Oct 222012

by Melissa Tait

So, trains are a great way to travel. Just rock up, no security, as much luggage as you want and a gentle swaying motion as you travel. And I have a ‘thing’ for trains. I like to keep an eye on them…make sure they are running to schedule…maybe even ‘spot’ some interesting ones..and my little interest got a severe workout when I lived across from a train station in Busan. As a Busanite I’m sure you’re aware of the KTX Busan to Seoul express, 300 kms/hour, 2 hours 18 minutes. But here are a few insights which might help you use the train for shorter trips or save a few won.

Types of Trains

Busan to Seoul
KTX, 2 1/2 hours, W57,000
Mugunghwa, 5 hours, W28,000
Saemaul, 5 hours, W43,000

The best, newest and fastest trains in Korea are the KTX. They are very fast, very expensive and only leave from a few stations. KTX seats are very similar to plane seats. Even in first class (yep,
that’s how I roll) the seats are very upright and built for speed, not comfort. The advantage of first class is a free Korean newspaper if you can read it and free bottles of KORAIL branded water. For the rest of you economy shmoes, a lady with a trolley comes around with a selection of snacks. There aren’t any dining cars.

In Busan they leave from Busan Station near Nampo and Gupo which is past Sasang. If you’re trying to get the most out of your Seoul weekend trip, I’m sure you’ll want to leave early and get there quickly. While the KTX is the fastest, sometimes it’s not so easy to get to a station from your apartment. Also, if you live around Haeundae, you might actually find that commuting to Gupo might be quicker than Busan Station, because you cut across the city, and you have to change metro lines anyway.

The cheapest trains are the Mugunghwa (the national flower of Korea). I’m not going to lie, these trains aren’t pretty. The seats are fairly comfortable but the floors are made of linoleum, a pet hate of mine. When you buy a ticket you’re generally given an allocated seat, but if it’s crowded you won’t be with your friends or you may be standing in the dining car. Best to take a pillow for long journeys.

The dining cars are the crowning glory of the Mugungwha. They include a counter that serves slightly expensive coffee and snacks, seats against the windows to look out, arcade games and also norebangbooths! Karaoke on a train! That’s pretty special. Given that unseated tickets are cheaper than seated tickets, this dining car gets pretty crowded with people from all walks of life. It’s an interesting place, but if you have a ticketed seat, you’re generally pretty happy to go back to it.

Saemaul trains travel this route less often, but if you catch one you will be pretty happy about it. This is the REAL first class. Enough leg room for a giant, you are almost swallowed up by the beautiful
padded seat. I slept like a baby on this train, so I can’t remember too much except it was my best train experience to date.

Choosing and booking trains

So, you’re planning an exciting weekend away from Busan. Time to head onto and check out your options. At the top of the page click on ‘Bookings’ and ‘Book Online’. Then pop in the
details of TO and FROM and the train times will appear on the bottom of the page. It shows what type of train, the time it departs and arrives and then you click on the magnifying glass under ‘Fare’ to
check the cost. No problem for Busan –> Seoul, but you might want to see the other options out there.

Time to get creative! Do you really live close to Busan Station? Maybe you live closer to Haeundae, Bujeon, Sasang, Hwamyeong or Gupo. And you’re not going to Seoul, you’re going to Degu, Suwon or whatever other great place your friends live and you want to explore. When you’re putting in your TO and FROM details, make sure to choose the ‘Transfer’ option to see if you can get an easier or cheaper fare if
you’re willing to transfer between trains.

Don’t forget about the train system for your inter-Busan travels either. I personally preferred the 14 minute Hwamyeong to Busan Station train journey compared to the one hour metro journey.

You can book your tickets through the website, but you need to use a credit card. An overseas card is fine. When you get to the station you have to print out the tickets at the counter, the machines never worked for me. Just have your reservation number written down and the lovely lady at the counter will sort out the rest. Most of the time, they’ll speak some English.

I tended to buy tickets in advance from a train station. You can put the details into one of the ticket machine and print out the tickets a week before you travel as long as you put in the correct date of your travel. They’re so cute and credit card sized. It’s a good idea to grab a return ticket when you arrive at your destination rather than wait until you’re about to head out. You’ll find a lot of tickets are sold out.

