Sunday, October 5, 2008

Day Trip to Busan

Went with three lovely ladies I met during SMOE training week to Busan for a day trip on Saturday. If you look at a map of Korea (helpfully included at right), you can see that Busan (aka Pusan) is about as far as you can get from Seoul and still be in Korea. It's probably most famous for the so-called Pusan Perimeter, where allied troups reorganized following their initial defeats by the North at the outset of the Korean War, fall of 1950.

We took the KTX superfast train, which traveled at up to 300 km/h, and lasted 2 h 50 m in relative comfort. I continue to be impressed with the public transportation here. A word of warning, though: don't be late, the trains depart on the tick of their scheduled departure time.

To get around, we used the Busan City Tour buses, which arrive at specific locations on a more-or-less regular schedule. First stop: Busan Museum, which was really pretty impressive for a podunk little town of 4 million. It mostly focused on ancient Korean history, from cave bear clan times up to the 1700s, with a bit on the Japanese occupation in the early 20th century.

Mannequins at Busan Museum
The tour bus had about ten stops, but we only made it to two. The second stop: Haeundae Beach and Busan Aquarium. This beach is famous as the subject of one my WhatIsIt? puzzles at OMA, as well as setting a new Guinness world record for the largest number of parasols installed at a beach. Our arrival was coincident with the Pusan International Film Festival, which is what the PIFF behind me stands for, in the photo below.

Me in front of stage at Film Festival
After looking around the beach for a while, we went on a trek to find some fresh seafood for lunch. The folks at the tourist office suggested an Italian restaurant in the Hotel Paradise, but we ate at a Korean-style place instead. It was delicious, and at W10,000 per person, I'm sure better than half the price of any western-style eatery. Even if we did have to de-bone it ourselves. With cho-ka-rock (chopsticks) this is no mean feat. With fingers, it is much easier. After this, we put our shoes back on and headed across the main drag to Busan Aquarium.

Three lovely ladies at Haeundae Beach
Haeundae Beach, looking south--note lighthouse at point
Meeting new friends
Looking north, at Haeundae Beach
I've been to quite a few aquariums (aquaria?) in my day, and I must say, this is one of the better ones, especially for about $15 admission. Lots of good photo ops. Hover your mouse over the pic for a brief description:

gawkers sihouetted in front of big shark tank
A picture of this tunnel that goes through the big shark tank
Me shooting myself in mirror, with shark tank behind
Duh-duh, duh duh duh-duh!  Shark!
Sea turtle
Another sea turtle, feeding
It seems we all really enjoy aquariums, so it was after five o'clock when we left, and the next tour bus arrived at 5:30--with about an hour's ride back to Busan Station and departure time at 7:30 (and not one minute later), we barely had time to grab a bite! Still, waiting for the bus, we got into a conversation with two shipbuilding engineers (Busan is the world's third larget shipping port, and Ulsan, just up the road, is home to Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world's largest shipyard) from San Diego, who helped make the time pass with conversation by turns interesting and witty. Well, I was the wittiest, but you knew that, didn't you?

I should also mention we passed over Gwangan Daegyo (Bridge), Korea's longest, a double-decker suspension bridge, which has various lovely lighting effects, none of which could be seen from the bus.

All four of us in classic photo op, inside giant shark jaw
Thanks for a great day, girls, we need to do another jaunt together soon!


Andrew said...

Nice work. I was also in Busan this weekend, for the film festival, though. Good times.

Helen said...

Do you interested in Asia culture?