Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An incredible weekend in Busan

Our journey began by taking a subway from Sinchang (where our university was located) to Asan Station. Once we got to Asan Station, we took the KTX (Korea’s bullet train) all the way to Busan. Let me tell you, it was surprising how fast that train was. After about a 2.5 hour commute, we finally arrived at Busan Station. Once we made it, Joon-young’s mother had been excitingly waiting for us. It was about 9pm and both Joon-young and I were a bit exhausted, but it didn’t stop us from exploring around his neighborhood. I was able to see his elementary and high school, as well as chill at a few parks he went to often as a high school student.

During my first month in Korea, I had already made friends with a lot of the Korean students. Among many of the friends I made while studying at Soonchunhyang University, there was one in particular who was from Busan.  His name was Joon-young. Having known him for just a couple weeks, he happily invited me to visit his home and family.

From there, we both set off on our weekend adventure to Busan. Since it we had a long weekend ahead of us, we made sure to explore as many things as we could. As a foreigner, I found it very exciting to be traveling around Korea, yet alone being able to visit my friend’s hometown.

Bottom of Busan Tower
Day 1

After touring Joon-young’s neighborhood, we returned to his home where I met his mom, dad, and older brother. During my stay in their home, I felt so welcomed by the hospitality that Joon-young’s family provided me. Even though it was my first experience staying with a Korean family, they made it pretty comfortable for me. What I enjoyed was how much food was prepared. There’s nothing better than home-cooked meals. I was able to get a taste of authentic Korean food in a Korean home. From different types of kimchi to an array of soups and other dishes, they made sure that I ate well, which I had no problem with.

Busan International Film Festival
Day 2

After taking a rest after our journey to Busan, Joon-young and I headed out to Haeundae Beach the next morning. With just a 20-minute walk from his home, Haeundae had already been packed with people. I have to say, it was pretty interesting to see a beach outside of Hawaii. Although the waters weren’t as blue as Hawaii’s beaches, I still enjoyed walking along the sands of Korea.

While at Haeundae, we noticed that the annual Busan International Film Festival was being held. We were lucky enough to see so many interesting types of films that were specifically produced in Korea.

After our stop at Haeundae, Joon-young’s family picked us up and we drove all the way to Daegu for his grandmother’s birthday. At the restaurant we went to, I was introduced to a lot of his family. From aunts, uncles, cousins, you name it, I got to meet his family tree.

During the dinner, the table was laid out with so much food. By now, I’ve taken in the fact that Koreans can eat, and I mean eat WELL! There’s so many words to describe how delicious the food was. After talking with many of Joon-young’s family members, I was requested to sing “Happy Birthday” for his hal-mo-nee (or grandma, 할머니). I truly felt welcomed by his family.  After the restaurant, we all went to noraebang (karaoke) and ended the night walking around Daegu Park.

Final Day

During our last full-day in Busan, Joon-young and I traveled to many parts of Busan, starting off with Jalgachi Fish Market. There were so many vendors everywhere, fish auctions taking place, and a wide assortment of fish. I was amazed at how busy this market was, but then again, it’s one of Korea’s famous fish markets.

One interesting I tried, and is also one of Korea’s delicacies, is live octopus. Personally, I grew up eating octopus in Hawaii, but I haven’t tried it live. Joon-young insisted I try, and as adventurous as I am, I went for it. I would have to say, it wasn’t as bad. Although the tentacles got stuck to my teeth, I enjoyed every bite of it. I left the fish market pretty full.

Next, we went to Busan Tower to check out a 360 degree view of the beautiful city. It was interesting to see how colorful many of the building were. It was like a crayon box. In addition to the buildings, there was an ocean view which made me feel like I was back in Hawaii.

After Busan Tower, we headed out to another traditional market which was near Jalgachi. At this particular market, we went on a food venture. This time, it was all about the street food. What Busan is known for is their hotteok. It’s a delicious pancake dessert stuffed with sugar and peanuts. For just 1,000 won ($1), it was definitely worth waiting in line for.

Throughout the afternoon, we explored the market trying many types of street foods such as mandoo, tteokkbokki (rice cake), fishcake, and soondae (Korean blood sausage). By the end of our day, we were pretty full.

As our weekend trip started coming to a close, I stopped to realize how amazing these past few days has been. From sightseeing all over Busan, visiting so many traditional markets, and trying new foods, this is probably one of the highlights of my time in Korea. After my trip to Busan, it made me want to visit there again. Significantly, this experience helped me learn more about my friend, his family, and the Korean culture.

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