Enjoy the journey

You have to admit it, the trains are pretty darn good in Korea. And it’s a real cultural experience to have your seat stolen by a loud group of ajamas, hang out in the dining car like a beatnik and then take your return journey first class. It’s one of those times the journey can be as fun as the trip. There is always food for sale and beer is allowed on the trains. Just generally try to be respectful of those around you and take it all with a grain of salt. Happy train-ing!

Apr 192012

From Busan, Fukuoka is the easiest foreign city to get too.  There’s the fast and convenient Beetle Ferry.  There are  multiple daily flights from the fairly accessible Gimhae airport to the very accessible Fukuoka airport  on Air Busan.  Most importantly for many of us, there is a Korean consulate from which to obtain a brand new visa.

(Click here to jump to the visa info!)

On the downside, Fukuoka isn’t a top tourist destination in Japan.  Most people want to experience the frenetic pace and energy of Tokyo or the serene ancient temples of Kyoto.  Unfortunately, neither Tokyo nor Kyoto is particularly close, or particularly cost effective to get to from Busan, especially for a short holiday.  So you’re probably stuck with Fukuoka, but that’s not bad because it can be a pretty cool place.

Stuff to do around Kyushu:

It’ll take two days to get your visa, so tacked onto a weekend, that gives you four days in Japan.  I’d highly recommend picking up a Northern Kyushu railpass.  They’re 7,000 yen (100,000 won) for three days and 9,000 yen (126,000 won) for five days.  It sounds expensive, but it’s very much worth it.

Remember, internet connections are not so easy to find in Japan.  Even coffeeshops and hotels rarely have free wireless.  It’s good to plan ahead a bit and use the Tourist Information Centers.  They are very helpful.

Fukuoka:  The largest city on Kyushu island, there is plenty of shopping and eating to keep you busy if you choose to spend the whole time here.  I enjoyed Ramen Stadium in the Canal City mall, where you can sample several different variations of Japanese Ramen.  There are a few nice shrines within walking distance of the central train station.  I was especially impressed with the giant buddha and buddhist hell to enlightenment experience at Tochoji Shrine, right outside Gion Subway station.  If you want to make a day of shrine hopping, it’s probably worth making the train/bus trip out to the small town of Dazaifu, where you can rent bikes and spend an entire day visiting shrines and museums.  I stayed in the Green Hotel right outside Hakata train station, it was decent and reasonably priced.  For more Fukuoka Tourist info, check out:

Fukuoka Now

May’s Fukuoka City Guide

Fukuoka is a great city if you love to shop and eat, but there is really much more to Kyushu.  Luckily Japanese trains are amazing and with your rail pass you’ve got free reign over quite a few of them to get on and get off as you please.  Here are some of the great places you can go:

Nagasaki:  I’ve been obsessed with Nagasaki since reading David Mitchell’s ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet,’ which is based around Dutch traders in Nagasaki in the 1800s, after all Christians had been expelled or executed, and the country was closed off.  You can visit the ‘Hill of Martyrs,’ where 26 christians were crucified, Dejima, the reconstructed island from which foreigners could do business, the atomic bomb museum and peace park, as well as a very nice china town and some beautiful bridges and Chinese temples.  It’s a scenic two hour train ride from Fukuoka.  There’s a very convenient tram system.  We stayed at Nagasaki International Hostel AKARI, which was excellent.  For more Nagasaki Info check out this site.

Kumamoto:  Probably the most famous castle in Kyushu and one of the nicest in Japan,  Kumamoto is only 45 minutes away on the Kyushu Shinkansan (bullet train).  You ride a tram into the city and can walk around and tour the castle.  Very cool architecture and some interesting history.  Worth a half day trip or a stopover going to or from Mt. Aso.  For more info on other stuff to see in Kumamoto go here.

Kumamoto Castle, south of Fukuoka, Kyushu Japan

Mt. Aso:  From Kumamoto you can ride a train to Mt. Aso, according to wikipedia the largest active volcano in Japan and one of the largest in the world.  From Aso station you can take a bus up to the top of the mountain.  From there it’s a five minute ropeway or a twenty minute walk to the viewing point overlooking the open caldera.  Smoke and sulpherous gases are pouring out all the time, so watch out when the wind changes.  Get tourist information at the Kumamoto Station Tourist Info Center.  Here’s some more info on getting to and around Mt. Aso.

