MelissaT

Jul 082012
 

BY MELISSA TAIT and NICHOLE FERENCE

Sangnam, Changwon

Changwon is a nice little town located to the west of Busan in Geyongsamnamdo province. It’s a nice little day trip from Busan and has a more relaxed vibe and a small central downtown area.

How to get there and around

From Busan you can catch a bus from Sasang’s Sobu Bus Terminal which takes you to the main bus terminal in Changwon or you can catch a train from Haeundae, Bujeon, Busan, Hwamyeong or Gupo station. (check times on korail.com) The train stop you want to get off is at Changwonjungang, but there’s no problem if you continue to the next stop, Changwon. Continue reading »

Apr 252012
 

BY MELISSA TAIT

Mudfest in Boryeong, South Korea

(The Mudfest is in JULY this year from 07.14.2012 ~ 07.24.2012)

The Boryeong Mud Festival is one of the things that most people know South Korea for. “Isn’t there some crazy festival where everyone is covered in mud?” Well, yes, and it’s awesome.

This event takes place on  Daecheon beach which is on the west coast of South Korea, close to the middle of the Southern peninsula. The beaches on the west coast are more muddy than sandy, so the enterprising town of Boryeong started a festival to promote the medicinal powers of the mineral rich mud for the skin. Later they added slides, a stage and some mud wrestling tents and it’s just been a crazy festival since then.

But how crazy is it? Well, not too crazy. As a person who doesn’t really like crowds I found it to be a great mix of beautiful beach weekend with the extra silliness of the mud. The beach is really big, especially at low tide, so there is plenty of room to hang out and do your own thing if you want to get away and chill out for a bit.

Back to the mud! You can choose how much time you spend covered in mud. There are buckets of mud positioned along the beach front that you just go up and slather yourself, and any unsuspecting victims that might be in the very near vicinity. You can’t really carry the mud anywhere so I didn’t worry about getting muddy unless I was standing directly next to a mud bucket.

For those who want the full on mud experience there is a section with mud games including slides, wresting and a mud prison. This section was loads of fun, especially duelling in mud with my friends. It cost extra and we had to line up for wrist bands to get in. I admit I can’t exactly remember how much it cost, but I remember some of the friends I went with didn’t want to pay extra, so they just stayed with the free mud and everything else that was going on.

And by ‘everything else that was going on’ I mean a stage on the beach with performers, countless tents selling food, beer and cocktails in bags, fireworks, and a long procession of similar people who were all in the mood to party. I didn’t see anyone being really uncool or mean, it was just a really relaxed and happy vibe.

I guess the only thing to be worried about is the forces of nature, specifically the ocean, which possibly gobbles up hundreds of mobile phones, sunglasses, cameras and wallets every year. But, my camera spent most of the time in my hotel room where it couldn’t be harmed too much. I only really had a zip-lock bag with my cash in it and that’s all I needed for the day. Also, general beach common sense about sunscreen, drinking water and keeping an eye on your friends and valuables still applies.

In summer, if you’re looking for a beach weekend outside of Busan, I would recommend heading to Dacheon. The town is small and relaxed, there are loads of hotels and restaurants very close to the beach. There is also an amusement park and water park within walking distance. The food centres around seafood which was delicious, but there are still some BBQ places if you are more in the mood for that.

During Mudfest, I would recommend going with a tour group. It just saves a lot of hassle when all you have to do is get on a bus and you’re taken straight to your hotel and there (should) be no issues checking into your hotel.

We’d love to create a list of tour operators going to Mudfest, so if you hear of a deal please leave a comment or send us a note and we’ll pop it on the site.

Tour operators:

From Busan

Brant Kim organises travel from Busan, his details are here: http://www.boryeongmudfest.com/signup1.html
The Busan Awesome team went with him in 2011 and we had a great time.

Directions to Dacheon:

You can take the train straight to Dacheon from Seoul (2 1/2 hours) or Busan (4 hours) with a changover somewhere along the line.  Check it out on http://www.korail.com/ –> English —> Booking —> Book online (make sure you hit ‘Transfer’ when looking up the train times. I’m not 100% sure where the train station is in relation to the beach but I’m sure it’s a short cab ride or bus ride away.

I believe there are buses as well that go from major cities, but I can’t find any specific information online. If you know, drop us a comment!

Official Websites:
http://www.mudfestival.or.kr/english/festival/festival3.php
http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_2_1.jsp?cid=697135

Mar 152012
 

BY MELISSA TAIT

Dadaepo Fountain, Dadaepo Beach, Busan, South Korea

The fountain at Dadaepo Beach

1) The Sunset Fountain of Dream

Dadaepo Beach Hours of Operation Below

On a weekend trip to Dadaepo, my friends and I were lucky to catch the Sunset Fountain of Dream. It’s large, a circular operation with seating and a helpful attendee will usher you away from the main splash zone.

