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.
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.
A trip to the Gamcheon Culture Village was one of the stranger excursions we've undertaken during our time in South Korea. This neighborhood in the west of Busan has dedicated itself to art, with murals, sculptures and installations that occupy entire houses. Visitors are taken on a tour which snakes through narrow alleys and ends at an observation deck with an amazing view over the city.
Before visiting Suyeong Park, we had no idea what to expect. Despite its central location, with Bexco and Shinsegae visible just over the Suyeong River, this ramshackle neighborhood is definitely not on the normal tourist itinerary. But we had a great time in the park, which was filled with historical monuments, sacred trees and people playing chess, exercising and just relaxing.
Just like baseball and pop music, there's another aspect of American culture which Korea has adopted, and then taken to the next level: in-your-face Christianity. I can't get through a single day without encountering another proselytizing Protestant, whether in the street or the subway. They invite me to their church, push "Jesus Loves You" fliers into my hand, and pray aloud for my eternal soul. They lure me in with free orange juice, and only then reveal their true intentions.
Walking around the Oncheon neighborhood toward the north of Busan, we happened upon a curious little pond where a bunch of Koreans were soaking their feet. A dragon's head was mounted on the wall of this open-air foot spa, like the prize of some mythical hunter.
We first spotted Snow Castle while doing a little aerial reconnaissance of our neighborhood on Google Maps. A big, curvy building on the end of Hwangryungsan mountain? Interesting... and what's that shape on the ground? [zoom] Is that a... [zoom]... yes that's definitely a giant skier in front of the hall.
Established in the year 678, Beomeosa is probably the most important Buddhist temple in Busan. And with its location in the foothills of Mt. Geumjeongsan, it's certainly among the most beautiful. Entering the complex is like stepping into another world, one more sacred and peaceful.
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.