Discovering Busan’s beaches and local eats

As our time in Seoul winds down, I find myself busier than ever! I’ve been meaning to blog about our trip to Busan for a couple weeks now. But, I’m thankful we’re still getting to explore new places and see new things, six months in.

Busan is the second largest city in South Korea, as well as a major port city. We took the KTX high-speed train down there, about a three-hour journey, and got to see just how green and mountainous this country is.

View of the Korean countryside from the train

Countryside views on our way back to Seoul

Inside the KTX high-speed train

Busan Station

Luckily, we went with our friends who’ve traveled to Busan numerous times and are familiar with the best foods to eat and places to see there. We ate a lot while we were there! Busan is also known for its beaches, though I don’t think we were there during prime beach time. It actually rained the first couple of days.

And the rain was perfect for the first local dish we had, sogogi guk bap, or, literally, beef soup rice. 🙂 A soup with rice and beef. You get the idea. It was surprisingly savory — I could’ve had two! They make it in these large vats, as you can see below.

Sogogi Guk Bap

Large vats of sogogi guk bap

We briefly visited Shinsegae in Centum City, apparently the largest Shinsegae department store in Korea. So yeah, plenty of shopping if that’s what you’re into. This is the view from the subway station. This shopping center also has an ice skating rink and the world’s second-largest movie screen at the CGV. That was quite tempting for Will…but, since the #1 largest movie screen is located in Seoul, he was (somewhat) ok with not seeing a movie there.

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Ok back to food. On this particular day, we tried the Busan style of hotteok (those fried dough pancakes), the ssiat hotteok, which is filled with sunflower and pumpkin seeds rather than the traditional filling of brown sugar, honey and/or cinnamon. Can you guess which one I prefer? If you said SUGAR, that would be correct. Seeds? No thanks. It’s not that it tasted bad, just didn’t taste as good as the regular kind.

Ssiat hotteok

For dinner, we hit up a sushi place our friend had read some good reviews about, Sushi Berry. Small, nondescript, but very good. The owner was really friendly and talkative (he lived in the U.S. years ago and his English is good), and was generous enough to give us dessert for free without us even ordering it.

Sushi

More sushi

The next day we walked around one of Busan’s popular beaches, Gwangalli Beach.  Again, I imagine it looks much nicer on a sunny, summer day. You can’t tell from the photos, but this beach is a stone’s throw away from the road. While it’s not the kind of beach where you can really just lay out and relax (due to the street traffic noise), it does have perfect views of the Gwangan Bridge. And, hey, at least they have beaches! I don’t know of any in Seoul.

Panoramic at Gwangalli Beach

Gwangan Bridge from the beach

Busan city views

Woman and baby at Gwangalli Beach

Views of the hotels and other impressive buildings

Speaking of the Gwangan Bridge, here are some views from our hotel, and of the many impressive high rises in the area.

Gwangan Bridge

Marina view from the hotel

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Zenith Towers in Busan

Park Hyatt hotel in Busan

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Gwangan Bridge in the mist

Another popular destination in Busan is the Jagalchi Fish Market, Korea’s largest seafood market (I feel like everything in Korea is the “largest,” hmmm). We walked through it fairly quickly, but yeah, plenty of fresh seafood — though we saw a guy unloading boxes that were suspiciously marked “Lobster from Canada” — and the nice thing is that there are several eateries and places where you can sit down and eat the fresh catches. We ordered a large seafood stew and some grilled mackerel, delicious. Feasting on a king crab from the tank will cost you $150. Yikes!

Arriving at the Jagalchi Fish Market

ShinDonga Marine Products Market

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King crabs

Seafood stew - after

Grilled mackerel

Other local delicacies we enjoyed include:

Gimbap or kimbap (Korean rolls) – Seaweed rice rolls. Usually stuffed with veggies and cooked meat, or just veggies. The first ones you see pictured were from a more pricey, “healthy” eatery. So, while the rolls were wider, we got fewer pieces. The second ones pictured are the more common type of gimbap. Long, slender rolls, and cheap.

Gimbap (Korean rolls)

More gimbap

Bibim Dangmyeon – A glass noodle dish with veggies and… I don’t know. Will seemed to like it. I tried it but it was too spicy for me.

Bibim Dangmyeon

Croquettes – I’m guessing you know what a croquette is. We ended up getting a pizza one, haha. I know, not Korean at all.

Croquettes

Which brings me to….

Eomuk (Busan fish cakes) – They love their fish cakes in Busan. Our friends were going crazy for them, ordering them in bulk and having them shipped back to Seoul. There’s actually a market where basically all they sold were fish cakes. Each vendor offers samples. I think Will tried one of everything!

Fish cakes

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Fish cakes and samplers

Another fish cake place:

Fish cake cafe

Another “food” we came across were eels. Yes, I know it’s not uncommon to eat eel, but what I’d never seen before was someone skinning them and chopping them up alive! Oh my goodness. The best part, which I didn’t record, was when the old lady took the chunks of still-writhing eel and placed them on the grill, where they continued to wiggle and seemingly fight for their lives. Ugh.

Fresh eel

Chop chop chop

Kind of disturbing to see the eels writhing around

Anyway, I’ll end this post with the beach, which always soothes me, since that was disturbing to re-watch. Haeundae Beach is the other popular beach in Busan. Unlike Gwangalli Beach, Haeundae Beach is removed from the main road and has more of a beach feel. The only downside is that there were these large ships and barges anchored not far from the shore, ruining the views.

If you’re not in the mood to sunbathe, there’s a walking path that runs along the coast, around a small peninsula. We decided to go for a walk along this path, only to discover it consists of just a lot of steps, up and down, up and down. Nice views, at least!

Sunny day at Haeundae Beach

Sunny views of Haeundae Beach

Panoramic Haeundae Beach

Mermaid at Haeundae Beach

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Walking path by Haeundae Beach

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Gwangan Bridge in the distance

And that concludes our long-weekend trip to Busan. Hope you enjoyed! More photos on my Flickr album.

Stay tuned for posts on the Banpo Bridge rainbow fountain, Korean baseball games, the Korean Chamber Orchestra, and more!

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