Busan/Pusan. Tomatoe/Tomato

As some of you may know this last weekend (May 23-26) was Memorial Day weekend in the United States.  It was NOT, however, Memorial Day weekend in Korea.  Therefore, I did not get the 26th off, but I did skip out of work two hours early (which was a WAY bigger deal than it should have been) on Friday, May 23rd to head down to Busan (when Koreans say it it sounds more like “Pusan”).  Busan is the second largest city in Korea, is in the southwest region of the country, and is the closest city to Japan.  You can actually see Japan from the beaches of Busan on a clear day,which, while I was down there, it was not. Busan is a top tourist area because it has two very famous beaches, Haeundae and Gwangalli.

To get to Busan the fastest thing to do for me was to take the KTX (high speed train) from Suwon.  It takes about 2.5 hours to get to Busan from Suwon.  The KTX, on average, travels at about 290 kilometers per hour, which is 180 miles per hour.  I left Suwon at 5:30pm and got to Busan Station at 8pm (gotta love that Korean punctuality!).  The ride was comfortable and I got to see some Korean countryside that you don’t get to see a lot of in the city.  I was really surprised at the amount of mountains!  I know Korea is mountainous, but after the first hour it seemed like we were going through more tunnels through mountains than we were actually outside.

Once I got to Busan Station it was another hour by the city metro to get to where Steve and his friends were staying near Haeundae Beach.  Once I met up with them we went to several bars.  The more famous bars we went to were “Thursday Party” and “Fuzzy Navel”.  Both bars were ok, nothing too special, but with nice atmosphere.  We also went in to some of the “Blue Tents” which is an entire street filled with little blue tent stands where people sell live seafood to you.  I didn’t try anything (partly because I’m not a huge seafood fan and it was also expensive!), but one of Steve’s friends, Peter, tried sea urchin which looked…ok.  Still not my thing.  After talking to some locals about the best clubs we went to “247” Club which cost $15 to get in to (I was not super thrilled about that).  The club was ok, not great and not worth the $15 in my opinion, but still a fun night.

On Saturday we went down to the beach for a short walk and to eat some dumplings for a late breakfast.

The beach wasn’t busy because it was quite cold the weekend we were there.  The high was usually in the mid-70s.
After going down to the beach for a while we went to Jagalchi Fish Market, a famous fish market in the area.  We walked around and saw some interesting sea creatures you could buy and have cooked for you in restaurants upstairs.  Peter and our friend Bianca bought urchins and (GIANT!) shrimp respectively.  We went upstairs where Bianca (who is fluent in Korean) helped us figure out how to purchase this smorgasbord of seafood for just $28 a person.  
This photo only shows HALF of the food we got.  We didn’t realize it at the time, but more food was still coming.
As expected, I did not enjoy most of the things I tried, but I did try EVERYTHING (except the cut up octopus that was still wriggling around).  I tried sashimi (probably my favorite thing because it was the most familiar), abalone, blue crab, fish soup, shrimp (I’ve had that before so it doesn’t really count), urchin, scallops (too squishy/chewy), etc. After the fish market we headed down to Gwangalli Beach where the guys (Steve, his office mate, Ryan, and Peter) proceeded to have a “jumping” competition with a group of young Korean men to see who could jump the farthest.  They decided that the loser would have to go in the water. The first round a nice little Korean man lost and went into the water up to his chest.  Then in the second round Steve lost because when he jumped he fell backwards.  Ryan and the Korean joined him in the water (Ryan because he’s nice, the Korean because he lost the first time and didn’t go all the way in).
The competitors
After the beach we went back to our hotel and showered and got cleaned up.  Then we went to the Seomyeon Station (a train station) area and met up with friends for a dinner at a delicious Korean bbq place.  After dinner we went out to a few bars, but everyone was pretty tired so after a few hours of walking around looking at people we went to a bar and just sat and people watched.  It was a fun weekend and I think it was good to see Busan!

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