It’s funny how I seem to remember a lot of things from this trip even 2 years later. Some memories are more vivid than others, but going through the photos and the video, there will be times where I get flashes of very clear memories of particular moments from the trip. If I had written about this trip a year ago, I think I would’ve wallowed a little bit in sadness because I miss traveling. And while that remains to be a fact, this time I just feel kind of wistful. Why let sadness taint such good memories?
Is it strange that my brain now identifies two distinct “eras” whenever I think about travel these days? There’s pre-COVID, which I’m sure most of us miss, and post-COVID, which I’m also sure most of us still do not have a clear picture of. I still can’t fully grasp how everything will have changed once all this is “over”. At this point, the term “new normal” has been tossed around so much and (at times) so flippantly it has lost a lot of its weight in meaning. But truthfully, so much has already changed. The “new normal” is already here and all of us have no other choice but to adjust. Still I can’t help but wonder how the “new normal” will affect my travels when the time comes.
Anyway, let’s talk about Busan. It’s a place or word made popular by the movie ‘Train to Busan’ but zombies aside, Busan is a gem of a city. It’s way more laid back than Seoul but manages to maintain a metropolitan air to it. I love how you seem to always get this background noise of the sea wherever you go. We visited Busan for only 2 days during this trip– barely enough time to scratch the surface! But we made sure to select particularly iconic places to visit. In this post I will share my personal recommended places to visit, especially for first-timers or short-time tourists, based on our own itinerary!
1. Taejongdae Resort Park
This is a place you MUST NOT MISS when you visit Busan. It’s a little far from most of the other tourist spots in town but is absolutely worth the time and effort to visit. I believe Taejongdae Resort Park is the best place to witness the beauty of Busan as a seaside city. The view from here is absolutely breathtaking, showcasing pristine waters and gorgeous skies as a backdrop for lush mountains.
There are also sculptures all over the park that try to communicate Busan’s role in South Korea’s status as a maritime nation. I especially like the sculptures that represent Korea’s commitment to respecting the seas and nature in general. It makes visiting much more meaningful, because it reminds you to be good to nature as well. If you like urban legends and myths, this place also has a fair share of those! You can read more about it on my blog post about Taejongdae Resort Park.
The best and most important tip I can give you to prepare for your visit here is to wear comfortable shoes. (Frankly, you’ll be doing a ton of walking wherever you go in Busan.) Bring bottled water with you as well, just in case the weather is hot when you visit. We were here at the start of autumn and the weather was absolutely brilliant! The sun was a little too bright at times, but there was always a cool breeze blowing. It was all-around pleasant weather to be hiking around a nature park.
[READ MY DIARY ABOUT TAEJONGDAE RESORT PARK]
2. Gamcheon Culture Village
It’s fascinating how popular these kinds of art villages are in South Korea. It’s almost as if every big city has one, and I think, more than anything, these villages illustrate the South Korean government’s commitment to improving the lives of its citizens. You see, most of these art villages or mural villages used to be slums. Looking at them now, it’s nearly impossible to tell that they had been anything other than a colorful cluster of buildings and artworks in the past.
There’s a similar location to Gamcheon Culture Village in Seoul called the Ihwa Mural Village. It was my first mural village actually, and if you read about the past of these places, it’s difficult not to appreciate the transformation.
Of course, all the paintings and installations help greatly in the appreciation aspect. No matter how many mural villages you end up visiting all over South Korea, you won’t ever find the same piece of work on display. I managed to photograph a handful of the pieces here in Busan in my blog post about Gamcheon Village. Check it out for an idea of what it’s like here.
Just a few words of advise for when you visit Gamcheon Culture Village: Firstly, wear comfortable shoes. This village is situated on a mountain and the only way to explore it fully is by foot. There aren’t as many stairs here as Ihwa-dong in Seoul, but you will go uphill and downhill a lot, plus it’s a fairly large area to cover on foot.
My second advice? Explore respectfully. Regardless of how Gamcheon Culture Village presents itself to tourists, it still is home to many people. It’s best to go around without disturbing the residents (which I do believe are mostly senior citizens), so please avoid shouting and talking loudly. Do not litter! Also, please do not randomly enter private properties for photographs.
[READ MY DIARY ABOUT GAMCHEON CULTURE VILLAGE]
3. Haeundae Beach
Coming from a country with gorgeous beaches located in more provincial areas, it’s not often I get to see a beach located in the heart of a modern city like this. Perhaps this is why Haeundae Beach is so popular– you turn one way and you are met with open waters, turn another and you’re right back into the hustle and bustle of modern civilization. I think we can generally refer to this duality as the charm of Busan.