This is the Vegas of fountains, with colored lights and water splashing in synch with pumping K-Pop and hits of the 80s and 90s. A key highlight was watching the rainbow streams dance to “I will always love you”. At the most impressive point in the song the central water stream leaped high into the air, as if propelled by Whitney Houston’s impressive vocal abilities.

This was the first fountain I had seen that ultizes colored lights to create rainbow effects, offset against the dark night sky. The cheesy music adds some extra awesomeness. An enjoyable experience, and it doesn’t go on too long.

Best for: Cheese factor

Lotte Dept Store Fountain, Nampo, Busan, South Korea

Look at 'er go!

2) Lotte Fountain, Nampo

Centum City may have the world’s largest department store, but Lotte in Nampo has the world’s largest cascading fountain. What’s a cascading fountain you ask? Well, this means that the water drops from the ceiling to the smallish fountain below. The top of the fountain is positioned four stories above the food court, in front of a multicoloured, glowing honeycomb structure.

With the ability to drop water from the ceiling with military precision, this fountain is able to spell out words in water droplets, which then drop to the ground. The effect is both impressive and mystifying. Never before have I seen a fountain spell out the words ‘Lotte’ and ‘Welcome to Busan’ in both English and Hanguel. This show only lasts ten minutes, and is on every hour, so it’s a good opportunity to hang in the Lotte food court before pounding the pavements of Nampo.

Best for: WOW factor, and also bragging rights for seeing the largest indoor cascading fountain.

Fountain at Busan Station, Busan, South Korea3) Busan Station

Most visitors to the fair city of Busan will enter by KTX to Busan Station. Thankfully, you will be able to identify that you are in Busan due to the large structure outside the station which spells out, quite accurately, ”Welcome to Busan”. This fountain is large, consisting of two round pools filled with water, that are set across the spacious train station forecourt. There are light structures circling the fountain and sprays of water, but less synchronicity than other fountains.

I killed some time here waiting for a friend watching people take photos of the fountain, themselves in front of the fountain and their kids in front of the fountain. In summer, it’s more of a pool than a fountain, people wade through it and are sprayed cheerfully.

Best for: Summer sprays and photo opportunities

4) Gwangali Beach

On the southern side of Gwangali Beach (towards Beached Bar) there is a cement block set into the beach, just where the waves break. I thought it was a disused pylon for a second Diamond Bridge, but at 9 o’clock, it turns into a fountain. Sea water sprays from the side of the concrete block and a laser projects shapes and pictures onto the spray of water. You watch a bird flying in front of a setting sun and stylised waves crash on a shore.

Best for: Beach multimedia installation

Centum City Fountain, Busan, South Korea5) Trevi Fountains, Nampo, Seomyeon and Centum City

The first time I went to Centum City I was impressed by the white ediface which is a monument to the Trevi Fountain in Rome. So much so, I took more photos there than I did at the real Trevi Fountain in Rome and posted some on Facebook. Look how amazing it is! A Trevi fountain copy! So, it was only after I had been here for a few months, and went to all three locations that I realised the Baroque splendor of the fountain wasn’t unique to Centum City. There are three, and counting, in Busan. But then, is three more or less sensible than one. It’s a bit of head scratcher for me, why re-create the Trevi fountain at all? But then, there are two re-creations of Prague’s 14th century Astronomical Clocks, why not three re-creations of the Trevi fountain.

Best for: meeting locations and head scratching.

 

Sunset Fountain of Dream
http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=992306
Operating Hours
* Between May and September
Weekdays (Tuesday – Friday): Fixed Fountain 12:00, 13:00, 16:00, 18:00 (20 minutes)/ Music Fountain 20:30 (30 minutes)
Saturday, Sunday and National Holidays: Fixed Fountain: Same as the weekday schedule/ Music Fountain: 20:30, 21:00

* Between March and April, October and November
Weekdays (Tuesday – Friday): Fixed Fountain 12:00, 13:00, 16:00, 17:00 (20minutes)/ Music Fountain 20:00 (30 minutes)
Saturday, Sunday and National Holidays: Fixed Fountain: Same as the weekday schedule/ Music Fountain 19:00, 20:00

Mar 092012
 

BY MELISSA TAIT

So, in my estimations, there’s junk food, which is MacDonalds, and there is non-junk food such as a lovingly hand-prepared burger with a side of rustically cut home fries. Of course the latter is much better and is included in my diet and exercise regime.

