Home > Travel > Gyeongju – Thursday … except not Gyeongju: Busan

Gyeongju – Thursday … except not Gyeongju: Busan

Having seen much of what there is to see in Gyeongju (not everything, by any means, but there’s only so many grassy mounds one wants to look at) on Tuesday and Wednesday, I decided that it would be a good idea to take a trip down to Busan.

On the very south-eastern tip of the peninsula, Busan is South Korea’s second city; it has a population of about 4 million and is a major port. With its various beaches, it’s also quite a popular tourist destination.

My first plan was to take the train, but when I got to the station at about 9:30 and asked for a ticket I was told that I could only go as far as Bujeon (I think; it must be a suburb of the city) and then take the subway from there. The earliest train was at 10:40, arriving at 12:20 or so. I decided to try the bus station instead.

At the Express Bus Terminal I got an open ticket for ₩4,000 (about £2) and was on a coach within about ten minutes. The ride lasted about 50 minutes and dropped me at Nopodong. There, I bought another ₩4,000 ticket for the ride back and began to figure out the subway system. (Like Prague) Busan only has three subway lines (and unlike Seoul which has about a dozen, with new ones being constructed seemingly all the time). A subway ajumma in a pastel pink and yellow ajumma uniform helped me use the touchscreen ticket machine.

I had limited ambitions in terms of sightseeing when I was there. I did a little research and found that there was a Busan Tower at a Yongdusan Park (‘Yongdu’ = ‘dragon’s head’; ‘san’ = ‘mountain’). I made that my first port of call.

Yongdusan Park

As I left the subway it seemed like the weather was quite hazy, and I worried a little about the visibility. By the time I got up the hill (via a series of about five escalators) to the park I must have risen above it. The sky was blue and decorated with nice mackerel clouds (cirrus, or whatever it is).

Busan Tower

I went up the tower (120 metres in height) and took a batch of photos of Busan. The air grew increasingly milky with distance, but it was still possible to see a lot.

Hazy Harbour

There was also a museum of musical instruments at the foot of the tower. But it was closed. Darn. I had a look at some Japanese dolls in the neighbouring exhibition hall instead. Then I went for a coffee at a place called Cafe Seattle. Just inside the front door was a Segway – they were offering five-minute rides on it for ₩10,000. I passed that particular bargain up.

Japanese Doll

Next on my itinerary was Haeundae Beach. This is a very famous holiday spot – many of my students have talked about going on vacation there. It’s OK, I suppose. It seemed very narrow, but maybe that was just because the tide was in. It’s a mile or two long, and immediately behind it is Busan – large buildings and busy roads. An incongruous juxtaposition.

Haeundae Beach

I walked to the right, round a small headland to a rocky coastline. I found an information board that talked about some old figure who had carved the characters hae, un, dae into the rocks. It implied they were still visible, but I could see no sign of them. I took a load more photos. Once I was done I stopped at a public toilet to change my top and give my pits a spray. Then I went for more coffee.


And this left me enough time to comfortably make my way back to the coach station. I worried a little about whether there would be places left, but I needn’t have – there were only a handful of people on my bus. I found the appropriate bay – the bus there had a card in the window saying ‘경주’ (‘Gyeongju’). I waited for a moment for one of the several drivers hanging around to look at my ticket. Meanwhile, a couple of women approached the bay and climbed on board. So I did too.

When we got going, but driver didn’t bother collecting tickets or announcing the destination. I worried again – this time about ending up in the wrong city. But we arrived in Gyeongju 50 minutes later – just after nine. Only then did the driver take people’s tickets as got off the bus. Afterwards I wondered what would have happened had I pretended not to have a ticket.

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