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The Busan Cinema Center

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The $150 million dollar Busan Cinema Center is an architectural oddity which opened to the public during the Busan Film Festival in October, 2011. Its cantilever roof is the world’s largest and seems to break the laws of gravity. And at night, it lights up in spectacular color, adding a splash of beauty to Busan’s most modern neighborhood.

Steel Busan

We walked over to the Cinema Center directly after having my protective post-LASIK contact lenses removed at the Sojunghan Nun Ophthalmology Clinic. It had been just 24 hours since my surgery and, with the lenses freshly off, I was really seeing with my new eyes for the very first time. We couldn’t have picked a more impressive visual smorgasbord than the amazing Cinema Center.

The building seems to make no sense, with a curving roof supported only at one end by an inverted cone structure, which acts as the main entrance and houses a cafe. Underneath the massive roof, there’s a screen and open air seating for 4000 people, and spread across its three buildings (the Cine Mountain, BIFF Hill and Double Cone) are three further screens, lecture halls, restaurants and a performance art theater.

The complex most fully lives up to its potential during the Busan Film Festival, but there are daily screenings of classics and current hits during the rest of the year — although the website to check showtimes is Korean-only, there are American films shown often, almost always subtitled. But even if you’re not up for a movie, it’s worth taking a nighttime stroll by the Cinema Center to check out the amazing LED display on the bottom of its 60×160 square meter roof.

Location on our Busan Map
DVDs For Only One Dollar

Busan World Record Roof
Take a Seat
Pattern Busan
Huge Roof Busan
Glass And Steel
BIFF At Night
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July 6, 2012 at 5:02 am Comments (0)

Busan’s Chinatown – Shanghai Street

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Straight across from Busan Station, a traditional Chinese-style gate welcomes you into Shanghai Street — the nexus of the city’s Chinatown. We visited this hectic and very un-Korean neighborhood during its annual celebration.

Chinatown Korea

The Chinese and Koreans have had a rocky relationship since long before the founding of either nation, but the contemporary Chinese presence in Busan only dates from 1884, when the city officially established diplomatic ties with Shanghai. A Chinese school and a consulate were established in the present-day Shanghai Street, which resulted in a number of Chinese settling here permanently.

A couple months ago, I would have never been able to tell the difference between a Chinese and Korean street, but now it was immediately clear. As soon as we passed through the Shanghai Gate, we found the street signs and restaurant names written in bewildering Chinese instead of the simple Korean characters we’ve learned to recognize. And mixed in among the Koreans wandering the neighborhood and partaking in the festivities was a noteworthy number of… Russians?!

Yes, even more so than the Chinese, it’s the Russians who now inhabit this area most prominently, particularly along a specific strip of Chinatown known as Texas Street. The name comes from the days when US soldiers used to prowl the neighborhood in search of cheap booze and cheaper sex. The Americans are now gone, and Texas Street has been thoroughly Russified, with advertisements for vodka visible among the numerous sex dens. I’m glad we were walking around the neighborhood during the day, as it can get pretty seedy and dangerous at night.

Russians on Texas Street in a Korean Chinatown. It couldn’t get much more internationally jumbled than that, unless they were all wearing lederhosen and eating burritos.

Because of the rain, we didn’t stick around the festival for long; just enough to catch the end of a musical performance, and the beginning of that ancient and revered Chinese ritual of noodle-speed-eating. This was fun, especially when one of the contestants began laughing uncontrollably, shooting noodles out her mouth and nose, all over the table. She didn’t win.

Location of the Shanghai Gate on our Map
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Dragon Alley Busan
Chinatown Busan Festival
Street Stop
Chinese High Five
Chinese Statue
China Town Lantern
Dragon Fight
Umbrella Party
Teaching Chinese
China Juice
Chinese Fish
Steams Baskets
Tiger Dumpling
Dorky Chinese
Cute Chinese Korean
Moon Cake Lady
Sneaky Signal
Take Picture
Korean Veteran
No Arms Man Korea
Korean Beagle
Lion Face
Russion and Korean
Russians in Busan
Rainy Russain
Russian Cafe
Noodle Puking Contest
Noodle Puke
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July 2, 2012 at 12:36 am Comments (2)

Haeundae’s Sand Festival

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Great Hotels in Busan

The beginning of the summer has hit Busan, and the city seems to be celebrating with a raft of festivals. There’s the International Car Show, a River Sports Festival, an International Dance Festival, a Port Festival, and a Traditional Folk Festival… and this all in the first week of June! We felt a little guilty skipping out on all of them, so decided to check out the Sand Festival at Haeundae Beach.

Sand Art

It was one of the first sunny weekend days of summer, and the beach was packed with people. Not too many of them were there for the Sand Festival, though, and it quickly became apparent why. Where we had expected huge statues made of sand, the sculptures weren’t much more than “paintings” in the sand, carved out of big mounds.

Some of them were quite well done, but we weren’t too impressed and quickly abandoned the festival to spend an extra hour laying on the beach. But we got some great photos worth sharing, and the atmosphere on the beach was a lot of fun… even if we can classify the Sand Festival itself as “skippable”.