Mt. Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan

Beppu: Because of an unfortunately misplaced railpass, I couldn’t make it to Beppu.  My reading and tourist brochures told me there are monkeys and hot springs there.  Both things that I would have liked to have seen.  You can continue on the loop from Mt. Aso to Beppu to spend the night in a hotspring resort, or do it as a two hour train ride from Fukuoka.  Here’s a bit more information.

Japan is expensive, here are some money saving tips:

-Buy the railpass, it may seem expensive, but it opens up a lot more options and is much cheaper than buying individual tickets.  To and from Kumamoto will cost you more than the 3 day pass.

-Check beer prices before ordering.  I like Japanese beer, but when most restaurants charge the equivalent of 10,000 won per beer, it’s really not worth it.

-Don’t take taxis.  It’s easy to forget how spoiled we are by cheap taxis here in Korea. They’re probably three times the price in Japan.  Stick with the subway and buses which are inexpensive.

-Use the Tourist Information Centers.  They are extremely helpful and give excellent detailed information and maps.  You’ll save yourself a lot of time and wandering if you just ask.

-Eat out once a day.  Even Ramen is gonna cost close to 10,000 won.  Find a supermarket.  The prepared foods were usually quite a bit cheaper than the restaurants that I found.

Getting your visa: (Visa stuff is always changing, so this may no longer be accurate, it was as of January 2012, still check with the consulate)

For all the general annoyances that the trip might entail, getting your visa is amazingly easy.  If you’ve got the forms filled out, you’ll probably spend a total of 5 minutes in the actual consulate.  Drop off the papers (visa application with photo and confirmation number and passport), pay the money (4,500 yen when I went), leave.  Return the next day, pick up your visa, finished.

Finding the consulate is a little more difficult.  I got there via subway:  Ride to Tojinmachi station (station 5 on the orange subway line), go out subway exit #1.  Walk straight past two traffic lights.  The third is at a big intersection.  Turn right and walk for ten minutes to the next big intersection (you’ll see the Fukuoaka Yahoo! Japan dome further ahead).  The consulate is at that intersection.  Look for the Korean flag and the soldiers standing outside.  From the ferry terminal it’s probably easiest to take a bus.  Consult the Tourist Information desk at the terminal for bus information. Check out the Galbijim site for much more detailed information.


Oct 192011

Busan Fireworks Festival, Gwangalli Beach, Busan

Everybody loves fireworks.  They’re loud, they’re bright, they’re colorful.  They provide all the excitement of an alien invasion without the pesky casualties and ensuing enslavement.  And what better setting than relaxing on a blanket, looking out at the picturesque Diamond bridge along Gwangalli beach?  Maybe sipping wine, sharing a romantic evening, just you, that special someone, and every last person in Korea.  On Gwangalli beach.  At one time.

The fireworks festival runs from October 21st to October 29th.  Some of the major events include a fashion show from 6:00 – 9:30 on Friday the 21st. A concert featuring Big Bang, SHINee, Kara, Miss-A and other assorted K-pop artists takes place at 7:00 on Friday the 28th.  Various classical music concerts are happening throughout the week, and there’s even a B-boy breakdancing performance on the 27th.  All major events take place on or near Gwangalli beach.

There will be two major fireworks displays during the festival.

Crowd watching fireworks on Gwangalli beach, Busan

-On Saturday, the 22nd, the USA, China, Poland, and Japan will go head to head in an all out battle royale, hoping to prove once and for all who reigns supreme in the dazzling art of ornamental pyrotechnics.  The international fireworks competition consists of four 15 minute displays from 8:00 to 9:30.

-Saturday the 29th, from 8:00 – 9:00, will be the massive and amazing Busan fireworks display.  If you plan on trying to watch them on the beach (which I strongly advise against) arrive early (by 4:00) and leave any notions of personal space at home, as the crowd usually numbers in the millions.

