at the end of october, we had a weekend getaway to busan, which has become one of my favorite places to be in korea. the original intent was to see the international fireworks display on saturday night, but things didn’t quite go as planned. here’s the rundown of the weekend:
we arrived friday night to the pobi guesthouse on haeundae beach. we checked into our room, then ventured out in search of food. we chose the wolfhound pub because of their rumored greasy western food. while i liked the ambience of the place, the burger left much to be desired, but david’s chicken sandwich was good. we still had a blast singing mash-ups and unwinding from the week in the company of our good friends.
saturday we awoke to pouring rain. i forced myself to go for a run, in the rain, because i thought this may be the last time i get the chance to run along the beach in busan. it was wet and windy, but i loved following the coastline up to a little look-out penninsula. i loved the quiet, and the calm, and the other occasional runners i spotted. busan is so different from gwangju, because there is a much more established western community there. no one gawked or stared as i ran along. it was refreshing.
back at the hostel we all made breakfast and discussed the plan for the day. since it was raining, we decided to check out the busan aquarium. after attempting to get some caribou coffee (it was caribou, but not an actual caribou coffeeshop, so we were a little let-down) and doing some reading-aloud in starbucks (for those in the group that didn’t want to attempt the caribou), we were off to the aquarium. it was a good way to pass the early afternoon hours, marveling at all the colorful and unique fish. there is something about going to an aquarium – or a zoo, or an amusement park, or a mcdonalds playplace (ok, maybe not that last one) – that brings back a feeling of kid-like wonder in me. everything is new and fascninating and exciting. i think the highlight for me was the porpoises that were being fed and doing tricks as we walked through a glass tunnel underneath them. i could have watched their antics all day.
for a late lunch, we ate at the most heavenly sandwich/salad shop. all the sandwiches came with fresh ciabatta bread that was perfectly crispy on the outside while still soft and spongy on the inside. and the servings of cheese were real, thick, aromatic slices of actual cheese. we were all so swept up in eating, we hardly talked once the food came. i mean, back home you’ve got your panera bread or your hy-vee bakery and cheese section. but here in korea, good bread and good cheese (together at one place!) are a rarity.
all during lunch, we watched the sky pour buckets down onto the streets around us. it was the heaviest, windiest rain i’d seen in a long time. we decided to go back to the hostel for a fireworks update, and once we were there we learned first of a delay, and then finally a postponement until sunday evening (which we couldn’t stay for). our saturday night plans were shot. but we’d heard of a sauna/spa that was supposed to be one of the largest (and best) in all of korea, so we decided to give it a shot.
spaland is located in the largest department store in the world. for 14 dollars, you get access to over a dozen sauna rooms with varying temperatures and different themes, and you get access to about a dozen pools and steam rooms and hot tubs. in seperate guy/girl locker rooms, we changed into the clothes they gave us, then all met up together to sample the saunas. we sweat it out in a bunch of different rooms, until we finally built our endurance up to the hottest room. the rooms were dark and peaceful, and the whole place was such a relaxing experience. after the saunas, we split up again and spent some time in the pools as guys/girls. the pools are no clothing required, of course, and so it was certainly a bonding experience for us girls.
we got back to the beach area feeling clean and starving. we made it into an indian place near closing time, and sat entranced by the bollywood music videos until our delicious food came. after eating, we grabbed some drinks in a bag, and went to sit on the beach (the rain had finally stopped and left behind a balmy night). out on the beach were lots of groups of people, some playing music, some eating, some chatting, and we amused ourselves by talking about the dumbest stuff we’d ever done (which, i’m sorry, i can’t divulge here).
sunday morning we had another tasty, groggy breakfast at the hostel, then headed out to see yonggungsa temple on the coast. when you live in korea, all the temples can start to look the same, but i’d seen pictures of this one and i knew it was on my list of things to see. even though it was overflowing with tourists in their neon hiking gear, it was breathtaking. the rocky coast juts out from underneath the vividly colored buildings of the temple. the water is turqoise-blue, and a giant, laughing golden buddah reflects the sun. it was a sight to see.
in the afternoon, we caught the bus home (after eating a little mcdonalds at the bus terminal). even though we missed out on the fireworks, we did get to see a side of busan that we otherwise would’ve missed. the rain forced us to explore some new areas, and we were glad we did.