(Travlenews=William Harlow) Pusan is located on the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula and has long been one of the major port cities in Korea. Busan is also a major metropolitan area with lots to do and see.
Busan (also called Pusan using the older translation system) has a long history. It is from Busan that Japanese Admiral Togo launched his fleet against the Russians in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War and defeated the Russians in the Battle of Tusima Straits. It is also where United States and United Nations forces arrived in 1950 in a desperate attempt to keep the communist North from dominating the entire peninsula. The tough fighting around what became known as the Busan Perimeter allowed the free world to keep a toe hold in Korea until the Incheon landings turned the situation around.
Today, Busan is the southern end of the main economic corridor in Korea. This corridor runs from Seoul to Busan and includes the main expressway called the Kyongbu Expressway (Express Highway Number 1) as well as regular and high speed rail. Along this corridor you will find the vast majority of the Republic of Korea’s economic activity. To get from Seoul to Busan you have several options. First, you can go by car or bus. This is at best a five hour drive; however, you are at the mercy of traffic conditions and it could take a lot longer. Your other option is by rail. Here you have several choices.
First you have the local trains called the Mugunghwa. These trains are normally orange in color and stop at every station along the way. This is the least expensive option, however, you could die of old age before you reach Busan. The next class up is the Saemaul. These trains are normally green in color and use to be the main express train to Busan. The Saemaul makes limited stops and will get you into Busan in about five hours. The best option is to take the KTX high speed rail. These trains are normally blue in color and are state of the art. Some make a few stops on the way to Busan while there are also a few direct non-stop options. These trains can travel in excess of 200 km/hour and can get you to Busan in less than three hours. The KTX is more expensive, but well worth the money. You can catch one at either Seoul Station or Yongsan station.
The trains all have reserved seats. The cars, especially on the KTX are modern and comfortable. During your trip you enjoy a smooth ride with state of the art amenities. Vendors will come through the car selling drinks and snacks. Just sit back and relax and you will arrive at the Busan main railway station in no time.
Once you arrive in Busan you will find it very easy to get around. Busan has a subway system that is less elaborate than the one you will find in Seoul; however, it works the same way and is the easiest way to get around the city. If the subway is not your style you still have the option of using buses or taxis; however, this will cost you a lot more money. Upon arrival in Busan Station, get a city map and subway map. There is access to the subway right at the station so you can start you adventures right away.
Busan offers much to do including shopping, parks, and beaches. You can use the map you acquired to find places that may interest you. Three that I find most interesting is the port’s main market, it famous beaches, and a boat ride of the harbor. Chagalch’i Market is the most famous. This market has open stalls that sell various commodities from seafood to clothing to household goods. In addition to this market there are also other markets in the vicinity. Downtown Busan also has many department stores; however, these are not significantly different that the ones you would find in any large Korea city and are not worth you spending limited time.
Of course Busan is right on the Korean Straits or South Sea. This means beaches. Being farther south, it also means a more temperate climate. Busan has numerous beaches including the Songdo Beach to the south of the city and Kwang-anni Beach in the western part of the city. These beaches all have nice hotels nearby. The most famous beach is Haeundae Beach. This is also my favorite as it is easily reached by subway, it has nice hotels along it, and the beach itself is great. There are also numerous shops, restaurants, bars and activities. The seafood is great. There is a lot to do. Besides the normal beach activities, one thing I like to do is wait until the evening, get some fireworks (readily available) and shoot them over the ocean. At night, you can see people along the beach launching fireworks. This is especially true during the cooler months when getting in the water is not fun. One word of warning, it may be better to go during the early spring or late fall as during the summer months the beaches are really crowded and the hotels are full.
Another activity that is lots of fun is taking a harbor boat ride. For a small cost you can get out on the water and see the city from a different perspective. One site to see is the Oyukdo islands. These are small rock outcroppings in the harbor that give you an optical illusion. You can’t tell if there are five or six islands (spoiler alert, there are six). The name alludes to this as O is the number five, yuk is the number six, and do means island. So it literally translates as five or six islands.
After a day or so at the beach it soon time to head back to Seoul. A quick subway ride takes you back to the main Busan rail station. The KTX leave on time. In a few hours you are back in Seoul and ready for your next adventure in Korea. It is a great way to spend a few days. The train rides are very relaxing and you to see a lot of the country side during the trip. Busan is a great city with a lot to do and see. Busan also has museum, temples, and parks. Also being a major seaport, it is very cosmopolitan and there are lots of great places to eat, drink and be merry (aka Texas Street). So make sure you include this in your tour of Korea.