Autumn is too chilly a time to go swimming, so like us, most people were here to take photos and enjoy some downtime by the covered benches. It’s definitely a picturesque and relaxing location. In fact, I may have spotted some office workers coming by to take a little break after work before heading home. They were in business attires with their sleeves rolled up, just sitting and enjoying the breeze, so I just assumed. With that, it’s fair to say Haeundae Beach is not just good for swimming.
We sat around as well after snapping photographs, kind of just people watching. I spotted a lot of kids building sand structures while many of the adults exercised all over the place. I am normally not the type of person who manages to sit still doing nothing, but even I have to admit it was nice to quietly be in the moment here. I liked hearing the sound of the waves lapping against the coast, and the occasional snatches of a child’s melodious giggles riding on the wind.
[READ MY DIARY ABOUT HAEUNDAE BEACH]
4. Gwangalli Beach
Yet another beach located in the heart of Busan is the Gwangalli Beach. This is the one that overlooks the lovely Gwangan Bridge. While the bridge is by no means the most impressive one I’ve encountered in my travels, I still wanted to come over here to see it light up in the night. It’s just nice, you know? A different view from the other beach I mentioned above. If you’re lucky, you might even catch some fireworks.
Speaking of fireworks, I totally understand why this was chosen as a location for the Busan International Fireworks Festival. Thought I’ve only seen it in photos, I can absolutely envision the spectacle in my mind. The Gwangan Bridge is like the launching pad that the fireworks bloom around. Perhaps I’ll time my next visit to Busan to coincide with the festival. But ahhh… When will that be?
[READ MY DIARY ABOUT GWANGALLI BEACH]
5. Yongdusan Park
I’m always so envious of countries with parks as lovely and as safe as this one. Here in Manila, our park is almost synonymous to “a dangerous place where you can get robbed”. Seriously. It’s impossible to relax because you have to stay vigilant. (And I’m not saying this to give Manila a bad name, but it’s the truth.) In any case, the point I’m trying to make is: One always appreciates more something they do not have. I don’t have access to a nice park in my regular life, and so I treasure every moment I get to chill in one when I travel.
The Yongdusan Park, while not too large, is absolutely gorgeous. It’s located atop a hill so you will have to climb some stairs to get up here. We were lucky to come across some orange trees, and it made the time we spent here feel all the more autumnal. If you walk around and spot the clock made of flowers, stand at the 6 o’clock position facing it and you will realize just how nicely set up the park is. From here, you can see all the highlights of Yongdusan Park at a glance.
This park gives me the impression of liveliness more than anything. It’s very vibrant, and it seems like a lot of events are held in the park’s amphitheater, adding to the nice vibe of the place. The quieter parts of the park feature lots of foliage. There’s also a manmade waterfall near the escalators and stairs that lead to street level.
[READ MY DIARY ABOUT YONGDUSAN PARK]
6. BIFF Square
To some, BIFF is all about films and actors; to many, it’s about street food! We came here aiming for the latter, and to tell you the truth, it was pretty overwhelming. Now that I think about it, it’s kind of funny how we ended up gravitating towards more familiar street food after walking around and seeing so many unusual stuff! There are food carts as far as the eye can see, and on another street there are pojangmacha (food tents). I preferred eating at a pojangmacha when I came here during the winter, but the autumn season is perfect for scoping out the food cart options for as long as you want before making a decision. (Which can still be difficult, given the choices!)
I think to best experience BIFF Square’s offerings, you will have to set aside a food trip budget and just purchase what strikes your fancy. There’s a mix of classic and unique offerings here, and also a mix of affordable and more expensive options. (Expensive for street food anyway.) I honestly feel like you won’t run out of things to try. Be mindful in choosing a food cart as well, because my cousin had a bad case of food poisoning after eating something from here. Make sure the food cart looks clean!
[READ MY DIARY ABOUT BIFF SQUARE]
I hope you found my recommendations helpful in planning a trip to Busan in the future! To see what else we were up to in Busan, check out the video below:
Other posts in the BUSAN AUTUMN 2019 SERIES:
- Making a return to Gamcheon Culture Village
- A brief exploration of Taejongdae
- Hanging out at Yongdusan Park & BIFF Square
- Snapshots from Haeundae Beach & Gwangalli Beach
- 5 Busan food experiences I loved
All images and videos on this blog are owned by The Tummy Train and Clarisse Panuelos. Unauthorized use of content, removal of watermark, or edit and reupload is prohibited and will constitute theft.