During our walks in the hills of Busan, we frequently see groups of hikers taking a break in a pavilion, drinking soju and playing Go-Stop, a betting game which uses small plastic flower cards. Once, we hovered around and watched for a bit — the players were too engrossed in the action to even notice our presence. The game looked fun, and later that day we bought our own deck.
As we were saying goodbye, the instructor continued to praise our skills. “You did so very good! Very talented at pouring tea, the traditional Korean way!” We sheepishly accepted her acclaim, but I knew what she was really thinking. “Get these clumsy oafs out of my sight, so that I can finally start laughing my ass off!”
I doubt there’s a reflective surface anywhere in South Korea that hasn’t, at some point in its life, served as a makeshift mirror for somebody checking makeup, fixing hair, or fretting about wrinkles. We’ve never seen people so obsessed with outward appearance as Koreans. It borders on the obsessive and is so widespread, so constant, that it’s begun to worry us.
Of all the technological marvels we’ve seen in ultra-modern South Korea, only one has completely wedged its way into our hearts: the Yogi-Yo button. Found on tables in many of Busan’s restaurants, it is utter, blissful genius. Press it, and your waiter appears like magic. Leave it unpressed, and you’re left alone.
Opened in 1978 at the western end of the U.N. Park in Daeyeon, the Busan Museum takes visitors on a journey through the history of the city and its region, from paleolithic times to the modern day. We visited recently and found it to be the perfect rainy-day activity.
South Korea’s most popular beach is Haeundae, found on the northeastern end of the city. Famous across the country as a place to see and be seen, Haeundae explodes into life during the summer when the entire beach is covered in both parasols and people who are less interested in swimming than looking good.
South Korea’s film industry has been absolutely killing it for the last decade or so, winning admirers across the globe for their character- and plot-driven movies which tackle every genre imaginable, from western to comedy to thrillers. Since arriving, we’ve been watching a lot of Korean flicks, and are almost always surprised and entertained — traditional Hollywood fare, this isn’t.
Gyeongju is a small city 50 miles north of Busan, known as the “Museum Without Walls” due to its incredible wealth of historic treasures. This was the capital of the powerful Silla Kingdom which ruled most of the Korean peninsula for nearly 1000 years (57 BC – 935 AD) and is without a doubt the most rewarding excursion you can make from Busan.
So-called “love motels” are ubiquitous in Korean cities, and exist primarily to provide couples a secretive, swanky place to hook up. But as we’ve discovered, they’re also a valid option for budget accommodation, for those who are more interested in sleep than sex.
Is there anything more thrilling than standing next to a wax figure of a celebrity? Say, Lady Gaga? Of course not, what a stupid question! Wax museums are among humanity’s most transcendent achievements, allowing us to indulge in fawning celebrity worship without the actual physical presence of the celebrity! There’s nothing the least bit ridiculous about that.