Millions of people gather to watch fireworks on Gwangalli beach, Busan

Schedules and some more information can be found on the BFF website.

Also check out the dynamic Busan website to learn more. 

Directions: Ride the green subway line to Gwangan exit 5 or Geumnyeonsan exit 1.  Walk toward the beach.

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Sep 212011

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.I tend to assume that regular visits to Gimbap Cheonguk are a staple for any foreigner living in Korea.  During my two and a half years I’ve visited some variation of this ubiquitous Korean eatery at least twice a week.  Still, I occasionally run into people who avoid it.  Some people are intimidated by the untranslated menu, others have just had the misfortune of visiting a particularly bad location.  It’s true they can be hit or miss on food quality and sanitation, but if you find a good one, these ten items will keep you happy and help you avoid starvation during your time in Korea.

While these are my dishes of choice, I’m no expert.  If you’ve got some favorites, please add them in the comment section.

For info on how to order and some more generalized tips check out the always interesting grrrltraveler’s website.  For in depth analysis on what’s on the menu, have a look at the ‘mary eats’ blog.

*Many of these pictures vary greatly from the actual gimbap cheonguk items.  I wasn’t hungry enough to order all of them just to get some pictures, so these are the best wikipedia public domain has to offer.  It’s just meant to give a basic idea of what you’ll get.

**After a stern talking to from the transliteration police, I have updated this using the ministry of culture approved system of transliteration.  I have personally always found this system very confusing to read (much more so than just learning to read hangul), but if everybody starts transliterating however they want, that’s gonna lead to anarchy.  Anybody else have any opinions on the romanization of Korean? Here’s some info on wikipedia.  Interesting topic!

1.  Chamchi Gimbap  (참치김밥):  This is kimbap with tuna.  It usually cost 2,500 won and it’s pretty filling.  This is my go-to takeway food because they make it quickly and it’s cheap.  I’ve had it as my twice a week work snack/dinner for the past year.


This image was originally posted to Flickr by jqn at It was reviewed on 5 April 2007 by the FlickreviewR robot and confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.


2. Goguma Cheese Donkkaseu  (고구마 치즈 돈까스):  This one can be a bit pricier, usually around 5,500won, but it’s also very filling.  It’s a fried pork cutlet with sweet potato and cheese cooked into it.  It usually comes with a small salad on the side and a pile of rice.  It’s greasy and generally unhealthy and usually tastes best when either drunk at night or hungover in the afternoon.  Or if you’re just really hungry.  Regular donkkaseu and cheese donkkaseu are also good.

This image was originally posted to Flickr by luckypines at


3.  Cheese Omurice (치즈 오무라이스):  This is the best straight up breakfast option if you haven’t adjusted to the Korean breakfast of the same stuff you eat for lunch and dinner.  It’s a large omelette stuffed with rice, cheese, and usually bits of ham and vegetables.  The kimchi omurice is also really good.

This image, originally posted to Flickr, was reviewed on 29 May 2009 by the administrator or reviewer Juliancolton, who confirmed that it was available on Flickr under the above license on that date.


4.  Kimchi Jjigae  (김치찌개):  This one might be an acquired taste for some.  But if you keep eating it, you learn to love it.  During extended periods away from Korea, Kimchi jjigae is the cheap food I miss the most.  It consists of spicy red broth, kimchi, and some pieces of pork.  It comes in a hotpot.  I  sweat profusely while eating it, both from the spice and from the heat of the bowl.  Use the rice to dilute the spice a bit. I find it a decent hangover cure, and a good smaller lunch  option.

This image, which was originally posted to, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 02:47, 11 August 2008 (UTC) by Caspian blue (talk). On that date it was licensed under the license below. (Uploaded from using Flickr upload bot)


5. Dolsot Bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥):  This was the only food I knew when I first arrived in Korea.  I ate it for lunch and dinner everyday for about a month.  I didn’t want to taste or smell it for the rest of the year after that.  For those who don’t know, it’s rice and vegetables and some spicy red sauce served in a hot pot.  You take a spoon and mix and mash everything together.  It’s good for vegetarians (though beware some places do add meat, so ‘gogi opseyo’ is still a necessary clarification) and just a good filling lunch food.  If you don’t like the hot pot, just order plain old bibimbap.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.  Source:


6.  Kimchi Mandu  (김치만두):  While the mandu at Gimbap Cheonguk is rarely great, it’s reliably good at least.  The kimchi stuffed dumplings work well as a snack or a third item to share between two people, rather  than a standalone meal.  It’s worth it to seek out a good mandu restaurant and get the real thing, but until that’s possible, kimbap changuk can fill the void.

