The date was February 13th 2009 and it was the night before Valentines Day.As I sat in my barracks room sipping on a Jack and Coke with a hint of Soju I came to the conclusion that I was not going to spend my Valentines Day in Wonju or in Seoul.So I got up and wondered down the hall to one of the KATUSA’s (Korean soldier working with the US Army) rooms and asked him where the most romantic spot for singles to go is.He laughed at me for a few seconds and said that Busan is a great spot for anybody to go on Valentines Day, he then told me that he was going down there to meet up with an old college friend and that I was more than welcome to tag along.There was no way in hell I was going to let that opportunity pass me by.
The Busan Buddah
After telling him that I would most defiantly go with him to Busan, he simply replied “meet me downstairs in the morning at , we can take the express bus.” So there I had it, I was now going to Busan for the very first time.
The time was ; I had to get up quickly so I wouldn’t keep my travel buddy waiting.I finished packing my bags, took a quick shower, brushed my teeth, and double checked everything to make sure I was all set to go.By the time I got downstairs it was , and he was already down there waiting for me and another one of my friends who wanted to join.We called a post cab and went strait to the express bus station in Wonju. The bus picked us up and we were on our way.
Now at this point I still had no clue about Busan.I didn’t even know where it was in Korea or how long the bus ride was.I stayed awake for most the time, taking pictures of the scenery and other random things along the side of the road, to occasionally knock out for a five or ten minuet nap.I had my Zune turned up and my camera ready, I was good to go, but around the second hour of the bus ride I got up and walked to where my travel buddy was sitting.He knew instantly what I was going to ask him before I even got there.I asked him anyway; “Hey how long is this ride, I really have to pee…” He just looked at me and smiled, then said “Bro, it’s like a four to five hour bus ride depending on the traffic.”At that point only one thing crossed my mind; where did I put that empty Gatorade bottle… I really, really, really have to go.
About two and a half hours latter we finally reached our destination in Busan.Even before the bus had came to a stop I was already at the door with my bags waiting for the doors to open so I could jump out and go to the nearest bathroom.Before the doors could even finish opening, I was out and on the run with my friend’s chasing me, laughing hysterically because I was running in the direction of the female bathroom only to correct myself halfway there, where I slipped on the newly waxed floor hitting the ground to where I slid and bounced back up, and took off running again, this time towards the right bathroom… and yes, I made it.
We then hit the subway station to start heading in the direction of YandusanPark in Nampodong, to meet up with his old college friend.
Katusa and Jen
After spending a few minuets in the train I noticed that they ran quite slower then the ones I had gotten used to in Seoul.It took maybe half and hour to forty-five minuets to reach Nampodong where we met up with his friend.I can’t for the life of me remember her actually name because she just had us call her Jen.
The people in Busan were very welcoming and friendly, often coming up to us with giant smiles and offering us coffee or tea.It was Valentines Day so of course everyone was in a great mood already.The local couples were all holding hands, laughing, and the occasional person standing on a bench to sing about how much he loves his girl. Probably to embarrass her in front of her friends and everybody that could hear his off note singing.
All of the sights and smells were overwhelming with the smell of the traditional Korean food street vendors mixed with the greasy smells of fried seafood, it just over took my nostrils like you couldn’t even imagine, sending me into a state of bliss.
Busan Tower standing tall
All four of us walked from street market to street marked sampling all the different food items the street vendors were offering.Because it was Valentines Day, most of the stores, restaurants and vendors had special offers and discounts making things more interesting.We even found a tent where we all had all of our fortunes told.According to the fortune telling I will get back together with my ex-girlfriend when I return home, and get married five years after… crazy, that’s all I can say.
After a bit of walking we finally got to BusanTower in YandusanPark.BusanTower is a tower built in 1973 and stands 120 meters high looking over Busan.The sight of the tower was amazing.
Another look at the tower
For a Valentines Day special you could go up to the top of the tower for a price of 5,000won, and kids under the age of 12 got in for free.We bought our tickets and headed up into the top of the tower.The view was amazing, you could see forever.In the very top of the tower is a little ice cream and coffee vendor.You can also walk a full 360o around the tower.The views are spectacular.
One thing I did notice about Busan is because of its location on the KoreanPeninsula it has a dramatic climate difference from the northern areas such as Wonju or Seoul.It was around the BusanTower area where I had to take off my big winter jacket to walk around in only my t-shirt.
Korean style new years bell, rings 33 times on the lunar new year.
It had to of been at least 70o F out.Busan’s climate made it much more comfortable to walk around and enjoy the scenery.
Our next stop was HaeundaeBeach.HaeundaeBeach is a stretch of sand a mile long that is open year round.While we were there they were kicking off their annual Polar Bear Dip.This was a beautiful beach with little to no pollution until you get to the northern end of the beach where you will find a vast amount of broken bottles, plastic jugs, and other litter items.Nothing though could possible destroy the vast beauty that we experienced on the beach.We even found a Korean love sign written into the sand.
From the tower.
While us four where there, people were enjoying the bright sun.People were even surfing, swimming and kayaking out in the cold water laughing and having fun.
Down on the south end of the beach is where the famous Westin Chosun Hotel is located, behind that is a walkway to run, jog, or just walk the rivers edge looking over through trees at the beautiful BusanCity.By the time we made it that far it was already night time so the lights were one.The sight was amazing, I had to take many photographs to add to my Myspace and to show my family and friends back home, and according to the fortune teller my ex-girlfriend as well.Ha. Ha. Ha… If you walk the path about five minuets you will see a small light house where you can look out over the river to see the GwanganBridge.
