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For 91 Days in Busan – The E-Book

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Our 91 days in Busan flew by, but we managed to see almost everything this incredible city has to offer — the museums, the people, cafés, hiking, beaches, and of course the food! All of our experiences and observations are now collected in a portable e-book, perfect for Kindle, Nook or any other eReader. The book contains over 200 full-color images and nearly 100 articles about South Korea’s second city, along with a useful index organized by both date and category. For just $7.99, this makes a great companion for your trip to Busan, whether you’re a teacher or a tourist.

Amazon Kindle

Direct Download (PDF, MOBI)

For just a few bucks, you can download your own copy of the book for use on your e-reader or computer, giving you access to our blog posts wherever you are, without having to connect to the internet. And, buying the e-book is a great way to support our project… take a look at some sample pages from the PDF.

Don’t forget to check out our other e-books, from our 91 days in Oviedo, Savannah, Buenos Aires, Bolivia, Palermo, Sri Lanka, Idaho, Istanbul, Iceland, the Yucatán, Tokyo, Macedonia and Curaçao!

September 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm Comments (9)

Annyeonghi Gyeseyo, Busan!

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Another 91 days has reached its conclusion and, as always, we’re shocked by how fast the time has flown by. Busan was an exciting, fascinating, foreign home to us, and though we’re excited to get back to the states and visit family before starting on our next adventure, we find ourselves sad to say goodbye.


Usually, by the end of three months in a new city, we feel as though we truly understand what makes it tick. Maybe we’re not experts, but just by spending so much time around the people, their food, history, music and nightlife, we have a good idea of what it’s about. That sense of familiarity, though, is not so strong after three months in Busan. I have a feeling we could spend three years here, and still not fully “get” the culture.

And that’s despite the fact that there are a lot of things about life in Korea that we’re instantly comfortable with. Baseball. Gadgets. Fast food. Pop music. Hiking and beaches (the things for which Busan is particularly well-known) require no special introduction. But as familiar as some things are, we’re never able to ignore how different the culture truly is. Like: we’d be at a baseball game but, instead of hot dogs, the family in front of us is munching silk worm larvae.

And strangely, Busan will endure in our memories as the place where we were treated the least like tourists. I don’t mean that we blend in at all — certainly not. But there’s a prominent population of foreigners who live here: English teachers, who number in the hundreds. And there’s no tourism to speak of. So when you see a white guy walking down the street, you can be 98% certain that he’s a local. Almost daily, someone would ask me which school I taught in. As soon as we arrived, we belonged to this “community”, even though we had absolutely nothing to do with it.

So, there’s a weird dynamic here. We’re visitors, but treated as locals. We’re familiar with some aspects of the culture, but mystified by others. We’re welcomed as guests by the community at large, but could we ever really be fully accepted into Korean society? Doubtful.

On the whole, we’re ready to get moving. We’ve had some unforgettable experiences in Busan, and made some wonderful friends. And we’ve fallen in love with the food! Bibimbap, kimchi, galbi, patbingsu, 물밀면. Yum. Oh, and that last food-item? We’re not just showing off there. It’s pronounced “Mulmilmyeon”, which is so ridiculous that it’s easier for us to recognize its characters and point, than dare pronounce it. Turns out that written Hangul isn’t all that hard to master, and we’ve had a lot of fun familiarizing ourselves with the language.

Somehow, I doubt my skills in Hangul are going to help much in our new temporary home: Idaho, in the great American West. It’s a state twice the size of South Korea, with 30 times fewer people. Nature, parks, rivers, cowboys, Indians and wide open spaces await us… it’s going to be a radically different experience to living in an Asian metropolis like Busan. If you’d like to follow us on this new adventure, make sure to keep your eye on our Twitter and Facebook accounts, or subscribe to our RSS Feed.

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July 30, 2012 at 10:33 pm Comments (13)

After One Month in Busan

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Our first month in Busan has flown by, and we’re a little upset that one-third of our time here is over! We’ve seen and done a lot, eaten strange and wonderful things, gone on a bunch of beautiful hikes, and met some great people, but I have the feeling we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. Here are our impressions, after one month in Busan.

Most Memorable

Mike: Our first hike at Geumjeongsanseong mountain was amazing. The cable car up the hill, the ancient history, the views over the city, and the huge expanses of wilderness. We were seriously lost in the woods, in the middle of a big city! That’s crazy.