Source: {{Information |Description ={{en|1=Korean Mandu(dumplings)}} |Source ={{own}} |Author =Raven9722 |Date =2011-02-16 |Permission = |other_versions = }} )


7.  Tang Su Yuk (탕수육):  I’ve had this sweet and sour pork dish at a few locations, though most I’ve been to don’t offer it.  It’s pieces of fried pork soaked in sweet and sour sauce with some vegetables.  It’s not exactly the same as the American style chinese dish, but it’s close enough and different enough from the other menu items to make it worth your while if they’ve got it.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.


8.  Cheese Ramyeon  (치즈라면):  I don’t particularly like ramyeon and I rarely choose to order it.  But as far as the ramyeon at gimbap changuk goes, this is my favorite.  It’s ramyeon with…. a slice of cheese!  Slightly milder than the spicier options it makes for an okay snack or small lunch.


9.  Bulgogi Deop bap (불고기덮밥) : This is a kind of beef and vegetable stir fry.  It comes with a pile of rice.  It’s good if you’re hungry for meat, but want to avoid the fried donkkaseu options.  There’s one that comes on a hot plate as well.  It’s a good general lunch or dinner option.


This image, which was originally posted to, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 23:06, 4 June 2008 (UTC) by Isageum (talk). On that date it was licensed under the license below. (Uploaded from using Flickr upload bot)

10.  Galbitang  (갈비탕):  This is the bone-in pork soup.  It can be really good at specialized restaurants, but can also be an okay option at gimbap cheonguk.  It’s broth, pork and noodles.  You will have to cut or gnaw the meat off the bone after it’s boiled for a while, but it makes for a decent meaty soup option, if that’s what you’re in the mood for.

This image, which was originally posted to, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 20:58, 14 June 2008 (UTC) by Isageum (talk). On that date it was licensed under the license below. Uploaded from using Flickr upload bot)

Sep 172011

FACT: Anything Chuck Norris can do, Grandmaster Kim Soo can do better…and we all know what Chuck Norris can do! He even judged Chuck Norris in a tournament in America!


Article by Heather Gaines

*New classes just started for September 2013 , so get some culture and some exercise!

If you’ve been looking for a place to study martial arts while you’re in Korea (or you’ve been wanting to try something new, or you’re interested in doing something cultural, or you want to get some exercise and eliminate some stress), look no further! Grandmaster Kim Soo teaches martial arts in English, and he’s an amazing teacher! The class is for all levels, so whether you’ve never done any martial arts before (like me) or you already have a black belt (like my friend), you are more than welcome.

Grandmaster Kim Soo is a 10th-degree black belt and has over 50 years of teaching experience, 40 of which were spent in Texas. Over the years, he has won numerous awards for both teaching and martial arts ( Grandmaster Kim Soo is also the Founder of the Chayon-Ryu Martial Arts System, which incorporates several different styles of martial arts (see below). It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to train (in English!) under a Grandmaster who created the system that you are studying. But the best part of all: Grandmaster Kim Soo’s class is easy to follow and a lot of fun; he is a very patient and helpful teacher who really cares about his students.


To find out more information about Grandmaster Kim Soo and the Chayon-Ryu Martial Arts System, feel free to visit the links below.

