu in it!). If/when you come across it, eat it and love it.
If you can manage to get to Busan on Peach, I’d recommend that. It’s a relaxing city to visit for a weekend, though keep in mind that a lot of the interesting spots are fairly spread out. It is not a walkable place, except for perhaps a jaunt to the beach from your accommodation.