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Portraits of Busan

Maybe it’s because we felt more like tourists than we do in Seoul and Gwangju, but one thing I noticed when going through our photos from Busan is that we took a lot of awesome shots of the people in Busan–something we rarely feel comfortable doing closer to home. I feel these shots sum up Busan (and Korea to some extent) quite nicely–especially the difference in beach attire and the reactions to the sun. So without further ado, here is a little photo essay of the people of Busan–enjoy!

And lastly, some of the non-human inhabitants of Busan!

Which photo is your favorite?

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The Waikiki of Asia: Busan’s Haeundae Beach

To celebrate the long weekend, we hopped on a charter bus for a 5-hour jaunt to one of South Korea’s most southern cities–Busan.

Busan is the second largest city in South Korea, but there are few comparisons between this port-city and Seoul. Busan has a grittier and more laid back feeling than pristine Seoul, but the locals seemed friendlier, and the level of English was a bit higher than we’re used to in Gwangju-si–probably because of the city’s proximity to the U.S. military base. Because of its beach town feel and plethora of cheap accommodations, Western-style bars and wide range of foreign foods, Busan is popular among expats, especially English teachers. The three day weekend celebrating Buddha’s birthday sent waygooks (foreigners) flocking to Busan from all over the country.

Though we weren’t actually staying on Busan’s famed Haeundae Beach, we did end up spending most of our time there. This beach is famous because it’s beautiful, but like so many places, because it is famous, it’s also incredibly overrun with tourists (including us). So I think it’s a fair analogy to say Busan’s Haeundae Beach is the Waikiki Beach of the east!

Hanging out on the beach with our new friend Mo, a Korean police officer in a town near ours!

Brimmed with cityscape and hazy with smog, this city beach is definitely a site to see. Westerners in skimpy bikinis sit alongside older Korean women who are fully dressed and sitting under umbrellas, Korean kids play in the sand while English teachers from all over the country and U.S. military personnel party on the beach. It’s definitely a diverse place.

Walking a suspended bridge near Haeundae Beach.

7-11’s in Korea commonly have outdoor seating areas, and people treat them more like cafes than convenient stores!

Our accommodations were quite a ways away, but our friends Ashley and Justin lucked out with an amazing little hostel dually named Marubee Guest House and Mr. Egg House. This little gem had an amazing view of the beach, provided them with free homemade breakfast, and the owner could not have been any nicer. It’s a tiny place–it’s actually an apartment that’s been converted to a hostel! There are just two bedrooms and two bathrooms; one bedroom is a mixed dorm and the other is an all-girls dorm. Again, we didn’t stay here, but we spent a lot of time hanging out in the common room and I must say, this place is pretty awesome.

We have so many more amazing pictures and stories from Busan, so stay tuned!

Happy Memorial Day America!

To all my fellow American’s–happy Memorial Day!

Pearl Harbor

American flag at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

We got back from beautiful Busan late last night, so I haven’t had a chance to upload any photos or write up anything about our trip yet. But overall, we had a great time–Busan is an awesome city, and we got plenty of sun and relaxation. I hope everyone who celebrates Buddha’s birthday had a great three day weekend, and hope all the American’s celebrating Memorial Day have a great extra day off as well!

Happy Birthday Buddha!

Today is Buddha’s birthday, which is a national holiday here in Korea. We’re celebrating the founder of Buddism’s birthday by playing in Busan for the long weekend. Three days of sun and salt water is just what I’ve been needing! So, happy birthday Buddha–and thanks for the day off!

If you’re in Korea (or another country that celebrates Buddha’s birthday), how are you celebrating today?

East Meets Further East: Eating Indian Food in Seoul

If there’s one thing Korea’s not lacking, it’s good food. As I’ve mentioned before, food is cheap, and usually very delicious. However, one thing Seoul is lacking a little bit is good foreign food. There’s a little of everything, but the foreign restaurants are flung far across the massive city of Seoul, and they’re also usually more expensive than Korean food. When it comes down to it, you can find basically every kind of cuisine, but you just have to search a little bit.

One thing that’s not as hard to find here as other foreign cuisines is Indian food. Because a lot of people from that part of the world work in factories in Korea, there are some pretty decent Indian food joints–we even have two places in our little town! But by far, the best we’ve had here in Korea is Everest Restaurant, in the Dongdaemun neighborhood of Seoul.

We found this gem through our friend Andrew, and even though it’s far away and hard to find, we manage to get there pretty frequently. It’s a Nepalese, Indian and Tibetan restaurant, and most of the staff are actually from those regions. Everyone who works there can speak nearly perfect English too, which is a nice bonus. They have a large variety of items, including chicken, lamb and veggie dishes, several kinds of naan, and lots of popular Indian drinks (like lassis and mango juice). They also have really cheap beer, which Matt appreciates.

Deliciousness.

The aftermath.

