Busan was the first stop in South-Korea after Japan. To be totally honest, I was pretty beat from traveling around so much in Japan. I’ve seen a lot of mountains, done some really nice hikes and visited a good amount of temples. And not to bring South-Korea down, but it is pretty much the same here, of course there are some cultural differences to be find. Nevertheless, the first couple of days I just chilled in Busan and figured out my plan for the next destinations. Though I did manage to find some stuff to do while I was here.
One of the things I didn’t get to do in Tokyo was visit a fishmarket. I’ve been to a markets before in Hong Kong, so this wasn’t all new to me really. But it was rather the stuff they were selling that were new to me. The thing that most people know about South-Korean seafood cuisine, is probably that they actually have live octopus on the menu. And yes, people eat it raw while it’s still squirming around on your chopsticks while you’re dipping it your soy sauce.
According to my guidebook a trip down to the Jagalshi fishmarket was a must do while in Busan and try one of the dishes there. And so I did. Little did I know was that Korean restaurants don’t really cater to single diners which means that you are often stuck getting a menu for 2 or more when you just want a quick bite. Since it was one of my first days in South-Korea, I had to learn it the “hard” way.
- Quick note – Local eateries often don’t have English menu’s and people don’t really speak English. -
So I went to one of the restaurant and ordered one of the menus. As expected the prices were quite high, but since it was a touristic place I figured it was normal. But when the actual dishes came I realised I had actually ordered a menu for two. And for the people that have seen me in real life, I’m just this scrunchy skinny little Asian guy who looks like he can bare finish a bowl of rice. However, if you know my personality, you’d also know that I’m cheap as hell and wouldn’t waste anything I paid money for. So yep, I finished that 2 person meal by myself like a champ! For your information, the menu was a sashimi menu containing a big place of sashimi, tons of sidedishes as you usually get and a big bowl of soup made with the remains of the fish. Sadly I forgot to take a picture before I started, but remembered halfway through to take a picture of my accomplishment.
Also in Busan you can find a nice little hike up the old Geumjeong fortress walls. There were several watchtowers which you can hike up to. I started the hike a bit late (around 2-3pm) and the park rangers said it wouldn’t be possible to go all the way up around the wall. But as I started walking I realized I could actually finish it without breaking a sweat so I managed to finish it right before sunset.
At the start of the hike you can find the Beomeo-sa Temple. One of Korea’s Great 5 Temples, this large temple complex is located up in the mountains, seemingly much further away from the big city than the few kilometers it is.
Jeju Island, also known as the “Island of the Gods,” is a popular vacation spot for Koreans and foreigners. It remains the top honeymoon destination for Korean newlyweds, and is also regarded as one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world. Seeing how I’m traveling by myself you can probably imagine how romantic it was for me to visit the place…. Anyhow, it doesn’t mean that the whole island is decorated in rose petals and corny love stuff, it actually does have a whole lot to offer for the tourist. To my own suprise, I never expected the island to be this big so I actually stayed only 2-3 days while you should maybe spend 5-6 days to see the island.
One of the reasons that many Koreans come visit this island is the great hiking mountain called Halla-san. This enormous mountain in the middle of the island is a great hike for novice and expert hikers. They have 4 trails for each level of difficulty. By suggestion of the hostel owner and my own stubborness, I decided to ascend on the most difficult one, but at the same time most beautiful one, Gweunamsa.
During this trip I’ve hiked a couple of times already, through rain, heavy wind, blistering sun, but never have I hiked in snow before and let me tell you, it’s quite the experience. I thought hiking through mud and rainy paths was dangerous but it’s nothing compared to snow. The hike itself was quite demanding, it took me about 3-4 hours to reach the top, only to find TONS of other ELDERLY hikers, dressed in all the skittles colors your could find.
In case you didn’t know, Koreans love-LOVE to go hiking. And all of them are decked out with the best gear there is, I’ve seen tons of people sporting North Face gear and other clothes which are rediculously expensive. Heck I guess you’ve gotta look good when hiking in South-Korea, also the fact that they are indeed good brands. Also, Koreans have nicely adapted the spit-and-throat-clearing culture from China, so when you hear someone around you gourgeling, be ready to jump away.
Besides hiking up Halla-San, I also went to visit Manjanggul lava-tube. This natural phenomenom is different from a normal cav, lava tubes are actually formed by lava running through. I know right, fascinating! Not really though, in reality it was more or less walking through a black tunnel which was illumunated by colored spotlights to entertain the tourists. If I were you, I wouldn’t really pay the money to get there.
Oh and there were also 2 waterfalls that are famous there. I only managed to visit one of them since I didn’t have enough time.
To be honest, I kinda wished I stayed longer than 3 nights on Jeju Island, there was just so much to do on the island itself. Eventhough I went there by myself, I think it would have been nice to go there with company, since they also have a sex museum park thing there to spice things up and other interesting cultural attractions. They don’t call it the honeymoon island for no reason.