The looking glass.
It is quite the site to see at night.
Walking on the same path, a little further down is a trail you can take to walk to oceans edge and look out over Haeundae beach.They have many lookout points that are right over the rocks, this gives you a great vantage point to take photographs of Haeundae beach all lit up by the city lights.It was gorgeous.
After all our walking around and joking around with each other we all got quite hungry.Jen lived in Busan so she took us back down to the beach and found us a beach side restaurant where we ate on the outside balcony.This is where we enjoyed an array of sea creatures including fresh shrimp, clams, oysters and sea creatures I did not recognize.
The rest of the meal was spent discussing our past travels and experiences.We also enjoyed a bit of drinking soju and cracking jokes on one another.
During one of our discussions Jen mentioned how they were going to have fireworks around so we all stuck around for that, even buying some fire works of our own.The fireworks lasted maybe 20 minuets, and that’s more than my home towns Fourth of July fireworks show.After the fireworks had stopped, a friend and I decided to break every safety rule on the roman candles we had bought.What we did was walk out into a semi clear part of the beach where we started shooting fireworks off at each other.Nobody was hurt so don’t worry.After we had run out of artillery we had a crowd of people around us laughing, cheering, and taking photographs of us.
Gives you an idea how high up it is.
It turned out to be quite an event.
The rest of that evening was spent laughing and joking.We also enjoyed a few beers while all huddled up on the beaches edge, telling stories and reminiscing of when we were little kids.We then retired to a hotel with no beds.My travel buddy said that it was the traditional Korean Hotel, heated floors but no beds.The hotel made up for no beds with its spectacular view of the ocean and the beach.
It was around when we all finally got up and got ready for the day.Our first stop was at the aquarium right off from the HaeundaeBeach.
Admittance was very cheap, only about 20,000won for an adult, and that included the 3D ride located by the food court.I fell instantly in love with this aquarium as soon as I took notice of the car they had made into a big fish tank filled with giant goldfish. It was quite the site.The aquarium hosted many creatures from around the world.The big attractions included the touch tank, penguin tank, and shark tank where they offered clear bottom boat rides for an additional 5,000won.The aquarium was very well designed for both children and kids at heart.
When we finished with the aquarium, we decided that the hot springs would be our next stop, so after eating a meal at FN Tacos we headed back down to the subway.We took the subway train for about twenty minuets where we ended up in Oncheonjang.After walking around for a while, in the wrong direction, my travel buddy asked a local for directions to the spa.
Looking into the harbor
Finally we found the spa after about half an hour of walking.The spas name was Hurshimchung Spa.The spa was very well decorated and could make anyone feel as if they were a big-wig off on some extravagant vacation.Admission was very cheap, I don’t remember how much it was, but when we finally left my bill was only 75,000won for two people.Not bad at all if I may say so myself.
The spa included many different sites; it has an upstairs and a downstairs.The downstairs is the resting place where you can just chill out with your family or friends.The downstairs had once station that was for your feet.I really don’t know how to describe this but it’s basically fish tanks built into the ground where you stick your feet into and the fish will attack your feet, eating all of the dead skin cells off from your feet.
Taking a step back
The experience is quite unique.The rest of the downstairs is composed of different saunas and chill rooms.They even have a play area for children, but adults were in there as well.A mini restaurant and snack bar is also located in the resting area.The food was alright but a bit pricey.
On the second floor are the actual hot spring pools.The men and woman hot springs are segregated because of the fact that these are nude hot spring pools.I was not aware of this until I took step into the second floor and notice that everyone was completely naked.It is a little awkward at first but you soon forget about it when you see the different baths.They have one full of champagne, soy, and one even full of strawberry milk.
You can see forever
Just don’t drink it because that would be just disgusting.With that they have an array of pools different in size and temperature.Be sure you have your robe on before venturing back down to the first floor.
We headed out sometime around relaxed and hungry for some Korean food.Unfortunately we never made it to a restaurant.Around I started to feel quite ill so we headed to a hotel not to far from the hot springs.Soon after checking in I started vomiting every two or four minuets.If that wasn’t bad enough I had massive diarrhea at the exact same time.This lasted all night and wouldn’t slow down until about .
Me chilling in the tower.
I took as much fluids as I could but could keep nothing down or up.Around my friend’s decided that it would be best to get me back to Wonju so I could go to the hospital. I was in rough shape.I figured after all night of arguing with them about going to a hospital in Busan, it was the least I could do for them.
We made our way to the express bus station.At each subway stop I continued vomiting and well it was a rough trip to the bus station.Once we finally got there my troubles didn’t stop.It seemed like every five minuets or so I was back hugging the bowl.You see, I am used to traveling on Greyhound buses back in the US with them little toilets in the back, so when that bus pulled up and it, like the rest of the buses here in Korea, had no toilet, I knew I was doomed.
Me and Jen, shes a cuttie
I thought for sure I was finished.I quickly choked down a small apple and boarded the bus.
The bus ride seemed never-ending, with bump after bump I don’t know how I lasted without vomiting all over the place, but I did it.I held it in for the five hour bus ride back to Wonju but as soon as I stepped of the bus… well you figure this one out.
The hospital determined that I had a severe case of food poising caused by the bacteria in poorly perpetrated seafood.It took a grand total of two weeks for me to get better another few days after that to start eating solid food again.You may ask if it was worth it, and I would have to say yes.I love to travel and the places I got to see and experience made being quite ill worth the trip.
I wish I could have stayed there longer.
Another trip, great memories!
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