Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Day in Busan (부산)

Evening in Busan, the city by the sea! It reminds me of San Francisco... (They even have a baseball team called the Giants.)
New flash: Andrew actually got out of Changwon for a day to visit other Fulbrighters! Surprise, surprise! Since Departure Day, which was over three weeks ago, I have not seen any of my colleagues in person, or even gone to any other city for a bit of fun (Daejeon didn't count). Today, I spent a drizzly but wonderful day in "Dynamic" Busan, the huge coastal city that is the south's answer to Seoul.

For my own future reference... it should take me less than two hours to get to the center of Busan. Today, it took me almost three, but that is mostly my fault, as I totally missed my first bus stop and got lost in my own city even before I had left it. The buses leave from Changwon (Masan Intercity Bus Terminal/마산시외버스터미널) every fifteen minutes or so for most of the day, and arrive at the Busan Seobu Intercity Bus Terminal/부산서부시외버스터미널 in 45 minutes. And then, the subway ride from Sasang Station/사상역 to what I would assume is the central downtown area takes another 45 minutes. The bus fare was 3,500 Won (about $3), although the return trip was 3,700 Won; for the Busan metro, I used my T-money card as I have been doing with Changwon buses, and it deducts at least 1,100 Won for each ride, plus a bit more if I travel far.

All in all, the travel is really quite cheap and not inconvenient in the least. I'm relieved, because on maps, Changwon always seemed so far away.

Ground floor entrance to Shinsegae. It's like a palace!
So what did I do in Busan? The first stop was the Shinsegae Department Store (신세계), whose branch in Busan happens to be the largest department store/shopping mall in all of Asia. It was pretty darn huge. And not only was there shopping, but there is a three-story Spaworld attached to it, as well as an ice skating rink of the fourth floor! (There's also an H&M! I will be back.)

While my friends were finishing up a morning at the spa, I wandered around Shinsegae's six floors, realized that I couldn't afford anything, and then sat by the ice skating rink to watch people go around in circles. It was nice and relaxing, although not as much as a three-hour spa treatment might have been, haha.

When I met up with the other Fulbrighters (Payal, Monica, and Hilary from Busan, and Jet, Thomas, and Taylor visiting from Daegu), we had lunch at the department store food court. I had my first 오무라이스 (omurice) in Korea! And it was absolutely delicious, as expected.
The first familiar faces I've seen in three weeks. Glad they're all smiling!
The Daegu crew had to leave soon after, so the Busan girls and I went on our own adventure: beaches on a rainy day! The drizzle was on and off all afternoon, but that didn't stop us. We went to Gwangalli Beach to see the Gwangan Bridge (광안대교). It's supposed to be very pretty when its lit up at night, but on this overcast afternoon, it simply blended into the steel gray sky. Still pretty, in a different way.
Gwangan Bridge from Gwangalli Beach.
On Gwangalli Beach, I had a fantastic time collecting some of the beautiful seashells (조개껍데리) that were everywhere. Monica commented that Gwangalli Beach seemed to have more litter than the more popular Haeundae Beach. It's true that Haeundae was clean and beautiful, but as far as I could tell, the objects that "littered" the Gwangalli sands the most plentifully were actually thousands of seashells, some of them quite large. I pocketed some of the prettiest that I could find.
Hilary and Monica with their large seashells.
Seashells on Gwangalli Beach
This might have been my favorite part of the day. Despite the drizzle (보슬보슬), it was still relaxing and peaceful on the beach. I think a beach is always relaxing, unless it's stormy. Speaking of which, another typhoon is supposed to hit South Korea starting from tomorrow evening. I guess today's weather was just a harbinger of worse that is to come.

But I wasn't thinking about that, really. It was just nice to chat and catch up with friends. We mostly talked about our schools and our lives with the homestay experience. All of us have enough stories to last days! Well, everyone else has plenty of stories. My life has been kind of boring in comparison, to be honest...

It strikes me every time just how different my school is from (almost) everyone else's. The best stories (and by best, I guess I mean funniest and most shocking) are those that recount the lengths to which some of us Fulbrighters must go in order to discipline unruly students or out-of-control classes.

When it comes down to it, I myself could never imagine playing "Mean Teacher Andrew", and I'm just grateful that my students are so astoundingly well-behaved. Hope this doesn't come back to bite me in the butt as the semester goes on!
Payal and the beautiful conch shell she found on the beach.
After Gwangalli, our group took a cab to Haeundae (해운대), arguably the better and more popular beach in Busan. Well, it's definitely larger and cleaner. But I couldn't tell you anything about popularity, since the rain and the approaching storm left the beach nearly deserted. I did notice one family having a cute picnic on a blanket and under a few umbrellas.

Also at Haeundae, which as a whole is considered the ritzy social neighborhood, we chanced upon some sort of festival (or tournament, maybe?) for computer games. There were two guys playing Starcraft, and their game was being displayed on a giant screen. And yes, there was an audience of at least one hundred, decked out in rain ponchos and completely engrossed in the action. It was so amusing. At one point, the cameramen of the event, who would sometimes pan the crowd in between action sequences of the game, pointed their lenses at us! And we showed up on the giant screen, much to our amusement (and embarrassment). I caught that part on video, and I'll put it up here sometime...
The World Cyber Games festival. Did you know that in South Korea, video gaming is considered a pro sport?

As we continued walking east along the beach, we also came across this giant sandbar (or, I guess it's a dike?) that was created as a safety measure against the typhoon's giant waves. It was essentially a huge wall of sand, and we took a short stroll on top of it!
I love Monica's rainbow umbrella!
Then, we found a Mango Six cafe and stopped for mango smoothies, dried mangoes, and mango fro-yo (which was phenomenal -- I'll have to visit again). And again, we just chatted about life in the present and life plans for the future. It was so pleasant having people to talk to who have had experiences similar to mine, never mind that it comprises a mere six weeks spent in Orientation.
Hilary and I were matching perfectly! We're both wearing red pants that we bought in Korea. I promise we didn't coordinate. Haha, this is such a happy photo! (taken by Payal)
For dinner, we went to a Mexican bar/restaurant called Fuzzy Navel (...?) in Haeundae. I guess it's becoming a habit of mine to find a Mexican place when I go to a larger city in Korea... I suppose I'll do it again when go visit Daegu and Gwangju! Anyway, at Fuzzy Navel I got a chicken avocado burrito, and although the tortilla was strangely crispy, it was overall a fantastic burrito worth the 11,500 Won. I wouldn't recommend getting any of the smaller dishes; portions were 작은변이예요. Also, if you're craving guacamole, the stuff here is pricey and a bit bland. But my burrito was good! :3
Dinner at Fuzzy Navel. Nachos and cheese! Salsa! Guac! Burrito! 멕시코음식! (taken by Payal)
The very last thing for the day was a quick trip to Seomyeong (서명), which is where a lot of the nightlife happens. It reminded me of Hongdae in Seoul; there were tons of bars, restaurants, and interesting shops open late. Pedestrians were everywhere, and it looked like a great, younger crowd, something I haven't been able to locate yet in Changwon. There is also an underground mall (yeah, like a 地下街!) here, which is apparently called a 프리멀 (Primall). Finding it was a nice surprise! I'll definitely be back to Seomeyong soon!
Nighttime scene in Seomyeon. It was busy and lively, but it wasn't hot or crowded. I wish I'd had more time to explore!
So that was my day in Busan. I had a great time, and I've already decided to go back a few more times this semester. Thanks, fellow Fulbrighters, for showing me around!

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