Laugh at me if you must ,but taking a bath in busan is probably the coolest thing you can do over here. Why ever not? Heosimcheong Spa is supposedly the biggest hot spa in Asia and it can accomodate 2000 naked folks at any one time. Other than naked sods, this place is packed with more tubs and saunas than a toilet warehouse. And all those tubs are filled with fragrant herbal infusions that you can dip until you become all prune-wrinkly. And if you're bloody fool hardy, you can bare your naked ass in the open and soak yourself in the open-air pool outside. It's sadistically wonderful in winter time. Other than that, there are waterfalls that massage your backs and staff to scrub your back for 10,000 won or so. But be forewarned, you must be prepared to go all starkers here. Pay 8000 won at the entrance, grab a locker key and head for the gender-seperated baths. Last entry is 9 pm.
Expect to see all kinds of sea creatures when you're in Jagalchi Fish Market, Busan.This place is not called the biggest fish market in Korea for nothing! For the life of me, I don't know how this scary looking fish is cooked. Neither do I know its name. Now, I suppose the head would have to go off first before it's curried, grilled or fried. Failure to do so might scare the hell out of the diner. Just imagine this scary looking thing beside your plate of chips...
Would any kind reader please tell me the name of this fish??
If you don't mind being in an Asian wet market and surrounded by fishy odour, then you should really visit Korea's largest seafood joint, the Jagalchi Market . Unlike the Tsukiji fish market in tokyo, most of the fishmongers here people are women and they are known as the 'Jagalchi Ajumma' ( 'ajumma' meaning middle-aged or married women) . Come every October , the Jagalchi Cultural Tourism Festival is held, so that'll be a good time to go. Expect to seeworkers dressed like fish and other sea animals! Check with www.knto.com for the exact date of the festival.
Things to do
What else can you do but indulge in the fresh seafood? The surrounding area has many "pochang machas" / stalls which serve raw and cooked seafood.
There's a dried fish market nearby. More stinky than Jagalchi itself.
Taejongdae is a beautiful area with a bit of a morbid history. The cliffs jut out into the ocean and are one of the arms that embraces Busan harbour. The cliffs are absolutely beautiful, and must be 10-15 stories high (this is a personal guess). Although we haven't gotten to it yet, there is also a park that you can walk through and visit a observatory that sits on top of the highest cliffs. There are several other points of interest within the park.
We took a short ferry ride in order to get some seaside pics of the cliffs. The ferry costs 6000W, which is a little pricey for the quality of the ride, but worth it if you take your camera. You can get some magnificent photos.
The cliffs are nicknamed the Suicide Cliffs because of the number of young Koreans who have thrown themselves off of them. Koreans live in a very stressful society, with lots of pressure on their young people. For many teenagers and young adults, it is to much for them to handle. In order to prevent future suicides, the local government erected a stature of a mother watching over the cliffs. The government hoped that by seeing the statue and thinking of their mother, young people would be deterred from jumping.
Also a good activity to do at the cliffs is fishing. On any given day you can see dozens of people casting their flies in hopes of catching that elusive big one.
My very first suggestion to you upon arriving in Busan is to visit a tourist information booth to get a Busan tourist map. They are available in Korean and English, and are full of good info. The front has a very detailed city map, while the back has tons of sight-seeing activities, tours, and other useful info that you can use.
The easiest info booth to find is the one at Busan Station. The booth is inside the terminal, next to the ticket counters. The employees there do speak english, and can also give you a subway map and other good info.
If personal space is more your thing, avoid Haeundae Beach in July and August, you'll see nothing but mushrooms of umbrellas across this 2km space! What can I say, this is not Ipanema so just enjoy it for it is. During spring time, it is quieter and you can stroll along the white sands and listen to the sounds of seagulls.
Buddha's Birthday is the Christmas of the Buddhist World, from what I can gather. In Busan, the place to be is Beomeosa Temple. The holiday usually falls at the end of May or beginning of June. The holiday's other name is Festival of Lanterns, for good reason. The temple is decorated with thousands of paper lanterns. We visited at dusk, and I think that this was probably the best time. We arrived with hundreds of other visitors and worshippers, and were greeted by the sounds of a Korean drumming group. As the sky darkened, several monks performed a ceremony, although we watched quietly, as none in our group spoke Korean. After the ceremony, candles were ditributed, and all the lanterns were lit. A truly beautiful site!
Beomeosa is one of Korea's finest temple complexs and has been well looked after. Here one finds many of the traditional temple architecture. It was founded in AD 678, during the Silla Dynasty, by the priest Uisang. He had studied in China for some ten years before entering the priesthood.
To be here any time is a nice thing in spite of the crowds, but the most special time is during the celebrations of the Buddha's Birthday. Here one wittnesses and partakes into the lighting of thousands of paper lanterns. It is a spectacle to remember for many life times.
Nampo-dong area of Busan is similar to Myeongdong in Seoul. It has hundreds of stores, cafes, shops, and restaurants. There is a food-vendor alley (called Mokja Golmok or "Let's Eat Alley") with dozens of little Korean ajumas making local, traditional Korean dishes. Also, look for the black market area, called Gukje Market, if you need anything from the US or Japan! It's kind of funny to walk through this area and see the variety of US goods labeled "not for export" and other similar statements.
This area is also home to the annual Busan International Film Festival and has some typical Korean nightlife.
Beomeosa is an impressive Buddhist temple complex, founded in 678. Its name means the Temple of the Fish from Nirvana. It stands on the side of Mount Geumjeong, just outside Busan. It is a beautiful place. Although the original buldings were destroyed by the Japanese in 1592, it was rebuilt in the seventeenth century.
At one time more than a thousand Zen Buddhist monks lived here and there are still a number of monks there now.
The cable car or ropeway is a good access method to the walking trails up on the Geumjeongsanseong fortress mountain. If it's a clear day you will be rewarded by the views as far as Yeongdo island and the new Gwangandaero Bridge. On Sundays later in the afternoon it can be very crowed and long ques are not uncommon. The return fare is 5000won, or a more desirable walk down after the one way trip up will set you back only 3000won.
Originally I was going to write this as a tourist trap, but opted instead to include it in the 'things to do' section.
If you have ever driven across the large Gwangandaero Bridge, you will no doubt have seen the large Ferris Wheel facing the water near to Gwang-alli Beach.
The rides cost 4000W each, or you can buy an unlimited pass for 20,000W. But honestly, there is only maybe one ride worth the money. But if amusement parks are your thing, or you have children to entertain, this could be a good spot.
Gwangalli Beach is the closest to the city centre. In the summer it is just as crowded as Haeundae Beach. It is best visited at night, when it offers spectacular views of the illuminated Gwangan Great Bridge. The neon-lit seafront is crowded with lively bars and restaurants.
We went to the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple next to the coast in Busan. I have seen a few temples in Hong Kong and Korea this one was the most beautiful so far. It is build on the rocks right next to the ocean. We watched the sunrise for the lunar new year. We were the only foreigners there so not a lot of people.
This tower was built in the late 1970s and stands on top of Yongdusan Hill in Nampo-dong. There is a large open square below the tower where much of the Busan community gathers on week ends. Plenty of old men playing Ba-duk, the Korean game of chess. On Saturday afternoons one also finds open air traditional folk dancing here. There has been rumours that this tower is to be either demolished or refubished as in several years it will be dwarfed by the horrendous 100+ level Lotte Tower which is currently under construction in Nampo-dong on reclaimed land near to the harbour.