Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beachee Time!!

My final weekend in Korea :(

Luckily it was a three day weekend...for me at least. Many teachers had to continue to work all through Friday and all of Saturday. The work schedule here is insane. But at least they didn't force us to work the long weekend. I might have rebelled had they scheduled me. Anyway, moving on.

Robert and I took the 2:30 shuttle out of the village on Friday afternoon just to get out. I didn't want to go straight down to Busan so we could just relax for a little bit after a crazy week. It was nice hanging out in Daegu without having to worry about catching the shuttle bus back to the village. We were able to eat dinner and wander around and just sit and talk without any stress. We found a tiny family restaurant and ate some delicious dolsot be-bim-bop (a rice and veggies thing in a super hot stone bowl) which has become one of my favorite varieties of Korean food. This little restaurant was the first time I had ever eaten at one of the floor-level tables. It was definitely a new experience; but it's something I could get used to.

 After dinner we wandered over to the 2-28 park which is the place to be it seems. There are benches all over the place and almost every single one is occupied. It makes sense though, seeing as it is a great place to have a conversation.


Also in Chilgok

Alleyway in Daegu

Rows of park benches 

On Saturday, I had wanted to get into Busan as early as possible but it ended up being a lazy morning. We also didn't buy tickets ahead of time and ended up having to wait two hours at the train station so we could get on a train with seats. Otherwise we would have had to do standing room only on a two hour train ride. No thanks. We took the Mugunghwa (the slow train) instead of the KTX because it stops right at Haeundae Beach and the KTX station is still an hour subway ride away from Haeundae. The slow train is a very different atmosphere than the KTX. The people are just having a good time, laughing, and chatting; children are crying, screaming, and laughing. Sometimes people are standing over you having a conversation because they have the standing room only tickets and decide to chat right next to your seat. I tried really hard to sleep but for some reason I have a really difficult time getting comfortable enough to sleep on a train.

Once we got to Haeundae it was a different atmosphere. You can feel the beach on the air when you get out of the train station. It is a very busy part of Busan because it is the most popular beach and also because we had decided to visit on a holiday weekend. The beach was completely packed. People go to the beach to rent an umbrella and sit in the shade. This weekend there were so many umbrellas that you couldn't see the water if you were at the back of the beach. The entire beach was completely covered in umbrellas. Koreans also are notoriously bad swimmers (or something) because everyone rents an inner tube to ride out the waves on. So the beach is covered in umbrellas and the water is covered in inner tubes. Whenever a "big" wave comes you can hear everyone in the water screaming, joyously of course, but it's still funny. We lucked out on the weather though. A huge storm rolled in in about five minutes with super dark and green-looking clouds and it started pouring. But five minutes later, it had blown over and the sun came back out. It was like it had never even rained! After getting to the beach, we met up with some people from the village who had also come down, just on a later train- Willie, Freya, and Michael.          

super busy beachee 

Inner tube city

umbrella land

After the beach it was about time for some dinner. Willie wanted to get some seafood because Freya doesn't like it and the rest of us were willing to eat it. The only problem is that seafood is expensive! There were open fish restaurants everywhere. We walked down this one street that was like a market and most of the restaurants had fish tanks out in front so you get to pick your fish and they cook it up for you right there. There were all sorts of different kinds of seafood in these markets: crab, shellfish, octopus, squid, these weird sea-cucumber looking things, anything that lives in the ocean they will eat. The only problem is that it's all really expensive. We wanted to get some huge king crabs but they were 120,000 won each. In the end, we all agreed to go to the Kimchi restaurant that Freya had wanted to go to all along. We got a huge vat of kimchi soup (with pork I think) and it was delicious! I never thought I'd say this but kimchi is really growing on is seaweed.

We headed back to the beach after dinner to check out the night scene. Willie is a professional musician and he had brought a mini trumpet with him. He's played with some of the street musicians out here before and so we were on a lookout for them so he could play with them again. The beach is just as busy at night as it is in the day! The only difference is that they take the umbrellas down so you can see the water. People come down to the beach just to hang out and have picnics and there are also tons of different music and party scenes. On a one block stretch you may see three different kids of music going on. Right when we got down to the beach there was a fireworks/laser show because of the holiday weekend. A barge had been "parked" off shore and they had the show on there. It was so cool! After the show we went looking for the street musicians but we couldn't find them and so we ended up watching a Filipino cover band for a while who were pretty good. I have to be honest though, I never thought I'd hear a Filipino Michael Jackson! We finally found the street musicians who Willie knew and he jumped right in and started playing with them. We sat and listened for a while but then a couple of us had to run to the convenience store. On the way back, we stopped by this area where a dance club had set up speakers outside. There was a big circle of people with only a couple of guys dancing in the middle but all the sudden they started pulling people into the middle and the big circle of spectators turned into a big dance party! We wanted to dance so we dropped our stuff off by where Willie was playing with the street musicians and went back and joined the dance party. It was great- just us 3 westerners dancing in the middle of tons of Koreans! We ended up dancing for like 2 hours on and off, dipping our feet into the ocean on occasion because it was getting so hot.

