Jun 012011

For all the folks living outside of Busan, it’s going to be beach season soon, so now’s the perfect time to head to Busan for a weekend trip before the masses hit the beaches.

We’ve put together a sample itinerary for a kick-ass 2-day trip to Busan and our motel guide. So ditch your Lonely Planet book (They list Holly’s Coffee as one of their 2 places to drink in Nampo. Come on, LP… really?!?) and use our guide and site instead.

the diamond bridge on gwangalli beach, busan, south korea

Apr 182011

Passageway in "Dragon Dream, cave bar, Busan Korea.

**CAVE BAR AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE. The menu isn’t the same (way more expensive), the pajeon is no longer, but apparently there IS still dongdongju. The good news is that it’s still in a cave. That’s about it. See comments for more info. I do believe it’s still open, despite some saying that it might be closed. But it’s really not nearly as good as it used to be.**

“Dragon Dream,” more commonly known as the cave bar, is the coolest place to eat and drink in Busan.  I’ve always been partial to underground bars with stone walls and confusing passages.  Having lived in Prague, I thought that I’d probably experienced just about every kind of underground bar there was.  But I don’t think I ever drank in an actual cave there.  Literally, the walls drip water, and you are inside the mountain.

Beyond the unique setting, the cave bar has a whole lot more to offer.  The food was awesome. (not anymore).  I’ve been in Korea for a while now, and I can safely say they have some of the best kimchi I’ve ever tasted.  We also ordered the kimchi pajeon (no longer here!!!), and it was incredible.  It had more of a deep-dish pizza texture than the standard street pajeon.  We got it without seafood, which I prefer.  Sometimes too much squid can really ruin it.    They were so good that we ordered two more rounds of them after we finished the first.

The other specialty is dongdongju, which is kind of rice wine very similar to makgeolli.  Normally I avoid the rice wines because one sip almost guarantees a killer hangover the next day, but I really enjoyed the dongdongju.  It was served in one big bowl, then ladled into smaller drinking bowls from which to sip.  If the rice wine doesn’t do it for you, there’s also standard priced bottles of Hite and some special kinds of soju that should get the job done.

One of the best things about “Dragon Dream” is how far you feel from the often insular expat bar circuit.  Despite being seated near another group of foreigners, it felt a far cry from playing darts and eating hamburgers in KSU somewhere, which was a nice change of pace.

Definitely take a Saturday afternoon, and venture out to find this place.  It’s a short taxi ride to Seomyeon afterwards, if you plan to continue hanging out.  Although it’s very tough to find, our detailed directions should make it easier.  It’s very much worth the effort.
Directions are tough, so follow these pics (scroll down for a map):

1. Beomil Subway station, exit 7. When you exit, you’ll see this (below) Turn LEFT.

Directions to the cave bar in Beomil 1
2. Continue down that street with the side of the Hyundai Department Store on your left. You’ll see this:

Directions to the Cave Bar in Beomil
3. Keep going. Up ahead, you’ll see a creepy, rusty stairway that goes to a bridge over railroad tracks. Cross that bridge:

Directions to the Cave Bar in Beomil
4. After the bridge, turn LEFT. You’ll see a green and white awning on your left and pay phones on your right (below). Keep going.

Directions to the Cave Bar in Beomil
5. Look across the street. There will be a crosswalk going to a Paris Baguette (below). Cross it! Turn LEFT after you’ve crossed the street.

Directions to the Cave Bar in Beomil
6. You’ll see a bus stop sign for Borim cinema. Take your first RIGHT after you see this:

Directions to the Cave Bar in Beomil
7. Then take your first LEFT. The bar/restaurant is on your RIGHT and it looks like this:

The entrance to the Cave Bar
So let’s review: Beomil exit 7. Turn LEFT. Cross the bridge. Turn LEFT. Cross the street at Paris Baguette. Turn LEFT. Take your first RIGHT and immediately take another LEFT. Cave bar is on your right. Here’s a map for you map-oriented people:

Apr 042011

Part of the Busan Music Scene

the sign outside for the basement in pnu

The sign out front

The Basement is one of those places that everybody in Busan is supposed to know about. Mentions of it are often prefaced with phrases like legendary and the most popular expat bar in Busan. For months now, when it’s been brought up, I’ve been pretending that I’ve been there. I didn’t want people to think I was a loser. To think I wasn’t hip with the goings on around Busan. Well, now I have been there, and I can successfully look back and realize I was actually a loser. It’s alright, though, now I’m cool.

interior of the basement, located in PNU

The cozy interior of The Basement

The Basement wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Seeing the live music listings, I imagined it was just a PNU version of Vinyl Underground. I guess there are name associations at play as well, since basements are usually underground. Still, the inside was much smaller and cozier than I was imagining. The crowd was pretty laid back as well. Genius Rock, who I’d seen a few weeks earlier at the Vinyl punk show, was set to play later that night.

stairway leading down into the basement, in pnu

Stairway leading down into The Basement

The drinks are cheap, and the bar is really fun. It’s relaxed and everyone is extremely friendly. They also have a big screen to watch soccer games on, which makes me happy.

If I lived closer to PNU, I could definitely see myself hanging out at the Basement far more than would be healthy. It’s got a more intimate feel, and much better ambience than a lot of the other expat bars in Busan. So if you’re like me, and have been living a shameful lie by pretending you’ve been to The Basement, maybe now is the time to venture up to PNU and actually check it out.

Directions:  From the PNU metro stop, go out exit 1.  Walk straight for two blocks.  Go through the big intersection.  Continue straight until the next big road, then turn right.  Walk for a block and a half.  Look for the black and green basement sign on your right.

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