BY MICHAEL FRAIMAN
To Westerners, Yongho-Dong’s Igidae Park is one of Busan’s lesser-known scenic trails. It’s basically the city’s “other coastline”—look straight and you can see Haeundae beach; look left and you face the Gwangali bridge. It’s also teeming with native Koreans out for a two-and-a-half-hour afternoon stroll, or setting up fishing posts along the rocks by the water, so don’t expect a solitary jaunt.
Its lack of popularity among non-native citizens might be owed to the fact that it’s a little tricky to find (we took a taxi), or that the hike itself is really more of a rugged walk. Igidae is a testament to the amount of money and effort Korean governments will pour into natural infrastructure: there are loads of clean stairs (they look freshly painted, even if they actually aren’t), naturally-integrated benches and frightening-to-some suspension bridges overhanging small cliffs. Basically, you’re surrounded by greenery the whole time, but you never feel like you’ve left the city. Igidae’s vibe becomes a lot more casual than walking around any mountain.
The whole trek is essentially a line, and you can approach it from either end. You can trek inland or around the coast, the latter of which gives you plenty of chances to walk right down to the water and bound across giant and precariously balanced boulders, which, as I mentioned to my company at the time, truly made me feel like a kid again. (Partly because it’s fun, and partly because I became a terrified child when looking down at the jagged rocks and rushing water only a few feet below.) If you hop far enough along the rocks, you’ll inevitably disrupt some peaceful solo Korean’s lunch, which also brings up the idea of picnicking along the rocks by yourself or with friends. (Thanks for the idea, grimacing Korean man!)
Igidae is made to be a casual hike, and it works. It’s relatively short, relatively easy, and exceptionally beautiful—and on top of all that, we were the only Westerners in sight. I think that legitimately qualifies it (for foreigners) as one of the city’s best-kept secrets.
Directions: there are two ways you can go:
1) A LONGER WALK TO IGIDAE: From Namcheon metro, get off at exit 3 and take your first left. Walk down till the road dead-ends, turn right, and then turn left onto the busy road. Continue past the big intersection at Mega Mart, and continue for a while till you get to Igidae.
2) BY BUS; SHORTER WALK: From the Kyungsung subway, get out exit 5, do an about-face, and go around the corner. Walk straight one and a half blocks (you’ll pass a Paris Baguette) till you get to the bus stop. Take any bus EXCEPT the 10 and 155 (so YES for the ones in the 20s (24, 27, etc) and also the 131). You’ll go about 5 stops to the IGIDAE stop. The bus will turn right just before you need to get off. You’ll be able to see a big mountain.
Get off the bus, backtrack a lil, and cross the street (you’ll be walking towards an eyeglasses shop with a blue sign). Follow that road till it keeps winding around to the park. It’s a 5-10 minute walk just to get to the park, so keep at it.
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