I came across Busan when researching on side trips to take from Seoul, and when we confirmed we would go, Bridgette arranged a family movie night to watch Train to Busan together. It’s a scary movie about zombies taking over the train from Seoul to Busan, killing nearly everyone on board. Somehow, Bridge thought it would be the perfect way to prepare us for this trip. 😆😅
Busan is a port city in South Korea that’s about a 2 hour train ride from Seoul. It’s known for its beaches, temples, and mountains, and is the second largest city in Korea. We took the train from Seoul Station and enjoyed the lovely scenery along the way of our ride. Funny story: I thought I heard that the next stop was Busan and hurriedly told Alan and Bridge to gather our luggages to get off. When we got off, we realized the stop was called Ulsan, which really sounded exactly like Busan when you’re hearing it on a speaker, lol. We had to wait for the next train to come around and sneak on, since our tickets were specifically for the previous train. Luckily, the real Busan stop was not far.
Our week in Busan was a good mix of sightseeing and chilling. We didn’t have too much of an agenda, but each of us had a spot we wanted to hit. For me, it was the Gamcheon Cultural Village, a colorful and vibrant village that was gentrified from what was once a slum area. Known as the Machu Picchu of Korea because of its landscape, this village was a part of the painful history of Busan where many refugees settled during the Korean War. In 2009, students, artists and residents decided to paint and decorate the village as a part of the Village Art Project, and the town has grew into a popular tourist destination since then.
The village is a maze of stairways and alleyways where one can easily get lost maneuvering between the houses. There is a tourist center when you enter the village where you can pick up a map to help you navigate. We spent an entire afternoon there and enjoyed it so much! Bridgette rented a school uniform to wear for fun, and we went around taking lots of pictures because it was picturesque at every corner! Alan was all about the food ofcourse, and indulged in a number of different food stands.
Bridgette’s choice of destination in Busan was the Haeundae Blueline Park to ride the cute and colorful capsule trains that she was on Instagram. We made it there right around sunset, which was perfect timing because we got to watch the sunset while on the trains and that made it extra special!
Alan’s pick in Busan was the Jalgachi Market, which is a market famous for their fresh seafood. We entered the market to stalls and stalls of fresh seafood, from lobster to king crab to uni to weird, unidentifiable items. It was like Disneyland for Alan. The challenging part was deciding which stall to go with, because everyone was eager to win your business. We finally settled on one where the staff spoke a bit of English and was very helpful in explaining all our options to us.
What’s great about this market is that once you select the seafood you want, you can be seated comfortably on the second floor to enjoy the seafood right away! They will cook it for you and then serve it to you at your table. We indulged in fresh uni, steamed scallop, a Korean-style seafood pancake, clam soup, and steamed crab! Everything was soooooo delicious. We only wish we had more stomach space to try another round!
The market is right by the water, so it offered a nice promenade to walk off some of that food afterwards.
On the topic of seafood, we were at Songdo Beach one evening and had dinner at one of their seaside restaurants. It was there that we ordered LIVE OCTOPUS! When the server brought out the squirmy little things on a plate, I almost had a panic attack. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it, but both Alan and Bridgette gathered the courage to do so. I had goosebumps just watching them, especially when Bridgette choked slightly and said one of the tentacles was stuck on her tongue. 🤪
A few other noteworthy things about our time in Busan:
- We visited the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which is a Buddhist temple that offers sweeping panoramic views of the sea.
- Bridge and I got gel nails at a random nail shop by our hotel and we loved it so much! Prices were significantly cheaper than the States, and the quality was exceptional.
- BIFF Square was a fun place to hit for a few hours for some shopping and cafe time.
- There are really nice beaches in Busan, with great seafood restaurants nearby!
Busan was a nice change of scenery from Seoul, and I’m glad we went! For our train ride back to Seoul, I did not reserve tickets ahead of time as I didn’t think we would need to (we didn’t do it for our Seoul to Busan leg), but because it was the weekend, it was NOT easy to find available tickets at all. We ended up having to wait for about 2 hours at the station, and then got standing-room only tickets. Having to stand for a 2 hour train ride was less than ideal, but thankfully some seats began emptying up half way into the journey and we got to sit for the latter half.