Jürgen: The image of thousands of lanterns lit up at the Samgwangsa Temple I will never forget. We timed our visit to Busan perfectly; it would have been a real shame to miss the celebration of Buddha’s Birthday.
Favorite Food

Mike: I love Korean BBQ. The whole experience of cooking your own meat on a grill built right into the table is fun, though it requires a lot of paying attention. Not easy when you’re talking with friends and there’s soju on the table! The best we’ve had so far was the galbi (short ribs).

Jürgen: It must be bibimbap. I don’t know what makes me love that dish so much. It could be because I have to get active and stir the dish, served in a sizzling hot stone bowl, before it burns onto the edge.
Most Surprising

Mike: How delicious a meal of raw fish and still-wriggling octopus can be! And I never expected to have so much fun at a traditional drumming concert.

Jürgen: How skinny people are here. They’re constantly eating and drinking and they’re all in great shape. I could use whatever Korean gene that is.
Most Disappointing

Mike: This is hard, because we’ve been having such a great time in Busan. I guess the weather hasn’t been playing along very well — it’s been strangely cold and rainy throughout May.

Jürgen: Not really disappointing, but the most annoying thing is that when Koreans get flustered, nervous or embarrassed, they start giggling in your face. I just don’t know how to react to that.
Funniest / Weirdest

Mike: What’s up with the dogs with multi-colored dyed ears and tails? Does this mark them as “do not eat”?

Jürgen: We went out for Korean BBQ and started talking to the family at the table next to us. The mom wanted to take pictures with us, which is fine. Then the dad started pouring soju for us, which we loved. But then, he came over to me with chopsticks, trying to feed me some of his pork. Maybe it was an honor, but getting force-fed by drunk Korean daddy was a little too much for me.
How Expensive? From 1 (cheap) to 10 (expensive)

Mike: 4 – Supermarkets are surprisingly expensive — a single stem of broccoli for $4?! But most restaurants are more than reasonable, and cultural activities like museums and sports events are super-cheap. We’re spending a lot less than we expected to

Jürgen: Transportation, including taking taxis, is cheap. Eating out is very affordable as well. The moment you go for western food it’s rather pricey. We found a cheap apartment for our three months there. I would say 4
People from Busan are…

Mike: Laid-back, helpful and extremely attentive. At least, as long as they’re not driving, or rushing for a seat on the subway. Then, it’s best to stay out of their way!

Jürgen: Shy, but when approached very friendly and helpful.
Busan in Three Words

Mike: Modern, Mountainous, Easy

Jürgen: Huge, Comfortable, Hilly

Our opinions of Busan are sure to mature over the next couple months. June and July are still to come, and it will be great to see how the city changes once summer sets in.

June 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm Comments (2)

A Concise History of Busan… or Is it Pusan?

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Korea History Books

Busan or Pusan? The name is spelled both ways on signs around the city. Before arriving, I’d have bet that the official name was Pusan, but I would have been wrong. In 2000, a new method of transliterating Korean was implemented and the name changed overnight to “Busan”. The Korean character ㅂ represents both “b” and “p” (which, when you think about it, are nearly the same letter anyway). For the city’s residents, there’s no change at all. 부산 remains 부산.

Busan History

To my ears, “Pusan” sounds more like what people are actually saying, but it’s a close call. Regardless, Busan is a lot easier for Western tongues than the city’s original name, Geochilsanguk! Here’s a quick look at Busan’s long, tumultuous history:

Prehistory The earliest evidence of humanity in Busan dates from around 18000 BC. Pottery and shell middens mostly found along rivers and the coast indicate a fishing-based society.
2nd Century AD The town is organized for the first time as “Geochilsanguk”, under the administration of the Jinhan Confederacy.
757 After being absorbed into the powerful dynasty of Silla, the city’s name is changed to Dongnae, still the name of one of Busan’s neighborhoods. Silla was one of the Three Kingdoms of ancient Korea.
10th Century The Goryeo Dynasty (whose name would evolve into “Korea”) had succeeded in uniting the Three Kingdoms, and renames Dongnae to Busan-po. “Busan-” means “kettle”, referring to the shape of the city’s mountain, and “-po” means “harbor”.
15th Century Busan is designated an official trading post with Japan, leading to the formation of a large Japanese population in the city.
1592 Busan becomes the scene for the opening strike in the Imjin War, during which Japan invades Korea. The Japanese have a new technology in firearms, and overrun the city in two days.
1876 Busan becomes Korea’s first international port, and the city expands rapidly from a fishing village into a major center of commerce.
1910-1945 In 1910, Korea was annexed by an aggressive imperial Japan. Not the finest moment for the country, but Busan flourished under the Japanese administration, and technological innovations not seen in the rest of Korea are introduced here.
1946 Following WWII, Koreans are outraged by the unilateral Allied decision to split the country into two protectorates (American to the south, Soviet to the north). Railroad workers in Busan strike, kicking off the Autumn Uprising, which quickly spreads throughout the country.
Korean War Busan serves as Korea’s provincial capital, after most of the peninsula falls under Communist control. The Battle of the Pusan Perimeter lasts 45 days, sees 120,000 casualties and ends in a successful US-led defense of the city.
N. Korean POWS in Busan
(Dept of Defense)
1995 After a period of steady post-war economic progress and urban development, Busan is promoted to a Metropolitan City, giving it the same status as a province.

And Beyond… Construction continues in Busan at a furious pace, with giant retail stores, housing, and business centers sprouting up all over. It’s hard to imagine Busan sprawling out even further, but we probably shouldn’t underestimate the city’s hard-working, optimistic populace.

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May 9, 2012 at 12:18 am Comments (2)

An-Nyeong Ha-Se-Yo, Busan!

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Hotels in Busan

After an adventurous 91 days in Sri Lanka, we arrived in South Korea’s Incheon airport. Our connecting flight to Busan was leaving from the nearby Gimpo airport, requiring a 40-minute transit bus ride. Accustomed to our cramped and dangerous bus experiences in Sri Lanka, we boarded with weary dread. But what’s this?! Comfortable, individual seats? Seat belts? Air conditioning? Where was the Sinhalese pop blared at ear-splitting decimals? Why weren’t we careening recklessly down gravel roads? As we coasted down the smooth (paved!) highway, I closed my eyes and took a long, cleansing breath. South Korea!

Korean Spy
Busan, South Korea’s second city, doesn’t approach Seoul in terms of size or global influence, but is home to a metropolitan population of 3.6 million, and one of the busiest ports in the world. Busan is found on the south-eastern end of the peninsula, closer to Japan than the capital. An important business center full of suits, concrete and convention halls, Busan also boasts popular beaches, nature reserves and an urban landscape shaped by green mountains that pop up almost randomly amid the skyscrapers.

Our flight from Seoul was with Korean Air, whose wonderful agents managed to squeeze us onto a connection two hours earlier than the one we’d booked. And so, we landed in Busan much earlier than expected. South Korea’s second city doesn’t approach Seoul in terms of size or global influence, but is home to a metropolitan population of 3.6 million, and one of the busiest ports in the world. The city is found on the south-eastern end of the peninsula, closer to Japan than the capital. An important business hub full of suits, concrete and convention halls, Busan also boasts popular beaches, nature reserves and an urban landscape shaped by green mountains that rise up between the skyscrapers.

Usually, we do a lot of prep work before moving to a new city. Reading up on the language and culture, absorbing movies and novels set there, practicing the language. Things like that. But because we were so busy in Sri Lanka, we had been negligent in preparing for Busan. We knew next to nothing about the city, and just the basics about Koreans: that they have great cuisine, and that they’re are big on drinking, baseball and pop music. We recognized Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and exactly one Korean word (“hello”). And that was it!

We were beginners, extremely eager to get started on our 91-day crash course in the country and its culture. It would prove to be an incredible three months. On our first full day in the city, we went to the top of the Busan Tower, where we got a feel for the city’s staggering size. Busan is way too big, with way too many things to do and see in just 91 days, and that’s before considering the surrounding countryside and possible day-trips. We felt overwhelmed before we even began, but by the end of our three month stay, had earned a pretty solid feel for Busan. An incredible and completely overlooked city.

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Busan Port
Street Bridge Busan
Busan Street
Korean Airline Busan
Tradidtional Hotel Busan
Busan Blog
Dense Korea
High Tech Kore Busan
Parking In Busan
Korean Cars
Skyscraper Church Busan
Korean Garden
Look Out Busan

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May 5, 2012 at 10:22 am Comments (5)