2.5 months in Seoul, South Korea
 
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Busan, Korea's Hot Vacation Spot
Just spent a glorious three days in sunny Busan.

Hot sun, cool ocean, gritty sand, salty air,

the highlight of the trip was the day we spent at the most popular beach in Korea, Haeundae Beach.















Contrary to our expectations, the water was clear, shallow, and seemed clean enough. There were tons of kids and teens in the ocean hanging on to inner tubes riding the waves.


To get to Busan, which is on the southernmost tip of South Korea, we took the train from Seoul Station. The mugunghwa class train takes 5 hours from Seoul to Busan and costs $25.
We managed to escape the rain clouds which poured down on Seoul during the three days that we were gone.
















All we had to deal with was lots and lots of hot sun =)
At Haeundae Beach, no one brings their own sun umbrella to the beach. They're all rented for 5,000 won, resulting in the sand being covered with identical red and white umbrellas advertising McDonalds and Lotteria.





























We had to find someone with non-sandy hands to take a photo of us. When the picture was finally taken, we found out that you could barely see our faces because of the shadow.
I adjusted the shadows and highlightings to fix the picture, and now we have some kind of weird halo around our figures, like we're angels O:-]














Around Haeundae Beach are lots of small restaurants and vendors. The stores have a somewhat limited selection of beach supplies though. Mark found himself buying a Disney Princesses towel =p



































We met up with some native Busan-ers (?) for dinner. They took us to a place that serves a chicken dish which is a Busan specialty.


















It was basically pieces of chicken and rice cake in a spicy sauce. The sauce was definitely the best part, I'd never tasted it before; a flavorful fusion that tasted like barbecue sauce and spicy Korean gochujang (red pepper paste). I'm not sure why there are corn kernels and pickles in it though.
















After we ate, I had to visit the 붕어빵 (bungabbang~ bunga is the word for goldfish, bbang means bread) vendor down the street.
hese little pastries are delicious!! Batter is poured into a fish shaped mold and baked with red bean in the middle.
To clear up any misunderstanding, there are no fish products whatsover inside.














In the States, there is also an ice cream version of this made by Binggrae.

Oh and I can't forget the sesame ice cream.














AMAZING. Sold by Natuur as a "well-being" ice cream. It's my new favorite flavor.
















Gorgeous sunset view.















The not so gorgeous yeogwan (cheap motel) that I stayed at. But for $20 a night and your own bathroom, it's a good deal. Still, I was afraid that something would crawl out of a crack in the wall and bite me while I was asleep.


We also went to Gwangalli Beach, famous for its nighttime view of the Gwangan bridge, the longest bridge in Korea.


















Korean palm trees




















Near the university district in Busan, we found "Foxy", which boasted both a bar and a dance *cave*.


















At Foxy I witnessed multiple male couples grinding enthusiastically on each other. These guys were straight (many Koreans are still deeply suspicious of homosexuals).
And there were no guys and girls dancing together ^^;;


Kaila and I went to the biggest bath house in Asia.... HUR SHIM CHANG MOGYOKTANG! (허심창)














With multiple floors, it is spa heaven. The first floor has a fountain, a beauty salon, small shops, and a yummy bakery =)














Here's a directory.



















Sorry, no photos from inside the mogyoktang, I think I would have been kicked out if someone had seen me taking pictures of naked people =p

Basically, one floor has jjeemjjeelbangs, which are different saunas. They're big igloo shaped structures which you walk into and relax in--one is hot and made out of clay, another one is of intermediate temperature (it's called jewelry room and has pretty mosaics on the wall), and the last one is cold with snow and fake ice crystals lining the walls.
This floor also has a lounge area where families sit together, relax, and talk; an ice cream and snack shop; a restaurant serving traditional Korean food; foot baths; an Oxygen room (which is supposed to stimulate growth hormones?); an aromatherapy room; and a DVD room.
The jjeemjjelbang floor is coed--men and women are given gowns to wear while relaxing, sweating, and chilling.

On the other floor, however, you are completely and utterly NAKED. This floor has the "Grand Hot Springs", a huge atrium with different pools and waterfalls. Temperatures range from steaming hot to warm, cool, and ice cold.
There are also "caverns" which run through rocky walls, streams of water coming from the ceilings to simulate waterfalls, and pools with colored water scented with strange herbs that are supposed to have health benefits.

Here are pictures from the Hur-Shim-Chang website:







Not to sound like a nudist advocate or anything, but being naked with 500 other Korean women is less awkward than I thought it would be. First of all, once you see hundreds of naked women, everyone starts to look similar.
And secondly, the people at the hot springs range from infant age to old grandmothers. It was obvious that everyone had been coming to public baths for their whole lives and felt completely comfortable.

Once I came out of the sweating room, chilling room, hot baths, and cold baths (and enjoyed a bowl of Korean miyukguk, or seaweed soup along the way), I felt completely refreshed.

Hur-Shim-Chang was gorgeous and huge and you're free to stay as long as you want. If you tried to go to a similar spa in America, it would probably cost you around $100. Guess how much the bill came to here?
.
.
.
.
.
7,500 won. That's $7.50 in the US.

Ahh, I'm so sad I don't live in Busan =(


More scenic views of Busan taken on the train ride back..

















And random photos of the party that my Sogang teacher had at her house for our class a week ago:

It's Daun's birthday and she's making a wish...














I'm going for the cake. By the way, cakes in Korean bakeries are works of art! Not to mention that they taste heavenly.



















Our teacher had samgaetang at her house for her, the traditional chicken soup dish which you're supposed to eat in the summer. It's hot, but somehow refreshing. A small chicken is stuffed with sweet rice, ginseng, dates, and chestnuts and then boiled until tender and juicy.














It was a feast:



















Sunsengneem's kid is adorable =)




















Last week we also met up with Professor Hwang, a professor at Yale/Yonsei for dinner..
and then went to Milky Road.

Milky Road deserves its own blog entry one day. But as you can see, all of our patbingsoo bowls are scraped clean. =P

















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posted by Jane @ 10:40 AM  
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