Class Information:

When: Monday and Wednesday 8:00pm to 9:30pm

Cost: 40,000 Won per month

Location: Sport For All Busan Assocation (SABA)

Directions: Metro Line 2(Green Line): Busan Museum of Modern Art station, Exit 5

When you exit the metro, go straight (on the pathway) for about 50m and the SABA building (& some tennis courts) will be to your left. Veer left, there will be Olympic rings on the ground outside – that’s the SABA building. Go inside the SABA building, and use the staircase to your left to go up to the 2nd floor. The room is in the far left corner.
Tel: 010-8961-4060

Additional information provided by Grandmaster Kim Soo:
Grandmaster Kim Soo welcomes men and women of all levels and from all nationalities. Note: Grandmaster Kim Soo is fluent in Korean and English and can speak some Russian and Spanish.
Chayon-Ryu Martial Arts System (Natural Way) ( Chayon-Ryu was founded well before the current craze of mixed-martial arts. Most martial arts today focus on sports and competition, and they focus only on the physical aspects of martial arts. The focus of Chayon-Ryu is on training one’s mind, body, and spirit and not on fighting, violence or competition. It is based on those natural movements found within each of its parent styles.

Recently (2013), Grandmaster Kim Soo was recognized by the State of Texas Senate for the 45th anniversary of his arrival in Houston and for founding the Chayon-Ryu martial art system. Texas Senate Resolution May 2013

Korean taekwondo
Chinese chu’an fa
Hapkido / Aikido
Judo / Jujitsu

Grandmaster Kim Soo is the Founder of the Chayon-Ryu Martial Arts System. He began his martial arts training as a child in Korea. Since earning his B.A. degree in Russian Languages and Literature, Grandmaster Kim founded the Takkyun Kwon-Beop club at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and the Korean Taekwon Academy in Seoul, Korea.  He also served as the first Korean correspondent for BLACK BELT MAGAZINE and authored three best-selling books. In 1968, he moved to Houston, Texas and began teaching at both Rice University and the University of Houston. In 2010, he moved back to Korea to fulfill a lifelong dream of sharing his knowledge and teaching skills with his fellow countrymen. Currently, Grandmaster Kim Soo is a member of the Faculty at Dong-Eui University in the College of Sport Science.

For more information contact Grandmaster Kim Soo:
Phone: 010-8961-4060 / 
Skype: Pyung-soo Kim

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Sep 072011

Hotaru Ramen Restaurant front, Gwangalli BeachA few weeks ago we got a recommendation for the Hotaru Japanese Restaurant in Gwangalli. I’d read some borderline pornographic reviews on Koreabridge of the miso ramen, so I decided I probably ought to check it out. I wasn’t terribly excited about the prospects of spending almost 7,000 won on a bowl of ramen. To be honest, I hate ramen. I’ve always hated it. Prior to Hotaru, my greatest ramen experiences had mostly involved laying in bed, hungover, too lazy to go down two flights of steps to the family mart, breaking apart and eating dried ramen noodles right out of the packet.

Hotaru’s miso ramen was definitely differnet from the typical Korean version. The miso broth is thick, savory and flavorful, as opposed to the Korean styles that are watery, spicy and even spicier. There are also two decent sized chunks of pork mixed in with the fresh noodles that provide enough substance to consider it a full meal. The restaurant setting is casual and comfortable. INSIDER TIP: Ask for an egg (for an extra 500 won) to go on top!

Hotaru Ramen Restaurant Miso Ramen, Gwangalli Beach

More expert reviews rave of the authenticity of Hotaru’s ramen. I’ll defer to them on that point. I’ve had ramen in Japan once, during my first ever trip abroad. I hadn’t eaten it in about fifteen years at that point and I was still acquiring a taste for miso. I recall being pleasantly surprised, but still eating it more out of novelty. I’d honestly thought up until then that asians eating ramen was an American stereotype.

Hotaru Ramen Restaurant interior, Gwangalli BeachI’ve learned much since then. No, I still won’t list ramen among my top foods, but yes, Hotaru’s miso ramen is the best I’ve ever eaten. It has a taste that sticks with you and makes you crave it. Despite having gone there over a week ago, I’m still able to conjure up the taste in my mouth when I think about it. In other words, this stuff is addictive. If you’re already a fan of ramen, you’ll probably love it. If you aren’t a fan of ramen, it is good enough to make you reconsider your position and certainly has a taste that makes you want to go back as soon as possible.


