Family doesn't let pandemic keep it from exploring Korea

Photos by Lenina Clark
Photos by Lenina Clark

Family doesn't let pandemic keep it from exploring Korea

by Lenina Clark
Stripes Korea

My family arrived South Korea late May 2020 and was quarantined for two weeks at the barracks. I was researching and looking forward to exploring Korea as soon as possible.

It was Fourth of July weekend and we decided to head southeast to Busan. It was a fun four-hour journey of beautiful green mountains as far as I could see. We came from Tampa, where there are no mountains whatsoever so this was a nice change.

As we were getting close to Busan, I started seeing clusters of buildings of all different heights all on top of one another. I had never seen so many buildings. I was in awe seeing buildings of old and new mixed together.

As soon as we checked into our hotel, we decided to explore a bit. We were surprised to find out we were only a block away from the infamous Gukje Night Market and Jagalchi Seafood Market.

Gukje was a sight to see. Alleys with rows of vendors to my left and right. The foods were amazing to look at and consume.

Be careful of scooters because they feel like they have the right of way. I’m still amazed how people on scooters can maneuver through tight spaces.

This place is the best to try out authentic street food. You’ll have to accept the fact that you’ll eat standing up or sit your butt down on a street curb. We decided to head to Jagalchi Seafood Market and grab a bite there instead.

On the way, we saw little mom and pop shops along the street with all types of fish, shell fish, mussels, eels, and octopus. I’ve never seen live octopus outside an aquarium let alone in a small wash tub on the side of the street.

If you are daring, you can try to eat live chopped octopus tentacles at the Jagalchi seafood building. The first floor is where you can buy your fish and take it up to the second floor for them to cook it for you. We didn’t know what to buy so we headed to the second floor to look at a menu first. We decided on seafood broth with all types of mussels and one order of fried fish. We literally saw the fish alive right before they cooked it!

If you want the freshest seafood, head towards Jagalchi or Gukje Night Market.

My next favorite site was Haedong Yonggunsa Buddhist Temple. It was a 40-minute drive from our hotel. There are buses and trains that will easily take you there. The cost of the temple was free and parking was 3000 won. It was definitely picturesque with all the Buddha statues throughout the park. There’s also 12 animal statues that signify the zodiac animal year which everyone took pictures with their birth animal.

Food is never scarce here. Even at the temple, there are street vendors selling food and drinks so don’t worry about not having anything to eat there. There’s also a cute coffee shop there with ocean views.

Next on the list was Songdo Beach with cable car rides. We rode the cable car which took us to a mini island across the city. You had the choice of cable cars, one with open glass flooring or just a regular floor.

Once we got off, we were greeted with more food vendors and there was a beautiful park to explore. There were animated dinosaurs, Instagrammable statues,  a piano to play with, and even a nice hike along the mountain. You can stay as long as you want before taking the cable car back to the starting point.

Lastly, if you love the beach, then head down to Haeundae Beach. You can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas if you didn’t bring any. If you are hungry, look out for a man that walks along the beach repeating “ChiKen, ChiKen”. If you flag him down, tell him your order and he’ll deliver it to you. There were couple of people handing out a magnetic menu (which sticks to the pole of your umbrella) of the chicken wings. There were 6 flavors to choose from.

Additionally, there was a coffee lady walking around so look out for her, too.

Haeundae Beach was clean and the waters were mellow. There were adequate and clean restrooms. Make sure you have to coins to operate the outdoor showers. There’s also a trailer to change your clothes in but I think you have to pay for it.

Did I mention how you can never be hungry here? Well, there are street vendors here at the beach selling foods and restaurants if you want an indoor dining experience.

Overall, my family and I enjoyed our long awaited mini vacation to Busan. It reminded me of a city mix of San Francisco, Waikiki, New York City, and a dash of Seattle. There were many more attractions offered which lead to us to want a return trip in the future. You can relax at several beaches in Busan. You can hike mountains and visit temples along the way. Or, stay in the city and immerse yourself with the locals at the night markets and restaurants.

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