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Busan (??, ??), also Pusan, is a city in South Gyeongsang, South Korea.
The bustling port of Busan
With nearly four million people, Busan is South Korea's second largest city and the country's largest seaport. This gives the city an international flair, with sailors from around the world trooping through and, these days, not a few tourists (mostly from China, Japan and Russia) too.
Nampodong to the south is Busan's shopping and entertainment downtown, while central Seomyeon at the intersection of subway lines 1 and 2 is where the office buildings are. Between them are Busan's train station and its international ferry terminals. The beaches of Gwangalli, Haeundae and Songjeong lie to the east, the ruins of mountain fortress Geumjeong guard the north, and Gimhae Airport occupies the last compass point in the west.
Busan's Gimhae Airport (http://gimhae.airport.co.kr/eng/index.jsp) (PUS) fields flights around the country and some international flights as well, mostly to Japan and China but also to Bangkok.
Airport limousine buses connect to various points in the city for a flat W5000. The trip takes 30-40 minutes (in good traffic) and there are departures on all lines every 20-30 minutes. A taxi to the city center will set you back about W15000 including tolls.
Space-age Busan Station looks like a UFO that has accidentally landed in the somewhat grubby stretch between the bright lights of Nampodong and Seomyeon. Still, it's easy enough to get in or away with subway line 1, and there are lots of cheap motels and eating places in the vicinity.
KTX (http://ktx.korail.go.kr/eng/index.html) trains connect Seoul to Busan via Daegu and Daejeon in 160 minutes (45000 won). Other trains, such as Saemaeul and Mugunghwa, connect Busan with other major cities as well. They're cheaper but slower than KTX.
- Gyeongbu Highway: connecting Busan with Seoul via Daejeon and Daegu.
- Gumi Highway: alternative highway to Daegu.
- Namhae Highway: connecting to Gwangju via Jinju and Suncheon.
Almost all cities and counties in South Korea have an express bus to Busan.
There are two major bus stations:
- Dongbu Intercity Bus Terminal (?????????), Nopodong Station (Line 1). For points north and east (eg. Daegu, Gyeongju, Seoul, Ulsan).
- Seobu Intercity Bus Terminal (?????????), Sasang Station (Line 2). For points west (eg. Jinju, Masan).
Befitting Busan's status as a major port, there are regular international ferry services to Japan and China. Kanpu Ferry (http://www.kampuferry.co.jp/)'s daily overnight runs to Shimonoseki are the cheapest, but JR Kyushu's Beetle (http://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/beetle/index.jsp) hydrofoils to Fukuoka run five times a day and take just under 3 hours.
The three lines of the Busan Subway (http://www.subway.busan.kr/) connect the bus terminals and nearly all sights of interest together. Rides are W900 or 1000 depending on distance (hang onto your ticket until you exit), and both signage and announcements are in English so finding your way is easy.
There are plenty of taxis prowling the streets of Busan. Regular taxi flag drop is W1800 for the first two kilometers, then the meter starts ticking at W100 for each 169m. Deluxe taxis (black and red) charge W4200 for the first 3 km and then W200 for each 199m.
- Beomeo-sa Temple, subway Beomeosa. One of Korea's Great 5 Temples, this large temple complex is located up in the mountains, seemingly much further away from the big city than the few kilometers it is. Founded in 678, the buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt many times, but they're still atmospheric. Watch out though, as the temple gets packed with worshippers, hikers (see Do) and tourists on weekends. To get there, take exit 5 from the station, make a U-turn, turn left and take bus 90 from the station a few hundred meters up (W900, 20 minutes, every 15 min). Entry W1000.
- 40 Steps (40 Gyedan), subway Jungang-dong. A few streets of a grubby district have been 'restored' to their condition in the post-Korean-War 1960s, with wooden lamppost and bronze figures illustrating scenes of hardscrabble street life.
- Yongdusan Park, subway Nampodong (take the hillside escalator up). This pleasant little park is home to Busan's one true tourist trap, the creaky 118m Busan Tower (W3000). There are some decent views even without going up the tower, and you can buy some corn to feed the resident population of ravenous pigeons.
Beaches and hot springs
Busan is above all famous for its seven beaches and three hot springs.
