A Weekend in Busan

It’s been well over a year since I’ve written a post, but I felt it was time to start doing so again. Matt and I have been living in Korea since December 2017 (time flies!) and it has been a much better experience for me this time around.

I was inspired to start writing again after an amazing weekend I had in Busan with my friend Krysta. We experienced some next-level hospitality, had a lot of fun, and I really wanted to share.

Saturday morning, Krysta and I headed from Ulsan to Haeundae. I had an appointment for a Korean magic perm, which is a popular permanent straightening process here. The heat and humidity have been quite unbearable lately, and my hair has been an absolute frizz fest. We went to Two Two Salon, which had wonderful reviews from other foreigners on Facebook.

We met with Sophia, the owner, who was extremely welcoming as soon as we walked in the door. She was an older woman, with blue hair and a bubbly personality. Her English was minimal, but we communicated just fine. The entire process took about 2.5 hours and cost 200,000 won ($177). While Krysta and I waited, Sophia and her staff made sure we were fed and hydrated (they even bought us ice cream). As we were leaving, she even gave me two small bottles of argan oil to take care of my hair at home. I was so happy with the results.

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After, we walked down the main street in Haeundae towards the beach. It was around 2 o’clock, but our hotel check-in wasn’t until 4. We decided to go to the hotel anyway and see if we could check in early. The man at the front desk informed us the room wasn’t ready, but offered to take our bags and said we could come back at 3. That was good enough for us, and we headed to lunch.

Krysta and I decided to eat at the Haeundae branch of Galmegi Brewing Co. They’ve been around since 2014 and are Busan’s first American-style microbrewery. I am a huge fan of their yuja gose! For food, I got chicken tacos and Krysta got a pulled pork sandwich with fries. Their food is super authentic and delicious.

After lunch, we continued on our “treat yo’self” adventure. We took the subway closer to Jangsan to get our nails done at Lana Nail Busan. Her shop was a little difficult to find. As we were walking around the complex, Lana called my phone to tell me she saw me and directed us to the shop. When I booked the appointment with her, she had told me that she would be the only one working. However, when we got there, she had asked another employee to come in (on her day off!) so we could both get our manicures done at the same time. Lana’s English was excellent, and she was so fun to talk to. I decided to go for a fun, brightly colored design (I usually do darker colors) and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

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We relaxed at SpaLand and had dinner near the beach before heading back to our room for the night. The next morning, we went back to Two Two so Krysta could get her hair dyed. This time, Sophia not only made lunch for us, but shared freshly picked peaches from her rooftop garden as well as rice cakes (they were still warm) made by another local shopkeeper. Lunch consisted of purple rice, radish soup, water kimchi, and an assortment of side dishes. I have never, ever, ever experienced such hospitality in my life.

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I had a great weekend, but wish it was just a tiny bit longer. Next weekend, though, Matt and I head to Osaka for one week for summer vacation and I am so looking forward to it.

What are your plans for next weekend?

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Tattoos, Burritos, and the Bus Ride from Hell

On Saturday, Hannah and I had made plans to go to Busan for a much-needed girls day. There were plenty of things on our to-do list, but I decided to make a spontaneous addition on the bus ride.

I decided to make an appointment to get a tattoo.

I sent a message to Fat Buddha Tattoo, and the owner (KJ) answered me within minutes – he also had an opening at 1 PM. I told him I’d be there. Immediately after, I called Hannah to tell her what I did.

We met up near the Busan Museum of Art. Hannah had arrived a little later than expected, so we grabbed a quick bite at Lotteria and made our way over to Fat Buddha. We were surprised to find out that the studio was in KJ’s (very fabulous) apartment. While we waited for him to finish with another client, we stared longingly out of the living room windows on the 31st floor at views of both the mountains and the sea. We also got to play with a funny little dog who was making some very funny sounds.

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Finally, it was time for me to have my consultation with KJ. I decided on the Scorpio constellation in purple ink on my wrist. This month marks seven years since my grandma passed away and I have been having a really hard week because of it. Our birthdays are six days apart (hers on Halloween and mine on November 6) and we both love purple, so the design seemed quite fitting.

It didn’t take more than a half an hour and it didn’t hurt at all. (I’ve heard that wrists can be quite a sensitive spot.) I was absolutely thrilled with the results!

After, Hannah and I made our way back towards the museum to check out an Andy Warhol exhibit that was showing there. We both discussed how surprised we were that someone who could be considered a controversial artist was being shown in such a conservative country. Regardless, it was an incredible exhibit. I love Warhol and the Pop Art movement and I was very happy to get to go to an art museum. There were three galleries filled with his works as well as some personal items, which were very cool to look at. After exiting the exhibit, the museum had set up a neat little photo area as well as a gift shop.

