Haeundae Beach, also possibly the most famous beach in South Korea. Even before my first trip to South Korea, I already knew about Haeundae Beach because it keeps getting mentioned on Korean dramas and variety shows. Needless to say, we had to make sure to come and visit so we could see what all the fuss was about. That conversation led to us thinking of seeing another beach, the equally famous Gwangalli Beach.
Having been to both places, I have to say I think they’re famous for two different reasons. To me, Haeundae Beach is a beach in the more traditional sense of the word— with a wide open sea that invites you to dive in, and fine sand that makes you want to lie down on a beach towel with a book. The highlight of the Gwangalli Beach meanwhile is the beautiful Gwangan Bridge. The sight incites a bit of this wistful and romantic feeling in you, especially when you see some fireworks occasionally lighting up the bridge. This is my personal feeling, anyway.
We traveled to Haeundae Beach first, following a schedule that would allow ample time to view sunset at the other beach. The moment you arrive at the plaza that leads to Haeundae Beach, you will be beckoned by the glittering waters in the distance.
I’m no stranger to nice beaches since my own country has a fair share of amazing ones, but I have never been to a beach during the autumn season. Granted, it was just the beginning of autumn this time so the weather was neither chilly nor too hot, but the wind was certainly different. Just cool enough to make you want to hang out outdoors for extended periods. I find that the autumn season always makes me want to frolic outdoors the most.
Haeundae Beach stretches 1.5 kilometers long, with a lovely coastline that frames blue waters that are apparently fairly shallow. That’s why people flock here to swim during the summer. There were no swimmers during this time, and no sunbathers as well, but there were lots of people exercising, jogging, and generally just milling about at the shore. Including us.
We clearly enjoyed snapping photos over here. If you’re curious about the pose we’re doing below, people who play Super Mario Party would know lol.
We popped into nearby Gomae Milmyeon for some late lunch. This place offers up one of Busan’s specialty dishes called milmyeon. As a huge lover of the regular bibim naengmyeon, I already knew I was going to love eating here. At the very least, I was excited to eat the Busan version of my favorite Korean noodle dish.
We ordered bibim milmyeon, which was 7,500 won at the time. Based on my observation, the major difference between this restaurant’s version of milmyeon and the typical naengmyeon is the flavor of the sauce, although traditionally they also differ in the type of noodles they use. Naengmyeon uses the super chewy buckwheat noodles while milmyeon uses wheat noodles. It’s not really out of a desire to be different, but because during the Korean War in the 1950’s, buckwheat was not widely available in Busan.
If I remember correctly however, I think the noodles we had at Gomae was buckwheat. The noodles were not the yellow of wheat noodles.
I’m not knowledgeable enough about Korean cuisine to nitpick other differences, but as expected, I loved the milmyeon. We also ordered some mandu (5,000 won) and Seafood Kalguksu (6,000 won). Everything was satisfactory, although I can’t help but wonder if locals would find the dishes served here a bit lackluster. The naengmyeon I remember eating at a mom-and-pop restaurant in an alleyway at Namdaemun Market was more fantastic than this was.
Moving on, it was time to head to our second beach location for the day. As the person in the group who has memorized the Korean alphabet, I was in charge of confirming which bus would take us to Gwangalli Beach. I’m not fluent in any way so I guess it makes sense that it took me a moment too long to realize that the Korean spelling on all the signages and listings is actually Gwang-AN-li (광안리) and not Gwang-AL-li. It didn’t immediately register that the two are one and the same lol. I like to read the Korean signs just to make sure we’re getting on the right bus, because Busan is such a huge city and not every part is as easily accessible to public transport as, say, Seoul. If we end up lost, we’ll probably end up walking a lot just to get to a bus stop.
Anyhoo, we managed to time our arrival at Gwangalli Beach about half an hour before sunset. In the evenings, the iconic Gwangan Bridge gets illuminated, and we really wanted to see that. Some people probably think it’s entirely unnecessary to visit two beaches in one day when you’re not even thinking about swimming, but I like that both Haeundae and Gwangalli Beach provide very different looks and vibes. They photograph very differently too! While Haeundae is mostly open horizon, Gwangalli seems to be framed in by a bridge and buildings on both sides.
Once the sun completely sets, the bridge is not the only thing that becomes illuminated. The way the lights create a pattern in the distance, it’s almost as if there has been careful consideration of how the lights on the buildings should look if viewed from the beach.
I have to say, it doesn’t quite appeal to me to swim in the waters of Gwangalli compared to Haeundae, but this view is definitely fabulous. You can sit on its equally fine sand and just listen to the gentle waves lap against the shore while waiting for fireworks to suddenly light up the sky.
These tiny sparks are probably just for personal purposes, but this area actually hosts the Busan Fireworks Festival every year. It’s the perfect location! We were a month early for the festival since it’s held every October, but based on the photos I have seen online, it’s GLORIOUS! If you happen to be in Busan in October, make sure to check the calendar if you like fireworks.
I suppose if I really think about it, for me, I see Haeundae as perfect for when the sun is up, while Gwangalli is perfect for when the sun is down. Two very different charms of two beaches in the same city. That’s Busan for you!
Before we boarded the bus heading home, we stopped by a nearby Korean BBQ place that offers affordable meat sets. The restaurant is called 꽃보다소 or Kkok Bodaso.
I don’t remember the specific set we got, but I’m certain we ordered some wang galbi, having read a review saying the wang galbi here is great quality. Nonetheless, I think you can just go with any set that fits your mood and budget. The restaurant serves fresh and good quality meats in general, and even the banchan were good. We were happy with everything we ate and went home with full tummies!
Ugh this photo is making my mouth water!
If I could describe this day in a few words, I would call it a day that treated our souls and our tummies very very well.
Other posts in the BUSAN AUTUMN 2019 SERIES:
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