The Day the Fireworks Were Canceled

I’ve been attending a lot of festivals recently.  Before I even came to Korea, I knew about Busan’s annual fireworks festival, which is one of the best.  I was super excited and planned on going for months.  Finally, the date rolled around and I went.  Of course, that same day, we had some torrential rain and it was canceled.  I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Found him.

That doesn’t mean I wasted a day in Busan! Emily, Andy, and I visited Shinsegae Centum City, the largest department store in the world.  It was tremendous… 14 floors, including a golf course, a park, a movie theater, an ice rink, a spa, a wax museum, tons of restaurants and shops, and more.  The basement even has a replica of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

We were there for a bit of shopping, but afterwards we had a some lunch (next to the ice rink, naturally).  While wandering around, we realized we could do a package deal on Madame Tussaud’s and the Busan Aquarium – both places I’d never been.  We decided to go for it!

Andy and one of his neighbors

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum was a bit small, but I was surprised by how lifelike most of the replicas were.  A few were pretty poor, but these were rare.  Being Korea, everything was made into the biggest photo op possible, including props such as wigs, hats, boas, microphones, etc.

Group shot!

Next stop: Busan Aquarium in Haeundae.  This aquarium is right next to the sea, and it was crazy to see how massive the waves were due to the storm.  We ducked inside for cover and explored.  The best part was the underwater tunnel, where you could see sharks and other creatures swimming overhead.  Busan also offers scuba diving in the shark tank, something I am considering!

hermit crab in a clear shell

Since the festival was canceled, we caught KTX back to Daegu and ended the night downtown.  It was fun to see everyone’s Halloween costumes, although it’s not huge in Korea like it is back home.  All in all, a good (but wet) day.

Will this be me?
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First trip to Busan

Early Saturday morning, Andy, Kaylyn and I caught the Mugungwa (Korail) train to Busan.  It cost 7,700 won (6.75 USD)  and took about 1 hour 30 minutes.  While not the most luxurious train, I would definitely recommend it and you can’t beat the low price.

As soon as we exited Busan Station, we could smell the sea and I was pretty happy! We took the subway to Jagalchi fish market, the largest fish market in South Korea.  After securing a delicious lunch for Kaylyn, we walked around admiring the beautiful and tasty seafood swimming around in buckets.  I was familiar with some of it, like crabs, oysters, and flounder, but other creatures were new to me.

Fish and other creatures for sale
Octopi
 
In America, this is just decoration.  In Korea, it’s food.

 Jagalchi Market is a sprawling, outdoor market, but it also has a few large buildings.  In these buildings you can choose your seafood and they’ll cook it for you on the spot.  All of the vendors were eager to please and hopefully entice a few new customers.

Posing with a baby shark… yum?

On top of the main building, there is an observation deck.  (Also included inside… market, restaurants, guest house, noraebang/karaoke room, screen golf, wedding hall… Korea is odd sometimes.)  Look how pretty Busan is on a clear day!!

Busan Port

After the market, we took the subway to Haeundae Beach.  In the summer, every inch of sand is covered with Korean beachgoers.  Luckily for us… it’s still spring! There were still a good amount of people on the beach, either sunbathing, throwing a frisbee, or walking their dogs.  I found it ironic that all of the Westerners took off their shoes, yet the Koreans kept theirs on… since in Korea, you have to take off your shoes in any number of locations.

Haeundae Beach

Later that evening, we visited another beach – Gwangalli.  Gwangalli has the pretty Diamond Bridge which lights up and changes colors at night.  It just so happened that a fishing festival was going on (Gwangalli Eobang Festival), so we watched some of that ridiculousness and even got to see some fireworks! In October, Busan holds a tremendous fireworks festival in that same spot, and I would definitely like to come back for that.

Gwangalli Eobang Festival
Diamond Bridge from Gwangalli Beach

That night we wandered around in a group, checking out the local restaurants and bars.  The next morning was overcast, so we didn’t do much other than wander up and down Haeundae.  Andy and I took the KTX (high speed) train home, which took only 40 minutes and cost 11,000 won (under 10 USD) and was a considerably smoother and quieter ride.  Both trains were great but obviously the KTX was nicer and more luxurious, not to mention faster.

Our group, from left to right: Claire, Emily, Kaylyn, Keir & me on top of course!
Somewhere between Busan and Daegu, taken from the KTX

Some details for any expats reading this:
– Stayed in the Story Guesthouse in Haeundae, would recommend for the price, level of service, and excellent amenities.
– Korail and KTX were both great, although Korail offered standing room and some guy sat on my armrest.  Negative points.
– Cabs in Busan are expensive and the subway takes forever! This is more of a complaint than actual advice.

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