Busan Fireworks Festival Part 1

This weekend, Steve and I had plans to attend the Busan Fireworks Festival – supposedly one of the best in Asia. It sounded like an excellent way to spend a weekend!

So Friday night, after work, we took a bus from Ulsan to Haeundae.The ride was bumpy and left me wanting to lose my dinner. Now, I don’t mean I was going to be sick. I literally thought my cheeseburger was going to fly out of my hands mid-bite due to the jerky driving.

We arrived in Haeundae in one piece. The streets were lit up and there were so many delicious smells in the air. After finding a motel, we left our backpacks and went out to explore the night. We walked down the main stretch until we got to the beach. It was balmy (for the end of October) and we took a stroll along the boardwalk. There were so many people out: drinking, eating, and laughing. It was great!

Steve and I.

Steve and I.

On the way back, we stopped at a bar called the Fuzzy Navel for a drink. There were lots of foreigners and an excellent DJ. Steve got a beer and I got a pina colada. After, we decided to get a massive coronita which is pretty much a margarita with a little Corona in it. We walked around for a while more, got some late night snacks, and turned in for the night.

In the morning, we headed out to explore the bustling Haeundae Market. Breakfast consisted of spicy fried chicken and meat on skewers. We saw assorted fish for sale, and fruits, and vegetable. Mandu. Hotteok. Mountains of different fried foods. A variety of shops selling clothes and accessories. There was so much energy. I really love open markets like this.

Street food at Haeundae Market.

Street food at Haeundae Market.

Making our way towards the beach again, we decided to go to the Sea Life Busan Aqaurium. (I had printed off 20% off admission coupons the night before.) As soon as we got our tickets and went down the escalator into the aquarium, I began to feel like a little kid. The aquarium had a really cool, almost ethereal feel to its exhibits. There were otters and penguins and sea turtles and sharks. I was so excited, squealing “aww” at everything I passed. They even had a rehabilitation center for injured porpoises. It was a really fun activity for all ages.

Jellyfish at Sea Life Busan Aquarium.

Jellyfish at Sea Life Busan Aquarium.

After the aquarium, it was time for lunch. We had originally wanted to go to a restaurant in the area that supposedly had Mexican food, but after looking at the menu we decided it was just really overpriced garbage for Westerners. Instead, we found an Indian/Lebanese restaurant. It was a little pricey for entrees, so we ordered some delicious appetizers instead. We got samosas, hummus, and Lebanese bread. Steve got Arabic coffee, which I’m pretty sure was just chai. The food was amazing, though.

Our samosas and hummus.

Our samosas and hummus.

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Ilsan Beach

Yesterday, I went to Ilsan Beach, a small beach in Ulsan east of where I’m living. After the fiasco that was the bus ride there, Steve and I arrived in one piece.

The area is pretty stereotypically touristy, with lots of restaurants, bars catering to foreigners, and amusements and games for kids. It was a beautiful day, so we walked up and down the sandy beach. The water was very clear. And very freezing when I dipped my toes in. There were quite a few other people hanging out, as well.

Ilsan Beach.

Ilsan Beach.

After, we decided to grab a drink at a British pub called the Golden Eagles because we figured it would be kitschy and fun. We got two obscenely overpriced Stella Artois, drank them quickly, and left. At least the place had a model of Big Ben and two statues of the Queen’s guard. I got my kitsch, but definitely would not go back there.

Steve and I.

Steve and I.

We spent more time walking around and scoping out potential restaurants to eat dinner at. We really wanted seafood (and there were loads of seafood joints), but we weren’t confident enough in our Korean to order anything. Especially since most places didn’t have any English on their menus. Would we get a nice fish soup? Or live octopus wriggling around on a plate? I didn’t know, and I also didn’t want to find out.