*Hannah and I have decided that we are dangerous as shopping buddies and had to try very hard to keep ourselves from buying shit we didn’t need. We succeeded. This time.

Then, we realized that we had to get to Hannah’s hostel (she way spending the night) so she could check in. We also realized that both our phones were dying. Panic. Neither of us had any idea where we were going. With the help of Google Maps, however, we made it to the bus stop and Hannah asked a girl if we were going in the right direction. We were.

The bus we needed came and we hopped on. I know I’ve mentioned how much I dislike taking the bus in Korea before, but this was next level. The bus driver was sitting on the horn the entire time, going way too fast, and changing lanes. I could hardly keep my footing (there were no seats). He even screamed at a woman who had asked him a question. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

After nine stops, we got off. Batteries dangerously low, we set out for the hostel. It was nowhere to be found. We asked a girl on the street, she couldn’t help us. It started to rain. We asked a guy at the gas station, he outright said “I don’t know.” We kept on crossing the street and wandering around aimlessly. Finally, after passing the gas station again, we turned around and I looked up. There it was – on the top floor of a building, and the only sign was painted on the window.

After a lot of nonsense, we got in and Hannah was able to charge her phone. Then, we took a lovely walk along Haeundae Beach and decided to go to Sharky’s for dinner. Sharky’s is a Western-style restaurant and they offer a 2 for 20,000 won deal. I got a delicious veggie burrito and Hannah got a spicy beef chimichanga. Yum! We ate our fill and went across the street for a coffee before calling it a night.

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I had a wonderful Saturday and it was so nice to see Hannah. I can’t wait until it starts getting warmer, so I can spend some real time at the beach!

What did you do this weekend?

Turning 25 Part 3

In the morning, Steve and I enjoyed our free breakfast of fried eggs, toast, and jam. We were going to go to Gamcheon Cultural Village and Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, but the rain was still horrendous so we called it a day.

Down into the subway we went. At least it was dry. About halfway through our ride, an older Korean man sitting next to us asked Steve where he was was from. “Oh! Scotland!” the man beamed, along with two ladies sitting across from us.

One of the ladies was very sweet. She asked if we were English teachers. I told her “yes” and I also said we were living in Ulsan. Before she got off at her stop, she waved a finger at Steve. “Gentleman,” she said. Then, she pointed at me. “Beautiful.” When I replied with “감사합니다 (thank you), she was very surprised.

She totally made my day!

This was really the first time outside of work that local Koreans had ever really interacted with me.

Steve and I made it to the bus terminal and hopped on the first one back to Ulsan.

Even though I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to, it was a really great weekend. There’s always next time!

Turning 25 Part 2

*Note: in this post, I will be writing about my experience at the famous Jagalchi Fish Market and it features some slightly graphic paragraphs about consuming extremely, err, “fresh” seafood. You have been warned.


On Saturday, Steve and I had plans to spend the weekend in Busan. After staying out all night, it was a struggle to get going, but we made it on the bus to Nopodong terminal around 1 PM. The ride was roughly 45 minutes and the bus we got had very comfy seats. It had already started raining by the time we got there, and we ran around trying to find the subway.

From Nopodong, we made our way to the Jagalchi station. Our plan was to spend Saturday seeing all the outdoor markets. Even though it was raining, we decided to push through. We first decided to find a motel. After being turned away from two due to no vacancies, Steve and I happened to come across a little guest house. What the heck. We walked up to the fifth floor.

We were able to get a room… with twin bunk beds. However, there was a nice view, the bathrooms were clean, and there was free breakfast in the morning. It was acceptable. After dropping off our bags, we walked to the famous Jagalchi Fish Market – the biggest in Korea.

Jagalchi Market.

Jagalchi Market.

As soon as we walked through the door, we were greeted by countless stalls with people selling their fish. Big fish. Little fish. Octopus. Squid. Clams. Mussels. Conch. You name it, it was at Jagalchi. Water spilled over the brim of the tanks and onto the floor. From the rear of the market, there was an amazing view of the bay. Too bad the skies were dark and rainy that day.

Jagalchi Fish Market

Jagalchi Fish Market

Like typical tourists, we “ooed and ahhd” as we walked by each stall. After making our way around the first floor, we walked upstairs. This is where it got good. The entire second floor is made up of mini restaurants selling the freshest fish. (You know it’s fresh because you are literally watching people kill it left and right.) It was overwhelming. After looking at about several menus, we picked one restaurant and ordered the seafood stew.