- Haeundae Beach (???), near subway/KNR Haeundae. One of the most popular summer destinations in South Korea. Haeundae attracts tourists from all around the country, and gets overcrowded in late July and early August. There are numerous Motels nearby.
- Hurshimchung Spa (??? Heosimcheong), subway Oncheonjang (exit 1, cross the street and make a beeline for Hotel Nong Shim; it's connected by a walkway), 1 (http://nds.nongshim.co.kr/nds/vrhs/html/index_e.htm). This massive hot spring complex claims to be the largest in Asia: Noboribetsu might disagree, but it certainly is huge, with hot, tepid, cold and strawberry milk-filled baths, saunas, pools, and an outdoor section. On the 3rd floor is a large jjimjilbang resting area, containing (among other things) a restaurant, a beauty salon, an oxygen room, and three 'igloos' heated to 81°C, 51°C and 0°C. You'll get a key when you come in, use it to open your shoe and clothes lockers and pay for any purchases inside. Men's and women's spas are segregated but the resting area is shared, so pick up a robe before you head downstairs. There's also some signage in English to guide you around. Entry to the spa is W8000, plus W1000 for the jjimjilbang on Sunday/holidays only. You can stay as long as you want, but it gets quite crowded and noisy on weekends.
- Gwangalli Beach (??? Gwanganri), near subway Geumnyeonsan (exit 1). Best experienced at night when the massive Gwangan Grand Bridge behind it is illuminated.
The mountains around Busan have some good hiking trails. Probably the most popular route is from the South Gate (Nammun) of Geumjeong Fortress, reachable by cable car from Oncheongjang, through the North Gate (Bukmun) and down to Beomeosa Temple, a distance of 8.8 km (3-4 hours).
Underground entrance to the Lotte Department Store
- Lotte Department Store, subway Seomyeon. An over-the-top temple to consumerism (check out the fountains and statues at the basement entrance), this is Busan's largest department store and the place to pick up some W500,000 ginseng or perhaps a Spam gift set for the folks back home. The basement has good food court/delicatessen/supermarket section.
- Choryang Foreigner Shopping Area, opposite Busan station. This is a strange duck indeed, namely a combined China-and-Russiatown with ornate Chinese gates and Russian shops selling pickles and vodka. The overall feeling is distinctly downmarket, and if you want to take the name literally there are ladies of many nationalities enticing sailors and other customers in the doorways; you may get more than you bargained for though, as the area is notorious for ripoffs and even the occasional robbery at night.
- Gimbap Cheonha (????), a block to the north of Busan station (orange-yellow-white sign). Serves up gimbap from W1000 and all sorts of noodles for W2500-4000. No English menu or sign, but if you can say it they'll make it, and it's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- welly&, Busan station 3F. This food court serves all the usual Korean favorites, with plastic food and English menus making ordering a snap. Meals from W5000.
Busan is famous for raw fish (?? hoetjip), which the Koreans eat in the same style as bulgogi, namely topped with kimchi and gochujang and wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
One of the best places to sample this is the Millak Town Raw Fish Center, a large brown building at the northern end of Gwangalli Beach. The first floor is the actual fish market and the floors above are packed with nothing but restaurants serving it up. This can get expensive, so order a set or specify your budget to avoid surprises.
- Four Season Raw Fish (Sakyeocheol Hoetjip), Millak Raw Fish Center 2F. The owner, Mr. Jun, speaks English, but ordering here is easy: it's either set A, B or C at 30/40/50,000 won per head. Even Set A is huge, while C will feed a family of North Koreans for a year. Be warned: this is as real as it gets and dishes will include still-moving octopus tentacles and other stuff most Westerners would not readily categorize as "food".
Busan has thousands if not tens of thousands of drinking places scattered throughout the city. Popular spots include Nampodong and the area around Pusan National University.
- Gwangjang Tourist Hotel (??????), 1200-17, Choryang 3-dong, Dong-gu (north side of Busan Station Plaza), tel. 051-464-3141. Centrally located no-frills two-star hotel. Rooms have bathrooms, air-con and TV. Singles/doubles from W43000/48000.
- Gyeongju — arguably Korea's cultural capital, just over an hour away by bus
- Jinju — a quiet city known for its fortress and bibimbap, 1.5 hours away by bus