Eventually, we settled on a restaurant which served tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) and bibimbap. Steve got the tonkatsu and I got the bibimbap. And we actually liked each other’s dishes better than we liked our own. Although, the bibimbap was absolutely loaded with veggies and I appreciated that because they’re unfortunately hard to come by here unless you wanna shell out the big bucks.

The delicious tonkatsu.

The delicious tonkatsu.

After dinner, more walking. We found our way back to the beach and climbed up what we think was the lifeguard station. Regardless, we had a beautiful view of the little town all lit up and there were even some people down the beach lighting fireworks. It was really nice. All in all, a very good day at the beach. In October!

Ilsan Beach at night.

Ilsan Beach at night.

A Day in Busan

Today, I went on my first excursion outside Ulsan. Nick and Hailey invited me to go to Busan with them to see a Studio Ghibli exhibit at the Busan Museum of Art. We left around 11 AM and took the bus, which cost 4,400 won. The ride was about 45 minutes and we got off in Haeundae.

Busan is a very large coastal city, with a population of about 3.4 million. I’ve been meaning to visit since I arrived, and I was very glad to go today. We took the subway, which is extremely clean and efficient. I purchased a reloadable transit card at 7/11 which is good for the subways and buses. A ride is only 1,200 won.

The museum was a short walk from the subway station, after you climb several precipitous staircases that will leave you gasping for air once you reach the top. Or maybe that’s just me. We got to the museum and made our way to the exhibit.

At the Studio Ghibli exhibit.

At the Studio Ghibli exhibit.

It was very beautifully done, featuring many original sketches from the films as well as lots of models of building featured in the films, as well. It was really pretty magical. Photography wasn’t allowed, but I snuck a picture of a scene from Howl’s Moving Castle. There was also several rooms dedicated to Spirited Away, one of my favorites, with some life-size reproductions from the restaurant scene.

Sneaky picture!

Sneaky picture!

The only thing I found incredibly bizarre about my first museum experience here is that Koreans really seem to enjoy lines. Whenever you moved into a new gallery, people would literally line up at the beginning and wait in line to view everything in the room. I have never seen anything like that before.

Anyway, following the exhibit, we decided to go to lunch. We ate at a restaurant that served cold noodle soup that came with thinly sliced beef. We also shared an order of delicious, delicious dumplings.

Not a great picture of my cold noodle soup.

Not a great picture of my cold noodle soup.

Then, we took the subway to the famous Haeundae Beach! It was cloudy, but that didn’t stop us from picking up an order of fried chicken at Bonchon and making our way over to the beach. It was FREE to get on, something that totally blew my mind because I spent $9/day getting onto the beach in New Jersey all summer. We found a nice spot to put down our towels, ate our chicken, and just relaxed. I may or may not have fallen asleep for a while. I didn’t go in the water or anything, but the views were phenomenal. Mountains, cityscape, islands, everything.

Haeundae Beach.

Haeundae Beach.

Haeundae Beach.

Haeundae Beach.

Haeundae Beach.

Haeundae Beach.

Haeundae Beach.

Haeundae Beach.

After the beach, we took the subway to another part of Busan to grab a beer at Galmegi Brewing Company. There were more stairs leading up to the bar, but we got a lovely seat at the window and enjoyed some good brews. I had one called the Campfire Amber.

It started drizzling as we were leaving, but figured we would still head back to the museum because they were doing a free screening of a Miyazaki film at 7; we didn’t know which one. It was outside on the lawn, and we got some spots. Turns out, they were showing Howl’s Moving Castle, which I’ve never actually seen. Obviously, it was in Korean with no subtitles, but that was fine. Too bad the skies opened and everyone began to leave *sigh*

We grabbed our things and left, too, but not before Hailey and I went to the restroom only to discover that neither of us had toilet paper in our stalls. Dammit. Apparently, that’s a thing here. Not to have toilet paper in public restrooms. Even really nice ones in museums.

We decided to catch a bus back to Ulsan, and that’s where I am now. Exhausted out of my mind, but so happy to have had such an incredible day.