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.
The largest market in Busan, and almost definitely the biggest I've ever visited anywhere, is in the central neighborhood of Bujeon. Calling it a market town is no mere hyperbole -- just the covered portion comprises a full grid of streets and alleys, and you can easily get lost in its chaotic, densely crowded streets.
We're more than halfway through out time in Busan, and still haven't gotten sick of the food. There's a lot more variety to the cuisine than we had expected, especially once you add in the Japanese and Chinese (and Thai and American and Vietnamese and so on) influences. This week, we tried a couple of non-Korean places out, gave in to our pizza addiction, and went against better judgment to sample ginseng wine.
The only thing which Koreans love more than taking pictures is having their picture taken. So I shouldn't have been surprised to find in Busan an entire museum dedicated to the art of posing for funny photos. But still... I was surprised. The Trick Eye Museum, underneath the Heosimcheong Spa, is one of the most bizarre places we've been in a long time.
For our second Korean jimjilbang experience, we decided to go big. The Heomsimcheong Spa in the neighborhood of Oncheon claims to be the largest spa fed by a natural hot spring in Asia. The popular complex, which also bills itself the Grand Hot Spring, includes a full hotel, an excellent brewery on the bottom floor and of course, a full array of baths and saunas.
If you're not in one of the city's numerous spas, the preferred method of relaxation seems to be playing on your smart phone. On the subway, in the park, at dinner, walking down the street, while driving, while talking to your friends. At the beach. Busanites are plugged into their phones in a way that seems obsessive. But they always look like they're having fun, so who are we to judge?
During our initial exploration of the Pusan National University neighborhood in the north of Busan, we happened upon a strange cultural landmark: the Charlie Brown Cafe. Dedicated to all things Peanuts, this coffee house provides stressed-out college kids the chance to escape into a simpler world.
At the far northeastern end of Busan, Songjeong Beach is a more beautiful and far less popular stretch of sand than the city beaches of Haeundae or Gwangalli. Although you can get there with bus or taxi, the best way to arrive is over a gorgeous three-kilometer hike through the woods.
The largest fish market in South Korea is found in downtown Busan, next to the busy shopping area of Nampo-dong and adjacent to the Lotte Aqua Mall. That it occupies such a valuable, central location speaks to how important the fish trade has always been to the city.
Are more than one haiku called haiki? I don't think so, but I'm too drunk on soju to really care. Imo, another bottle, please! And you might want a few, too, before reading my haiku. (Is more than one bottle of soju called soji?)