Falling into this category is Fresh Fries Factory in Seomyeon. To an Aussie, the option of frying seafood is obviously the best way to go about it (pleeease can someone open a fried squid place!!!)  and the chips and fish in FFF were crunchy, delightful and fresh. Served with some aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and a W1,500 draft beer, the fish and chips (W8,000) were great for a night off from Korean food. And obviously good for the diet because it is all battered and fried  in the tiny kitchen on site. Well, not as caloristically bad as other fries.

Also on the menu was steak and chips (W13,000) which I can’t wait to try. I’ll definitely be heading here again soon.

Directions: From Seomyeon subway exit two, turn left at the dance shop (it has loads of belly dance costumes in the window), left again at the next fork, and then the right at the corner with a funky vintage store. It’s on the right hand side of the street.



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Feb 022012
 
Rock band in Kyungsung, Busan - by Patrick Mowat

photo by Patrick Mowat

BY MELISSA TAIT

Do you like live music? I know I do. At the age of 19 I thought I would be the world’s next Lester Bangs and spread the word about the revolutionary music scene in Sydney. Well, there was pretty good music but calling it a scene was pretty laughable. There were just a bunch of guys and girls…in bands…who played at certain places more often than not. And then I kept on running into the same people and realised that was a ‘scene’. So, I guess a ‘music scene’ is just knowing where bands play more often than not and then just passing the word around. So, I was a little bummed about the ‘Busan Music scene’ when I got here because I just couldn’t figure out where to start. Local paper? Can’t read it. Internet? Doesn’t really seem to have what I need. So, here’s just a few notes about where bands play more than not, and you can check out some live music.

Generally, Busan isn’t a stop on a world tour. Seoul sometimes is, and gigs are listed on international English pages such as Last FM (select location as Korea, Republic of). I haven’t had much luck buying tickets on the Internet for gigs, but if you have a Korean friend translate for you, they can probably buy some tickets on their smartphone in three clicks.

Rock band in Kyungsung, Busan - by Patrick Mowat

photo by Patrick Mowat

But back to Busan. I like more indie music so I’ve really enjoyed being friends with DIY Busan Live on Facebook who tour mainly American acts around Korea. They’re the sort of bands playing festivals around the world so you get to see them at a more intimate venue, and some street cred from your hipster friends. (For example, ‘oh yeah, I saw them in a really small venue in Busan’) The main ‘music scene’ in Busan is expats who just happen to like playing music and are motivated to form groups and perform for our amusement, centering on the nightlife districts of Kyungsung and PNU.

Kyungsung

Ol’55 in Kyungsung has a very popular open mike night on Wednesdays and the calibre of talent is pretty impressive. And of course there is Vinyl Underground, also in Kyungsung, which has live music several nights a week. I think Vinyl updates their events on Busan Haps more often than their Facebook page, so the best way keep in touch is to check out the Busan Haps event listings. Korean and foreign bands play here, good idea to just check out what’s on. (CLICK TO JUMP TO MAPS)

Dan Deacon at Vinyl Underground, Kyungsung, Busan

Dan Deacon at Vinyl Underground

PNU

Crossroads hosts another open mike night every Thursday. Another venue which has both Korean and English-singing bands in the Basement in PNU. You can keep up to date with what’s coming up on their Facebook page. (CLICK TO JUMP TO MAPS)

Rock band in Kyungsung, Busan - by Patrick Mowat

photo by Patrick Mowat

Keeping in touch

Busan Haps has a very detailed Music Events page with all sorts of fancy links to keep you in the loop. I would start there for a search and then go to the individual bar Facebook pages or websites for more detailed information. But then, most shows I’ve found out just by keeping my eyes open and seeing a poster somewhere. Low fi, but it works! If you’d like to see more Korean musicians, start with this method and then have a talk to the guys that work at the venues on their favourite bands.

As an aside I have to say that I caught Dan Deacon at Vinyl Underground recently. It was an amazingly small show with an enthusiastic crowd that Dan was able to work until we were all dancing our booties off. You’d think he was an English teacher or summer camp counsellor the way he was able to pull off some group games with just the right amount of enthusiasm. I managed to get a Busan! Awesome! exclusive when he told me that “the beach here seems really cool. I just got here from Tokyo and it seems a world away.” Aint that something!

Also, my music tastes tend to begin and end with guitars, so if you would like to write an article about a different music scene, we’d love to hear it!! Also, any tips and hints would be appreciated for this article.