The entire restaurant is covered in trinkets and decor from India, Nepal and Tibet, and they even sell a small selection of items from these countries. Plus, there’s always a Bollywood movie playing on the television–and who doesn’t love to see a good song and dance number to cheesy Indian music while eating? I know we do.

To get to Everest Restaurant, take Seoul Subway line 1 to Dongdaemun. From there, take exit 3, and walk straight until you reach the end of the block. Turn left, and then take a right down an alley. The restaurant is on the second floor of the building that will be in front of you–watch for the signs. 

My Top 5 Bucket List: Korean Edition

Bucket lists are all the rage these days. But there’s a huge difference in dreaming about doing things before you die, and actually doing them now. Recently, a blogger I like wrote about her problem with bucket lists, and then challenged her readers to make a “travel priorities list” instead, in hopes that people will actually do the things on their lists, rather than just dream about them. Similarly, another favorite blogger has a “pre-marriage bucket-list,” something that’s obviously too late for me to do, but still a good idea in that she’s set some sort of time limit on herself to pack in the adventures.

So in the spirit of making a realistic bucket list, I’ve decided to focus on just what I want to do with the time we have left in Korea. So here is my top 5 bucket list, the Korean edition!

1.) Tour the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

DMZ Tour Korea

DMZ Tour Korea: photo by Estelle Pizer

I’ve heard this referred to as one of the most dangerous places on earth–and while this can’t possibly still be true (unless I really am that naive?), it is definitely an exciting place. This small strip of land runs between North and South Korea, and serves as a buffer between the feuding countries. It’s the most heavily militarized border in the world, and the southern side is protected by both the United States and South Korean military’s. Inside the DMZ is a Joint Security Area (JSA) where the leaders for North Korea, South Korea, the United States and the United Nations meet for negotiations.

Amazingly, this area is open to the public through tours. There are several companies that run these tours, but I’ve heard it’s generally accepted that the best tour is run by the United States Military. I can’t wait to do one of these tours, but I’m sure with all of our visitors in the next couple of months, someone will want to do this with us–so we’re holding off for now!

2.) Visit Jeju Island 

JEJU Island

Jeju Island: photo by MIN_Photo

I’ve commonly heard this island (off the southern tip of South Korea) referred to by Koreans as “the Hawaii of Korea.” Our friend Andrew heartily disagrees with this comparison (“just because there are palm trees doesn’t make it Hawaii–especially if you half to wrap them up for winter!”), but still, we hear it’s nice. It’s also insanely popular–so while we do want to go, we’re trying to be smart about it and make sure we don’t go when everyone else in Korea goes!

3.) Take a Day Trip to Nami Island

Lake to Nami Island (1)

Lake to Nami Island: photo by Kelvin Lok

This little island is near Seoul, and it’s so small I’ve heard it’s perfect for a day trip. There are two ways to get onto the island–take a short ferry across the river, or zip line over the river. Despite the fact that it’s triple the cost to zip line there as it is to ferry, after my last zip lining adventure, I am determined to do it!

4.) Visit a Dog (and Cat) Cafe

Untitled

Photo by Ryan Pikkel

Children Playing with Cats

Children Playing with Cats: photo by Chantelle

Before you freak out and think I’ve gone totally carnivore crazy on you, listen up–these amazing cafe’s are just coffee shops/bars where you can go and PLAY with dogs and cats. We’ve heard mixed reactions from people who have visited these–some say they are nasty, others say they are amazing. Because we’re both crazy animal people, I’m guessing we’re going to like them…let’s just hope we don’t try to steal any animals.

5.) Experience the Madness of the Boryeong Mud Festival 

Boryeong Mud Festival Openning 1st day

Boryeong Mud Festival Openning 1st day: photo by Byoung Wook – Toughkid Kim 김병욱

Korea’s usually a pretty buttoned-up place. It’s considered immodest to show your shoulders or chest (for women), and at the water parks and public beaches most women don’t wear bikinis–but rather shorts and tee shirts. So I find it kind of amazing that one of the biggest festivals in Korea revolves around a bunch of half-naked people playing in the mud. It’s like, Korea gone wild. I can’t wait to see this debauchery!

Also, if you made it this far, please check out my article about my scariest travel moment over at Vagabundo Magazine. Be sure to leave me lot’s of comments so they’ll keep hiring me! 

Hitting the Hills: Hiking in Gwangju-si

It seems we’ve really embraced the national pass time of hiking here–in the past we’ve hiked in Bukhansan National Park in Seoul, and more recently, we’ve been checking out the hills surrounding Gwangju. In keeping with this theme of climbing the hills whenever the weather’s nice and we have nothing else to do, we recently decided to check out the hill behind our apartment building.

While the views from up top weren’t as impressive as this view, the hike itself was (in my opinion) through a prettier forest. Plus, this time, Matt didn’t even have to listen to me whine–I was totally on board with hauling myself up this little mountain! Overall, not a bad way to spend an afternoon.