The mountains and hills of Busan are easily its best feature, both helping to confine the city's sprawl and offering parks and natural refuges for residents to escape the stress of everyday life. Among Busan's wide range of nature walks, the one spanning Igidae Park is among the most popular. We hiked along its 5.2 kilometer coastal trail on a sunny afternoon.
The Busan National Gugak Center opened in 2008 with the mission of bringing Korea's culture to the masses. We went to an incredible Tuesday night performance which introduced us to some of the peninsula's traditional music, dance and drumming.
Crescent-shaped Gwangalli Beach is one of the most popular hangouts in Busan, offering fine sand, good swimming, and an exorbitant number of cafés, restaurants and bars. We were lucky enough to call it home for three months and spent a lot of time on the its entertaining promenade.
Early on, we started to learn how to pick out some of the Korean words for foods we especially liked. Bibimbap is easy, mostly a lot of "b"s strung together (비빔밥). And we could quickly identify both bulgogi and kalguksu. But we weren't out of the woods yet! On one Saturday night, we sat down a popular place in Seuyoung and only realized at the last minute that they serve strictly intestines. Props to the English-speaking kid at the neighboring table for warning us!
Set atop Daecheong Mountain, one of Busan's most central peaks, Jungang Park offers visitors an unparalleled view over the city and its port. Inaugurated almost twenty years ago, the park and its crowning Chunghon Tower are dedicated to the memories of the service personnel who gave their lives in the Korean War.
Not far from Eatery Alley, we discovered Bookstore Alley: a tiny road jam-packed with an insane number of used bookshops, cafes and shoppers. With a history going back 50 years, this is one of the coolest corners we found in Busan, and a great place to spend a spare hour... even if you don't read Korean.
From the airplane, while arriving into Busan for the first time, I was afraid that the city might be too dull. But while the blocks of identical gray apartment buildings might dominate the skyline, once you get onto the streets, Busan offers endless variety. Temples, bars, traffic, cute plush toys and drawings, and... chicken crossings? This city has it all!
There's a small street in the shopping nexus of Nampo-Dong filled with stands offering a cheap outdoor lunch. Hot noodles, kimchi, rice bowls, tteokbokki (a spicy rice cake dish), all served up by a colorful collection of Korean lunch ladies. The map refers to this as "Eatery Alley", which is about as accurate a name as possible.
Hands down the most somber place we've visited thus far in Busan, the United Nations Memorial Cemetery pays tribute to the international brigade of soldiers who died defending the Republic of Korea against the forces of communism. Sixteen nations are represented here, and the cemetery is a melancholy reminder of the costs of war.
We ate a lot of interesting new foods during our time in Busan. The city's supermarkets are rather expensive, and eating out was almost as cheap as cooking at home, particularly when you stick to the kinds of local joints which we prefer. This is the first of our recaps on what we ate, and what it's called