 

Kyungsung



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PNU



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Rock band in Kyungsung, Busan - by Patrick Mowat

photo by Patrick Mowat

Jan 242012
 

Pad Thai and other delicious noodle and rice dishes for cheap in PNUArticle by Melissa Tait

I like Korean food. In fact, I love Korean food. I like Korean food much more than Australian food which is basically vegemite and kangaroo sausages (kanga bangas). What I miss from Australia is the Westernised Chinese and Thai food, which Sydney is full of and you can find everywhere.

A great place to get your Westernised Asian food is The Box in PNU. This restaurant specialises in the dishes we’re familiar with and serves them in cute boxes. On the menu was fried rice, Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, Thai Chilli Noodles, Nasi Goreng, Mongolian Beef and Oriental Chicken Salad.

Just a note on the menu, I have a take-away menu which is all written in Hanguel, but actually uses English words to describe the food. For example, rice is spelled 라이스 (ra-i-seu) rather than 밥 (bap). The menu in the restaurant has English translations, so it’s easy to order.

I was very excited to eat some old favorites, including Pad See Ew. There is a great deal to get a rice dish, a noodle dish, a salad dish and two drinks for W15,000, which is a lot of food for two people. It was very tasty, even with some sneaky squid inserted into some dishes. After we finished our meal we were considering ordering another set to take home for the next day.
Hong Kong Fried Rice, Pad See Eu, Oriental Tuna Salad at the Box in PNU
The interior is a modern white color with plenty of seating and even a small outdoor area for smokers and claustrophobics. The restaurant was a little quiet when we were there, but it was doing a roaring trade in take-out sets.

Directions: From PNU exit one walk up the busy street, right at the main street and then diagonally across the big crossing. The Box is one block up from the main crossing, across the road from Paris Baguette.


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Oct 142011
 

BY MELISSA TAIT

Fully Booked Books, KSU, Busan

Fully Booked is a cafe/bar/restaurant/second hand bookstore in KSU that creates a very cosy vibe and literary atmosphere. It opened in September and filled a hole needed by the local English speaking community.

Fully Booked Books, KSU, BusanObviously, books are heavy and not great for travelling, but reading is awesome. So most people here acquire a couple of books, pass them onto friends or leave them at your apartment at the end of your contract. But then there are lots of people who would like to read books and end up buying new classics from the limited range available here.

Fully Booked offers an exchange on second hand books and resells them for a decent price. All of the books are second hand and it’s interesting to see the range they collect. There are lots of Korea Lonely Planets, but then I was surprised to see a large range of Murakami and other modern authors that are less mainstream.

With coffee, beer (OB Golden on tap!), wine, paninis and board games, Fully Booked is a quiet nook in KSU where you can have a browse and hang out for a while in a literary atmosphere. I was chatting to the owners in minutes and they’re happy to host larger parties or groups if you message them ahead of time via Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/fullybooked1?sk=info)

I feel like I’ll be spending a bit of time here, browsing books, playing Trivial Pursuit and chatting to the owners.

Fully Booked Books, KSU, Busan  Fully Booked Books, KSU, Busan  Fully Booked Books, KSU, Busan
Directions: Kyungsung/Pukyung subway stop, Exit 1. Walk straight for 2 blocks and turn right. It is on the corner (on your left) above the yellow Budong-san on the 2nd floor. Look for the green doors and go up the stairs.



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Sep 262011
 

BY MELISSA TAIT

Fall In Coffee Interior, Hwamyeong, BusanI am not a coffee snob. I am a caffeine addict. That said, I can appreciate a good cup of coffee, one which was dripped from a large and expensive coffee machine, added to steam-foamed milk and then arranged into a little heart shape.

So Hwamyeong does have an Angel in Us Coffee, but I wandered into Fall in Coffee because I thought it looked nice, and it was less busy. The interior left me speechless. It has dark wooden bars and tables, copper light fixtures and a red velvet bench. I personally appreciate the liberal use of coffee as decoration. There are coffee pots and mugs everywhere, arranged in pleasing ways. There are also lots of vials of various coffee beans placed artfully in colour order, labelled with the bean’s origins.

The menu offers a world-wide selection of beans. You can have Indonesian, Jamaican or Kenyan beans. That said, the more obscure the location, the more expensive the price. There were coffees that were W10,000 a cup. I was tempted but I went for the W5,000 Cafe Latte, mainly because my addiction will not survive long with W10,000 coffees.

Fall In Coffee Cappuccino
The latte arrived with a beautiful heart on top and just danced on my tastebuds. I haven’t had coffee this good since I left Sydney. Amazing.

Fall In Coffee, Hwamyeon, Busan

Click to enlarge

So, not for your daily cup of Joe, but for a quiet chat with a friend and a great coffee, I recommend Fall In Coffee.