Geumjeongsan subway exit 3.  Walk to the beach, then turn right at the beach road.  Go straight one block until you come to a road that forks off to the right.  Follow that road almost to the end of the block.  Hotaru is on the right, on the first floor.  There used to be a Popeye’s chicken across the street from it (it’s torn up now – I think a Lotteria will eventually go on that corner).   It can be easy to miss, (we did 2 laps around the block looking) but it’s worth it when you find it.

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Aug 222011

View along the coast of Taejongdae Park, Busan, Korea

After several visits solely for the purpose of eating at the clam tents, I finally took a few hours to hike around the famous cliffs of Taejongdae Park. As far as hikes go, this one doesn’t compare with Igidae or Amnam Park, but it’s still a nice little walk. It’s particularly suited for those who want to see some nice cliffs, but aren’t especially interested in a strenuous hike to get to them. It’s an easy walk along a paved road to get to the short path to the cliffs. If you don’t feel like walking, you can take the cute mini-train around as well. It cost around 1500 won.

Taejongdae Park, Busan, South KoreaThe highlight of the park is the cliffs near the lighthouse. On the day I went it was pretty windy and I saw at least three people have their hats blown off, so you may want to leave your more cherished head coverings at home or secure them safely in your backpacks. The cliffs are beautiful, though there is a rather small area from which to enjoy the views. If you are looking for any sort of inspirational solitude, this is not the place. Like most easy to reach spots in Korea, there are usually a few hundred others right there with you.

Aside from the short (maybe 3km?) loop around Taejongdae park, there is also a 17.8 km trail to goes from Amnam Park to Taejongdae. I’ve passed the wooded walkways on the way to both parks, but have yet to attempt the long walk. I imagine it would make for quite the scenic walking or running spot once the weather cools down.

temple at taejongdae park, Busan

So if you feel like taking in a few scenic views, but don’t feel like doing a long hike in order to find them, Taejongdae is a pretty nice place to go. It’s easy to get to, easy to get around and the cliffs and ocean are beautiful.


FROM JAGALCHI: get to Jagalchi metro station exit 10 and take bus 8

SEOMYEON: get the 88-B or 88-A across the street from Judie’s Taehwa. The ride is about an hour.

Nampo:  Take buses 30, 88 or 8 from Nampo metro, exit 6

FROM POINTS EAST (east of Seomyeon): Metro to Daeyeon station, exit 2 and take the 101 all the way to Taejongdae. OR you can take the 139, 1001 or 1003 to the Munhyeon stop and transfer to the 101 there. The ride from Daeyeon will take about an hour.
FROM BUSAN STATION: Bus 101, 88-A or 88-B will do the trick.

Take the bus to the END of the line (TaeJongDae) and you’ll get off in a parking lot. Turn left and you’ll see the entrance to the park. 

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Jul 092011

Front of Beached Bar, Gwangalli, BusanBeached has quickly become my new favorite expat bar in Busan. It’s got a lot going for it. The first thing that sets it apart is obviously the view. The handful of times I’ve been there over the past few weeks have all been clear days when the large windows were open, over-looking Gwangalli beach onto the Diamond Bridge. I’d imagine hanging out, having a few beers, on a cool rainy day would be nearly as nice. For being in such a beautiful location, Beached has a remarkably laid back vibe to it.

There’s a big bar with really comfortable seats to sit around, and they usually have sports playing on the television. Since it’s New Zealand owned, I’d imagine there is a lot of rugby to be watched, but it’s also a great place to catch the Lotte Giants games.

Interior of Beached Bar in Gwangalli, BusanThe menu is very reasonably priced. I’ve gotten the fish and chips a few times and been very satisfied with it. I still give the edge to Starface for my favorite fish’n’chips in Busan, but Beached is cheaper. I’ve also had the chicken and chips, which was very good as well. For those who are interested they also offer some marmite and vegemite based foods. I’ve never quite understood those, but some people seem to like them.

As for drinks, I’ve mainly stuck with the Max Draft for 3000 won a pint. They have a cooler full of Monteith’s, which I’m excited to try at some point when I’m not feeling quite so thrifty. They also make a pretty good bloody mary for those hungover Sunday afternoons.

Interior of Beached Bar in Gwangalli, BusanSo if you’re in the mood to have some drinks, eat some fish and chips, watch a game, or just relax and enjoy the view, Beached is my personal favorite option in Busan as far as expat bars are concerned. I’m a person who tends to visit expat places sparingly, but Beached has enough of a laid back feel to make me want to become a regular.


