Last Friday was Zach’s division’s 101st birthday, and so they had a ball on Thursday night and a 3 day weekend to celebrate. Since Zach’s division hardly ever takes time off, even on federal holidays, we decided to take advantage of the down time to travel south to visit Korea’s second largest city, Busan. (Side note: They took a video clip of us at ball for the upcoming Army Navy Game on December 8th, so watch out for us with the 2nd Infantry Division….Zach and I are all the way in the back! haha). Because traffic is awful, the drive would have been 4-5 hours, so we decided to try out the speed train here and got there in 2 hours flat. It was super nice, roomy, and the countryside along the way was absolutely gorgeous (sorry, no pictures, hard to get non-blurry pictures at 130km per hour). It constantly blows my mind how beautiful it is here in Korea. Seriously.
Busan might be my new favorite city. Its a rather large city with public transit, and in one line of sight you can see beach and mountain. Its like all my favorite things in one place. Since Zach’s job here in Korea is kind of non stop, I made an effort to not make a game plan so we could just go with the flow and take it easy (which was quite difficult with my type A personality haha). This lack of game plan made me seriously anxious since we don’t speak the language here and were in new territory. However, the more I continue to go out and explore Korea, I am always pleasantly surprised with the kindness and accommodations that are made to make it easier for those of us who cannot read and speak Hangul; I think I fall a little more in love with Korea with every little trip I take.
The first day we were in Busan was super rainy, so we went and visited the UN memorial cemetery and then went to the world’s largest department store to wait out the rain. The cemetery was absolutely beautiful, and you can tell the care and money that is put into its upkeep. I would be telling a lie if I said Zach and I didn’t get lost in the department store more then once, it was insanely large and sandwiched between two shopping malls. It had everything from a ice rink, to an American style pub, to everything in between. Though it wasn’t initially what we planned on doing, we found a Charlie brown Christmas tree since we didn’t bring any of our Christmas decorations with us. #winning.
On Saturday, what was supposed to be a chill sight seeing day was anything but. 30,000 steps and 125 floors later, Zach and I saw a Buddhist temple overlooking the Sea, on of Busan’s numerous beaches, a cultural village, South Korea’s largest fish market, and a night market for all the street food. It was exhausting but totally worth it. My poor husband can’t catch a break! haha.
- Haedong Yonggung Temple – this temple was originally built in the 1300’s but was destroyed by the Japanese and then later rebuilt. It was absolutely breathtaking but absolutely jammed with tourist by 11am. It was very neat seeing people come to worship here and to take in all the beauty of the temple and the surrounding area. I would love to go back at sunrise, because though it was beautiful, there were almost too many people there to really enjoy it the way I would have liked too.
- Haeundae Beach – even though it was barely 60 degrees, if there is beach, I will be there. This beach is beautifully maintained and boasted a beautiful view of skyscrapers, sea, and mountains. There was a farmers market, tons of restaurants, and they were even doing an outdoor gaming tournament while we were there. Definitely going to be making our way back during the summer months to catch some rays and delicious street food for sure.
- Gamcheon Cultural Village – this might have been my favorite stop on the trip. It’s considered one of the most Instagrammed place in Busan, and after seeing it, I completely understand why. During the Korean War, many South Korean’s fled south to Busan to escape the war front. Gamcheon Cultural Village is the result of that migration of the population: it was once a shanty town that has now been turned into an art center to turn a dark chapter in Korea’s history into something beautiful. It’s houses upon houses in the hills of a mountain with curvy alleys and beautiful colors, and it seems to go on forever and ever. Throughout the village, there were different art exhibits, vendors, cafe’s and a museum to educate visitors on the area. Zach and I had our first Patbingsu, which is a popular Korean dessert made with shaved ice and red beans. Red beans are a dessert here, and the way they are prepared is sweet, but not overly sweet, and I must admit I was not a big fan in the beginning, but it has slowly grown on me. We took so many pictures here, and though we were there for almost 2 hours, I could have spent the whole day there.
- Jagalchi Market – Being that Busan is a seaside city, it makes sense that it’s home to Korea’s largest fish market. Most of the fish were alive, and you could pick your seafood and have the merchant prepare it for you to eat right there on the spot. They had everything from fish, shrimp, king crab, lobsters, eels, octopus, squid, and Korea’s famous penis fish, because, you know, it looks like a penis LOL. A few blocks over, there are about 5 different night markets that Zach and I walked through to have our dinner. From fish on a stick, to tornado potatoes, we ate ourselves silly and loved every second of it.
Although our time was short, we are already planning our next trip to Busan in the Spring. Highly recommend and it is super easy to navigate despite not knowing the language.
Next weekend we are hoping to go on a hike to check out the fall foliage, but besides that we will be pretty low key until Thanksgiving when we go to Malaysia for 5 days. So it might be a little slow on the blog front, but who knows what adventures I will get into between now and Thanksgiving.
On a side note, though I live in another country, its hard not to see what is going on back home and it makes my heart hurt so much. I wish so much that people could be more like how the Koreans have been towards us, the foreigners. It would be so easy for the Koreans to not be welcoming, to make things difficult, to resent us for taking jobs from them, for influencing their culture away from their traditional ways, but instead, it is the exact opposite. Instead of resisting the people that are different, the Korean’s are curious and even accommodating in so many ways, its almost hard to believe at times. I feel as if we are truly embraced here despite our differences, and I am so eternally grateful for the experience of feeling the warmth and kindness that the Koreans offer. Just over the weekend, a group of people at a bus stop were enjoying apples and handed Zach and I each one without batting an eye, a woman insisted on taking our picture when we were struggling to take a selfie at the temple, and a bus driver went out of his way to make sure we knew where we were going because we must have had that look of confusion on our faces. The language barrier was most definitely present in all 3 situations, but the common bond of being human was what made it all possible. Love one another peeps. Life is too short and its such a beautiful way to live! Until next time…