Directions: From Hyamyeong Subway Station, take exit one. Walk past Lotte, continue for two blocks. Lotteria is on the corner, and Fall in coffee is two shops to the right on the first floor.



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Sep 242011
 

BY MELISSA TAIT

Hwamyeong Riverside Park, Busan, South KoreaSo, I moved to Hwamyeong. It was daunting to see how far away it was from the expat haunts of KSU and Haeundae. But it also had some positives. When I made the decision the biggest advantage was that there was a good school that was willing to pay me on time. And, as my boss said in the interview, “We are far away from the beaches, but we have beautiful mountains and a big park.”

The mountains immediatley delivered, but it took me a few weeks to find the park. And then I got lost in it.

The park is on the edge of the Nakdong River. To get there from the main town of Hwamyeong you have to walk towards the train station and go under the train tracks. When you reach the other side of the underpass, a great vista opens up before
you. From horizon to horizon there is a clear view of grass, some trees, flowers, mountains and then wide open sky.

Hwamyeong Riverside Park, Busan, South Korea
It’s a park and wetland area that stretches for acres. It is laced with paths and bike tracks so you can wander through the different areas at your leisure. It also includes picnic tables, badminton courts, soccer pitches, two baseball diamonds and a pool for summer.There are basic ameneties open pretty late. You will meet other residents taking a turn in the park, but at times you can get some blessed solitude with nature. Another positive for me is that the park is flat. There aren’t any steep hills you have to climb which helps during a jog.

Hwamyeong Riverside Park, Busan, South Korea
A really interesting feature of the park is that it has boardwalks over the wetland areas. So you can explore closer to the river and see all the ducks and fishies enjoying it too.

I go there for evening jogs and I’m amused by little camps of grandparents I see. They’ve either set up a portable barbecue, a tent or a portable karaoke machine. And they’re chilling the night away. Also, it’s a great place to see the stars.

So, if you’re in the need for a little nature, minus a steep hills, I thoroughly recommend a trip to Hwamyeong Park.

Hwamyeong Riverside Park, Busan, South Korea   Hwamyeong Riverside Park, Busan, South Korea
Directions: From Hwamyeong Subway Station take Exit one, turn right at the first corner and walk down the main road. You’ll pass Lotte and then Lotteria a few blocks up. When you hit the end of the street turn left, and continue past the train station. The underpass is located at the first set of traffic lights.



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Aug 042011
 

Sintobooli meat restaurant, Seomyeon, BusanArticle by Melissa Tait

I feel that Seomyeon is divided into halves. There’s the Judie’s Taewha Side and then there is the Lotte side. Once you decide to go left or right from the subway station, it feels like a bit of an effort to get back to the other side. And there’s plenty to do, eat and buy on both halves, but we all have our favourites. I had to go to Lotte on a Saturday, and then I was hungry…and getting to my favourite restaurant on the other side seemed quite beyond me in my hunger weakened state.

Thankfully, this amazing restaurant loomed into view. There’s a huge sign outside advertising lunch sets for between W5500 and W7000 so my friend and I jumped inside to see what they had to offer.

Chic interior of sintobooli meat restaurant, SeomyeonInside the restaurant is modern and chic with a dark interior and long, comfortable, bench seats. We were presented with lunch menus that showed sets for food and meat…and bi bim bap? We just pointed at the first set (W5,500) and hoped the rest would sort itself out.

Firstly, the waitress brought over two bowls of rice. I sort of started picking at mine and then she helpfully showed me to make bi bim bap with bean sprouts and the sauces on our table. Mmmm tasty. Hunger pains abating. This is good. And then six side dishes arrived and two massive pieces of marinated galbi that were barbecued in front of us.

Great deal and a ton of food. Beat the heck out of kimbap changuk!

I was particularly impressed because the side dishes included that yummy egg souffle dish AND jjigae which, my friend and I split easily. When it came time to eat the meat we were both in heaven, the marinade was quite sweet and went perfectly with the sweeter kimchi in water and radish varieties. We both were hungry when we sat down and just to see the food coming and coming in waves was a sight to behold.

 

Many types of meat along with twanjang jiggae and bimimbap.And then we got the bill. For the DIY Bi Bim Bap, BBQ, my favourite sides and also service coffee for two people it came to the grand total of W11,000. Now that’s a good lunch.

Directions: From Seomyeon Lotte (Seomyeon exit 7 or continue underground to Lotte) exit at the back of the building, away from the main road. There is two streets filled with food tents. This restaurant is just down the paved area where the two food tent streets intersect.


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