We were not ready for what came to our table. First off, the banchan were plentiful: sweet potatoes, edamame, pumpkin, kimchi, and a variety of other spicy things. Then, the stew came. The pot was massive and filled with bubbling broth, shrimp as big as the palm of my hand, clams, mussels, oysters, and… a live octopus. Yes, that’s right. There was an octopus actually squirming around in our lunch.

Our seafood stew.

Our seafood stew.

Some of our banchan.

Some of our banchan.

At first, I was completely and utterly disgusted. Steve was trying to poke it with chopsticks. Then, we just let it cook. The shrimp also had heads. I usually don’t eat foods that come with faces or are still breathing when they get to my plate, but I made an exception. We sat patiently and let everything cook. The broth soon turned a deep red and eventually, there was nothing left moving.

I tore into the shrimp with my fingers, carefully removing the bits that I didn’t want to consume. I sipped spoonfuls of spicy broth and scooped out tender mussels. We decided to cut the octopus’s legs off and stick its head in a bowl. Steve still wanted to cut it open, though, but when it started oozing with purple stuff, he didn’t want to so much anymore.

Following lunch, we made our way back into the rain. It had only gotten heavier. We walked around for a bit, ultimately seeking refuge in a nearby mall. It was enormous, each floor more extravagant than the next. We probably spent and hour there before heading back to the guest house for a nap.

We woke up at 9:30 PM and had to do something. It was still raining, but we braved it and headed over to the Bupyeong Night Market. There were so many street food stalls, we didn’t know what to eat first. We got mandu (dumplings). We ate them under the awning of some shop and decided we liked them enough to go back for seconds. The little old lady was very happy to see us again and I’m pretty sure she threw in a few extra. After, we got hotteok (a cinnamon and nut-filled pancake).

The rain was so bad that we could feel it seeping through our jackets (and my purse). We went back to the guesthouse and called it a night.

Busan Fireworks Festival Part 2

At lunch, I spoke to my friend Hannah on the phone. She runs the blog Paint Me a Smile (and you should all go check it out!) We actually met here on WordPress, and we’ve been following each other’s blogs for about two months now. We both came to Korea around the same time to teach English and have been having a good time sharing our similar experiences.

We have been trying to meet in person for weeks now, but things kept on coming up. So, when we found out we were both going to be in Busan at the same, we had to make plans!

Steve and I were going to make our way to Shinsegae, the world’s largest department store, in the Centum City neighborhood of Busan. We took the subway, and there was an entrance right in the station. So, we headed inside and wandered around the first level while waiting for Hannah.

Shinsegae.

Shinsegae.

First impression of Shinsegae: insanely overwhelming. Such sensory overload! I’ve never been in a department store quite like this. There was an entire supermarket, food court, about a bazillion shops selling handbags and cosmetics (and that was only on one floor!).

Adorable animal pastries.

Adorable animal pastries.

Finally, Hannah was here and we went to meet her! We went back inside and made our way up and down the floors. Poor Steve had to deal with our girly shopping. He did some wandering of his own, though. We spent a long time in the department store, eventually taking a break for some coffee and food. WHILE WE SAT NEXT TO THE ICE SKATING RINK.

What a crazy place.

Then, we walked around Centum City for a bit until we returned to Haeundae. We went back to the market for street food and then did some more shopping.

Finally meeting Hannah!

Finally meeting Hannah!

Around 6:30, we decided to head over to Gwangalli, where the fireworks festival was taking place. As soon as we got out of the subway, the sheer quantity of people out was incredible. We followed the crowds towards the beach, stopping a few times for tasty street food along the way.

Hannah was trying to find some other foreigners she knew and it was nearly impossible to do so. There were police and even terrorist prevention squads everywhere. Eventually, she found them. They were sitting on the steps near the beach and Steve and I were invited to join. However, I was on the verge of a massive panic attack and could not bring myself to push through anymore people. So, Steve and I sat on the curb across the street and he brought me a drink to soothe my nerves. We still had a great view.

The show lasted from 8 until 9 and it was quite possibly the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my entire life! The backdrop was the beautiful Gwangan Bridge and they used music from Carly Rae Jepsen to the Beatles to Whitney Houston. It was fun to sing along to the songs. There were even lasers incorporated into the show. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a single picture because my phone died and I had nowhere to charge it.

After the show, Steve and I hung out at a bar to avoid the mass exodus of the crowds. We said goodbye to Hannah and, after a while, made our way towards the subway. Even though we waited to leave, it was still obscenely crowded. I was super tired and super cranky. Finally, we made it to the intercity bus terminal and headed back to Ulsan.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend!

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.

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.