Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Years, Busan, Food and Jjimjibangs

Seoul has almost everything that you could want, but Busan will give you things that you wouldn't expect. This port city doesn't disappoint, even when you can't enjoy the sun.

                      Haeundae 해운대구

After about 4 hours on a bus out of the cold country side, I arrived at what is one of the best cities in Korea. Busan is Seoul's cooler more laid back older brother. It is the 2nd largest city in the country, but the whole 빨리  ballee ballee or hurry feeling that persists  through most of the country is washed away. This may seem like a bit of a tangent, but this whole hurry go go go mentality isn't just in the big cities. In my small town in the middle of nowhere (thus not really anywhere to go) I have been nearly hip checked by old ladies getting on to the bus. The bus doesn’t just leave while people are getting on, it is just the bustle of Korea. Now that that is over, Busan was undoubtedly a great choice to warm up a bit and spend the passing of 2012.                                     


I had been to Busan once before during Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and swimming in the ocean was an option. Besides the beaches there is some amazing sea food to be had here. If you are feeling a bit adventurous, Busan is the place to try recently dead octopus. I thought that it really didn't taste like anything, but it was quite the experience. It is the chewiest thing that you will ever eat, also it fights back a bit. 

Few looks of hesitation but those green bottles help.
I will warn you now that it would not be the best idea to read the rest of this if you are hungry. My trips to Busan have been beaches, food, and one other jewel, but we will save that for last. The previous pic was taken at Yeongdo- gu an island that is about 1 hour from Haeundae. The past two visits I have made it a point to go to its rocky beach with small seafood mongers waiting to entice  you in. There are rows and rows of tents selling seafood that was brought in from the docks further down the beach.





Not only is the food good there, but there are some pretty sweet views at the park neighboring the beach. 






Every time we go we get to feast on this fresh seafood. They put butter, onions, and red peppers over mussels that you cook on their shell's. Oh, I forgot to mention, once you eat your little aquatic morsel one takes the leftover toppings puts them in a bowl.Then you take that, some sea weed, rice and mix it all up. If you are a person who is a fan of grilling you will love Korea. This is not specific to Busan, this country is filled with restaurants that bring the meat (on in Busan clams and mussel) and you do the rest. The tables have a little hole in them that your waiter will place a charcoal in. Then, all there is to do it wait, have a few drinks, and try some of the many side dishes that come with every meal.



What your typical spread looks like in lamb form.



This past trip my colleagues and I needed to recover from some excessive celebrating and we ened up finding the perfect place to recuperate.
Spa Land in super futuristic Centum City is one of the
nicest and largest Jjimjilbangs 찜질방 I have ever been to. A Jjimjilbang is a Korean bathhouse that includes hot tubs, cold tubs, and saunas. Guys and girls have their own sides and it is expected that you go in the nude. This may seem a bit strange, but Koreans have been doing this for a while and they do it right. This one was especially clean and felt like you were walking into some Korean 5 star resort that George Jetson hangs out at. There are more rooms that are mixed sex and the resort gives you super comfortable pajamas to wear while you take foot baths and lay around heated or cooled rooms. 
The only thing that this one was lacking was a sleeping area. For most of my travels I have found the Jjimjibang a very cheep hotel. There are 2 catches though: #1- you sleep on the floor. Koreans like to sit on the floor at the table (which is rather difficult for long legged people such as myself) and they don't mind sleeping on the floor with a mat, similar to a Therm-a-Rest one would use for camping. Catch #2- snoring. But, for around $7 you really cant go wrong and you have a hot tub waiting for you in the morning. 

Gwangalli Beach 광안리 해수욕장
So in Summery if you are coming to Korea by all means check out Seoul. It is a great city with a lot to offer, but i feel that Busan doesn't get the recognition that it properly deserves. Even during the winter months when you can't soak up the sun you can still absorb plenty of good vibes in this city.






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