fireworks/laser show

Willie and Freya

the street musicians Willie played with (I tried to upload a video but it didn't work- check Facebook)

the dance party!

At around 2:30 am we figured we should probably find a place to stay the night. One of the street musicians gave us the name of a really nice jim-jil-bong off of the beach a little ways and so we headed over there. We had trouble getting there because we couldn't get a taxi, then the first taxi driver didn't want to do a u-turn and made us get out, and then the last taxi driver didn't know where he was going. Luckily a pedestrian was able to help us out and tell him where to go. But once we got there the lady at the front desk told us they were full. The only place for us to stay would be in the fitness room- maybe we could sleep on a treadmill or something. It was so early in the morning and our taxi had already left so I just said let's do it- I want to go to sleep! The place really was packed though. There were women sleeping in the hallway by the elevator, in the locker room, in the prep room, and the main sleeping floor was so packed that people were sleeping right up to the edge of the stairs. The fitness room was also pretty full- people were literally everywhere. I decided to sleep in the corner of the room, crammed in between the wall and some exercise bikes. I kept kicking this Korean guy in the feet too- it's definitely a place where people get up close and personal! It wasn't so bad because we were only there for a few hours, but I did end up getting between 4 and 5 hours of sleep I think! The sauna part was really nice the next morning. The hot tubs were right up against these huge bay windows that looked right over the beach. There was even an outdoor pool too- awesome contrast between cool air and hot water :) After getting showered and such we ate breakfast and headed on to the next beach.

 The view of the ocean from the jim-jil-bong

Gwangali beach was suggested to us by another teacher at the village and we wanted to try it out and see if it was possibly any less busy than Haeundae. We hopped on the subway and a couple of stops later we were there! The beach was definitely less crowded- it was possible to see the water through the umbrellas! But I think that was the only nice part about it. The water was very shallow and super cold! All the water here is cold, but this beach was much colder. It was also dirty-there was a lot of trash in the water and after finding some rather disgusting trash, we decided to leave. 

We had no desire to spend our night in another jim-jil-bong so we started our search for a hotel right away after leaving the beach. We went to an information booth and asked them where we could find a cheap hotel and they totally hooked us up! They found us this love motel two blocks away from the beach that was only 45 bucks a night. We decided to rest for a while and then get out and eat some food and do some wandering. There was a traditional duck restaurant right next to our motel that we decided to eat at and it was delicious! They gave us so many side dishes that we couldn't even see the top of the table. That is the most side dishes I have ever seen the whole time I have been here. Afterwards we wandered down to the "downtown" area and I spent at least 30 minutes trying to get a good picture of the bridge. I kept saying "lets walk down a little farther" until we got to the end of the pier we were on. After I got my picture we wandered in towards this huge ferris wheel thinking we might be able to get a ride on it- and we did! We found it, plus a free fall tower thing and also a roller coaster! It was a tiny little amusement park and the roller coaster was just funny but it was fun to go anyway. 

Gwangali Beachee

The round bed at the love motel! 

side dishes-before they even brought out the main course! 

looking across the bay 

finally got my bridge picture!

Michael, Freya, Robert and Me- stoked for the free fall!!

Willie decided not to ride the free fall ride and do the viking ship instead!

The next morning we were so exhausted that we decided to sleep in as late as we could and not plan anything until noon. It was fabulous. The first thing I needed was coffee so we stopped by a coffee shop to pick one up. It was pretty busy so I waited in line for a while only for them to tell me when I got to the counter that they were sold out of drip coffee! I don't know how that's even possible. But luckily there are about 5 coffee shops on every block so I had no trouble finding one that actually had coffee. From there we went straight to the beach for a couple of hours and from the beach, we went straight to the train station to come home. 

Michael, Willie, Freya, Robert and me at the train station 
(picture from Freya- Thanks!)


  1. Great pictures! All those inner tubes are hilarious, and I love that circle bed! I look forward to seeing your photos of Spain :)

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