After a 7 hour bus journey we eventually pulled up to our motel overlooking Gwangalli beach both tired and excited. It was 6am, the sun was shining and the views of the beach and Gwangan bridge were magical. After struggling to climb the 4 flights of stairs to our 4th floor apartment, we got a bit of a shock! There were 17 of us were sharing 1 bed, 1 couch and 1 toilet!!
While most of the crew grabbed a blanket, shot gunned the bed or couch or floor space in the 1 bedroom for a bit of shut eye, I looked out the window at the beautiful beach and enticing water and decided sleep was for the weak…and headed to the beach for a swim! Judith, a fellow solo traveller from Canada joined me on my early morning escapade which ended up in the restaurant of a hotel, that was probably way out of our budget, munching on an all you can eat Irish Breakfast!
At around 12pm, 20 of us heading off on a tour of Tae Jong Dae Park which is a picturesque park at the top of Yeongdo Island. The minute we arrived we opted to do the highly reccomended boat trip. We were not dissapointed. All the commentary was in Korean, but our super guide Jenny filled us in; After the Korean guide had spoken for more than 10 minutes on the history of Tae Jong Dae, Jenny turns to and says, “Basically, this park has been here since the Silla Dynasty, which is a long, long time!” Great summary Jenny!
What amazes me about Korea is that you can be on a boat, touring what feels like a pretty remote park covered in dense forrests and rugged cliffs, then turn a corner to be greeted with a city skyline complete with ugly skyscapers, it boggled the mind. With a population of 40 million though I guess there just isn’t enough space to have undeveloped land.
Our boat docked near the observatory and light house giving us the option to jump off and explore the island by foot. Even as a lover of the sea and boats, jumping on to ashore at this “pier” was quite the challenge, as each wave came the boat rose 3 foot making it nearly impossible to jump asore.
Once back on dry land, we walked up the steep steps to be greeted with spectacular views of the East China Sea. We passed a group of old women selling sea-food fresh from the water. they had arranged blankets on the rocks so you could sit on the cliff and have yourself a fresh (often still alive, Octopus anyone?!) sea food picnic!
After a ride around the island in a Thomas The Tank Engine like train, we headed off to the Jagalchi Fish Market, the biggest of its kind in Korea. Not that I even eat fish! It was pretty cool to look around, and I had no clue what half of the things in there were. All I know is they were ALL alive, and many looked revolting and slimey and smelly and UNAPPEALING. Well, to me anyway! I opted out of the seafood dinner, and headed off to a cute Italian restaurant with 3 fellow ‘non fish’ eating comrades!
The next day, as luck would have it, the heavens opened up and it poured rain all day which meant our planned trip to Heundae beach was ruined. As it was Chuseok on wednesday, which is similar to Christmas day everywehre else, most shops, cafes, bars and restaurants were closed and the strrets were pretty deserted. It felt very weird actuly, sort of like something was missing. Family, pherhaps. To cheer myself up, I met up with a group of Americans and South Africans and we all headed to a tourity area where places were bound to be open and ended up in an Indian restaurant for lunch, the best food I’ve eaten in the last 5 weeks!!
We spent the 2 nights drinking and dancing til the wee hours of the morning along the Gwangalli promenade in “Fuzzy Navel” and “Thursday Party”. This was all fun in games until I woke up at 4am and needed to go to the toilet very badly (!!!) only to discover the one toilet in our apartment was over flowing. Gah. Having 17 people, a night of drinking and no toilet is far from an ideal situation, that invloved many of us legging it down 4 flights of stairs and into the nearest bar or cafe that was open to use their restroom. Nightmare.
Busan is a beautiful place, and the perfect weekend getaway during the Summer. I truely did not want to leave. I made some great friends from all over the world, got a super tan, was well fed, and left feeling refreshed and ready for a few more months of crazy teaching back in Paju. If I’m lucky I might even make it back there in a few weeks for The Pusan International Film Festival, one of the biggest film festivals in Asia. Soething to look forward to!