Directions:  Geumyeonsan Metro Station Exit 1.  Turn back and and make an immediate left toward the beach.  Walk to the beach road and turn left.  Beer Check is a few blocks ahead on the left.

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Jul 012011

Review by Heesun Kim

Casual Japanese dining in Jangsan, BusanIt’s Friday night and there’s a good crowd at Hinomura, a Japanese style restaurant in the Jangsan neighborhood, Busan. The setting and casual, with a dozen or so tables and a counter by the chef’s kitchen where more customers sit.

Looking through the menu we struggle somewhat with the Japanese and Korea text. Fortunately the pictures offer some guidance and with a little help from the waiter we opt for Set A, a 30,000 won set consisting of 8 small skewers of various meats and vegetables, 2 cheese filled rice balls, an egg & vegetable pancake, and miniature spicy chicken wings.

Other choices were Set B at 50,000 won and Set C at 80,000 won. Differences between these are portions sizes and one or two additional items.

Delicious skewers and mini chicken wings at Hinomura in Jangsan

There is a choice of ‘a la carte’ items mainly fried rice, noodles and more meat & veg on skewers and there is a page dedicated to a variety of Saki’s. We ordered a skewer of seared tuna outside of the set menu, a 900ml carton of Saki and soju.

Delicious seared tuna from Hinomura in JangsanWhen you drink Saki, choose to have it served warm as it tastes slightly sweeter on the palate this way. In comparison to soju, which I am sure every person of the adult population in South Korea is familiar with, the Saki tasted smoother and I was not inclined to make faces from the aftertaste, as I normally do with soju. It’s pricier too, ranging from 27,000 won to 180,000 won for each bottle.

If you are looking for a hearty meal then I would not recommend this place because the portions sizes are very small, (think bite-size) and many of the dishes are really a series of appetizers and canapés rather than meals.  The food itself did not scintillate my taste-buds, however for socializing with friends it’s a decent enough choice especially as it’s open until 9 in the morning.

The total bill was approximately 77,000 won for the set dish, a skewer of seared tuna, Saki and a couple of bottles of soju.

Hours: 16:00 – 9:00

Telephone 051-703-9971

Directions: Jangsan Metro exit 4.  Walk straight past the 2001 Outlet.  It’s across the second road on your left.

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May 302011

The Home Bistro Entrance, Haeundae BeachThe summer beach season is coming and Haeundae beach is once again becoming the popular spot to hang out. This was very evident on Sunday when a mid-afternoon planned trip to Geckos for lunch and beer was derailed due to a lack of outdoor seating and a one-hour wait for food. We considered trying to wait it out, but instead opted to walk further down the beach in search of another place that might be open, offer good food, and have some outdoor seating. We didn’t have to go far.

The Home Bistro is located in the middle section of the Pale de CZ building, right inside from the Yaki Yaki Japanese restaurant. It has really cool interior seating, consisting of a few tables and a long row of booths. The menu is interesting and moderately priced. Actually pretty cheap for being right by the beach (and compared to Geckos) Most dishes are 8,000 – 9,000 won. Pizzas are around 12,000. I had the hot yaki pork cutlet, which was fantastic. Crispy pieces of pork, covered in a sweet spicy sauce, mixed with peppers, tomatos, and carrots along with a side of rice and some salad. My friend had the cajun chicken salad, which was an actual salad. Not just some chicken thrown onto a pile of lettuce. There were oranges involved. Oranges!

Stylish interior of the Home Bistro, Haeundae, BusanBeer is 3,700 which is reasonable. I also liked the plates and cups very much. The servers were very polite and spoke English well. Oh yeah, we also got the crispy french fries, which were waffle fries served with sweet chili pepper sauce and they were really good. So if you get hungry during a day or evening (I think they’re open pretty late) of hanging out on Haeundae beach and want something a little different from the regular options, check out “The Home Bistro.”

Directions:  Walk down Haeundae beach toward Dalmaji Hill.  It’s in the Pale de CZ building, in the middle area closer to the beach side.

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