Busan, located at the South-Eastern tip of the Korean Peninsula, is widely known by historians as the city that bore the brunt of the Communist Invasion by North Koreans in August of 1950. While the rest of Korea was subdued under Communist control, the tide of the Korean war depended on the defence of this last remaining city. Of course, the UN was successful in pushing back North Korean forces in the September of 1950. Well, considering the fact that this only happened 65 years ago, which is relatively not too long ago, I was excited to see for myself the scars left behind by the Korean War since I’m a history junkie.
It was about a 7 hour plane ride after a few-hour transit in Kuala Lumpur. From the airport, we took the subway to our little motel in Haeundae, where we stayed for the next 3 days. For the most part of our trip in Busan, we used the subway to get to places, and this is probably a much better option than taxi or bus if you really wanna get to know more about the culture and the people here.
In this city, it seems that a high percentage of the demography go to the elderly since I pretty much see a lot of old people everywhere. Well, my first impressions of the people here are great! Especially the elderly. From what I observe, they must really love children since on almost every train ride they go, they would invite my 6 year old younger sister to sit on their laps, and they would play with her, or give her a treat or two.
To be honest, subway rides can be a little boring and strenuous. Especially when you have to travel long distances or you have to transfer train lines a couple of times (which means that you can’t sleep for the entire duration of the journey). However, my experience in the subway here is way different than what I normally have in the MRT back in Singapore. Keep in mind that most of the people are the elderly, and of course, they are not the tech-savvy group of people who would stick their faces to their smartphones (which I highly doubt they own) playing Candy Crush or fishing likes over at Instagram. Instead, train rides are opportunities for them to socialise, get to know others, and share stories.
I remember finally getting a seat next to this elderly man after standing for a long period of time. Well, minding my own business staring blankly towards the floor when he started gently tugging my black glove that I was wearing on my left hand. In my head I was thinking, “What is this guy trying to do?”
I mean it was out of nowhere and I didn’t know the man at all. So I turned my head towards him with the “confused-stare” look and he immediately asked me with a smile in a soft, frail voice, “Cold?”
I replied with a simple nod of the head.
He went on to ask, “Where you are from?”
“Singapore,” I acknowledged.
With a heart-warming grin on his face, “Welcome in Busan.”
He continued by asking for my age and he started talking about the things that he did when he was my age. He also shared about his work life and stories when he was transitioning into his work life. It was evident he was not proficient in English but he did make the effort to form coherent sentences for me to understand. I went ahead to ask for his age and to my surprise, for such a fit looking person, he claimed that he was 72 years of age. For me the fact that he was 72 is surprising for me since there is a high possibility that he saw the war happened when he was a kid.
After a little bit of story sharing, the train finally reached his intended stop. He gave a small bow, stepped outside of the train onto the platform, and waited for the train to leave. Only when the train left, he gave a small bow and waved at me with the same heart-warming grin on his face.
Who knew the subway can be an interesting place!
I notice that here, there are quite a number of Christian Missionaries too, preaching at entrances.
In Busan, the best place to try seafood would be at the World-Famous Jagalchi Market at Nampo. It offers a wide variety of seafood that you can take away or that can be cooked on the spot by the stalls there. However, Winter isn’t the best time to look for seafood since most of the seafood isn’t available during the season. Due to the limited selection, I didn’t actually try the seafood since (fun fact) I don’t like to eat Crustaceans; but my other family members seemed to enjoy it.
We visited a couple of different markets selling all sorts of things from clothes, to food. I think the most interesting thing I noticed was the street food. Usually, you would buy the food at the stall, and then walk away with the food, or there are tables for you to actually enjoy the food; but here, they prepare the food for you, and then you consume the food on the same table while standing. I have no idea what I tried that day (it was good though) but it seemed to be some form of “vegetable pancake” sort of thing (I’m not a foodie so yeah). And of course who would forget the Kimchi. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of Kimchi before I visited Korea; this absolutely changed my perception of this dish.
For some reason, I really do enjoy the being in the environment of a wet market. Seeing the hustle and bustle of it, people calling out to each other, neighbouring stall owners joking with one another, it feels like you’re in a vibrant and colourful place.
As I walked down into the corridors, I noticed that majority of the stalls sold Kimchi, and there were many different ways to prepare them. This whole time I thought Kimchi was like a single dish on its own (again not a foodie). There were some mixed in with fish or even crab.
Apparently the people here are like really hyped up about churros because you can really find them literally everywhere.
On our last day here, went sightseeing around town in a tour bus, and later on, in an open-top bus. The tour bus went through a couple of hills where we got sort of like a bird’s-eye view of the shores of Busan, and also a little bit of nature.
We unexpectedly stopped by an aquatic museum of some sort since the bus driver wanted to have his lunch. In the museum, were displays of preserved fish and live fish in little aquariums. There was also a small bay next to it where fishermen just do their thing.
Later on, we transferred to an Open-Top bus at BEXCO to do some sightseeing. The temperatures was about 10 Degrees Celsius, and it sounded like a bad idea to sit in an open area when the bus is moving at such a high speed, but it was all worth the fun. Instead of being just a mundane bus ride, it somehow “transforms” into a roller coaster ride when cold wind gush into your face at high speeds. On top of that, there were breathtaking views too.
It gets dark like really early around say… 6:00pm, and so there isn’t really much to do at night except to just watch the people of Busan carry on with their normal lives. Well, I did a little bit of experiment with long exposure on my phone’s camera and it produced some spectacular results!
Anyway, the most interesting part of my stay here is watching the people of Busan carry on with their normal lives. I mean it’s something I really do appreciate; seeing people load carts off carts, children playing “catching” with one another, couples teasing each other, and you can find all of these on the streets.
…and we have construction workers too.
…little children going on field trips.
Apparently, here, cardboard collectors are a common sight too.
I guess I can say that what really made my trip here in Busan memorable was the people. Like how they made me feel like I’m no stranger here. I really do believe that the impact the people left on me here is really something that I will not forget for a long time.
For more pictures from Busan, do head over to my VSCO Grid!