Eat Your Kimchi

Sand Festival Busan 2012
Beach Tents
Beach Condo Busan
Sand Castle Busan
Samurai Korea
Sand Queen
Sand Temple
Sand Warrior
Sargent Frog Korea
Korean Astronaut
Screaming Baby Sand
Sand Artist
Beach Dream
Fun In The Sand
K-Drama F4
Korea Swimming
Big Balls
Little Stonkers
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June 6, 2012 at 8:10 am Comment (1)

The Lotus Lantern Parade

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Though Christianity has recently become the dominant religion in South Korea, the country had been a primarily Buddhist land for nearly all of its history. Buddha’s Birthday, which fell on May 28th in 2012, is a major celebration across the peninsula. And the week-long Lotus Lantern Festival which precedes it is an engaging reaffirmation of the country’s traditional faith.

Neon Dragon

The festival kicked off with a host of events in Yongdusan Park, in Nampo-Dong. A collection of floats were on display — automated dragons, Buddhas, fire-breathing peacocks — and the park was packed with both monks and people out looking for a bit of fun. This wasn’t the most somber or conservative of religious festivals; one of the events was a B-Boy break-dancing competition.

A group of tents in the park constituted the Arts & Crafts center and, walking past, we were immediately targeted for participation by an overly-enthusiastic volunteer. She sat us down next to kids, where we created toy lanterns. Then she grabbed our arms and led us the “ink stamping” section, where we pounded out Buddhist designs. Then she pushed us over to the “wishing ribbon” section, where we wrote down our names and our dreams for the future. “My name is Mike, and I wish for a world free from the scourge of Arts & Crafts!”

The festival-closing parade on Sunday night was a colorful event. We were surprised how few onlookers were lined up on Daechung Road to watch it pass, but then… most of the city was in the parade. Group after massive group of waving, lantern-carriers passed by, along with neon-colored float and the occasional marching band. We followed the final group up to Yongdusan Park, where there was a fireworks show followed by a concert of traditional drumming.

The Temple of the Tooth

Lantern Festival
Korea Nature Dance
Dragon Lantern
Bunny Lantern
Tree Lantern
Lotus Making
Buddha Stamp
LOL Dragon
Korean ButterFly
Busan Blog
Lotus Lantern Busan
Drummer Lotus
Lantern Fest
Buddhist Monk Busan
Angry White Tiger
Dragon Parade Busan
Lotus Army
Steaming Buddha
Lantern Street
Busan Guide
Lonely Dragon
Fire Peacock
Busan Dragon
Busan Laser
Extasy Busan
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May 26, 2012 at 3:05 am Comments (0)

Cosplay at Comic World

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Cosplay Costumes

Manga is a Japanese phenomenon, but comics and animated TV shows are also big business in Korea, where they’re known as manhwa. During our first weekend in Busan, a manhwa festival called Comic World was being held at the BEXCO convention hall. Wild Korean youth dressed in freaky cosplay? No way we were missing that.

Manga Dreams

Unfortunately, the convention was a disappointment. There were stands selling posters, slash fiction, stickers and t-shirts. Some kids were sitting on the floor to watch TV shows. And that was about it — perhaps we arrived at a slow time, but it was more than a little boring. We could have saved the ₩4000 ($3.60) apiece we paid to enter the hall, because the real action was going on outside.

A ton of young girls and guys costumed as their favorite characters were wandering around the BEXCO plaza, striking poses for photographers (“We are combat team!” or “I am sweet schoolgirl!”). There were a lot more girls than guys; even in the world of comics, playing “dress up” seems to be a female-dominated pastime. And I noticed that the more attractive the girl, the sexier her outfit tended to be. Little wonder that most of the “photographers” at the event tended to be somewhat older, shifty guys.

We wanted to encounter different subcultures and sub-subcultures during our time in Busan, and this was a fun way to dip our toes into the water. The Comic World festival occurs every couple of months at the BEXCO.

Does anyone have recommendations for some good manhwa available in English?

Location on our Busan Map
Comics For 1 Dollar

Busan Comic World
Cosplay Korea
Cosplay Fashion
Cosplay US Army
Cosplay Phone
Cute Cosplay
Cute Miss Saigon
Angel Manga
Bad Manga Hair Day
Cosplay Cross Dresser
Horny For Mangas
Loca Manga
Manga Mess
Sexy Cosplay Girl
Sexy Cosplay Ninja
Sexy Secret Agent
Top Hat Manga
Voilet Warrior
Manga Punks
Manga Drag Queen
Boys Love Mangas
Manga Convention
Bizarre Busan
Cosplay Dance
Cute Korea
Korean Kids
Cosplay Nurse
Roller Skates Cosplay
Romance Busan
Korean Super Star
Scream Korea
Korean Manga
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May 9, 2012 at 6:28 am Comments (4)
The Busan Cinema Center The $150 million dollar Busan Cinema Center is an architectural oddity which opened to the public during the Busan Film Festival in October, 2011. Its cantilever roof is the world's largest and seems to break the laws of gravity. And at night, it lights up in spectacular color, adding a splash of beauty to Busan's most modern neighborhood.
For 91 Days