We had to get up early to get the train to Busan that we prebooked the day before. So, we left our hotel, the Hotel Manu, and walked to the Seoul Station. The train ride was comfortable, as we had reserved seats and had taken the fast KTX. We needed less than three hours for the trip.
Busan is South Korea’s second largest city and also a seaside town. Coming from the Philippines, I love the water, and I was really looking forward to Busan. We didn’t want to waste time and stored our luggage in the lockers at the Busan Station and then walked to the Busan Subway Station.
The subway makes traveling independently through Busan easy, mainly, as we could use the T-Money-Card, that we had bought and also used in Seoul. I was hungry, and so we went to the Nampo Subway Station, which is two stations away from the Busan Station, and then walked to the huge Lotte Mart. There, we marveled at the world’s largest indoor musical fountain, before we went to Pizza Hut (they also have a food court, but my friend really wanted to have pizza).
From the Lotte Mart, we just walked to the nearby Jagalchi Fish Market. Actually, we came through the Dried Seafood Market first and then went to the ocean. From there, we could see the building of the Jagalchi Fish Market and soon were surrounded by so many shops, restaurants, and eateries.
There are some attractions in walking distance of the Jagalchi Market, so, we walked to the BIFF Square, Busan’s movie district and then through Gwangbok-dong Cultural & Fashion Street. However, we skipped the nearby Gukje Market Food Street. Instead, we found really convenient escalators from the Gwangbok Road up to the Yongdusan Park.
Unfortunately, the Busan Tower was closed due to renovation. So, we just took a look at different Korean stonewalls, that were exhibited, and then exited the park on a path down to the East. We walked to the 40-step Culture & Tourism Street, which was an important location for refugees during the war and also has monuments to remember them.
Eventually, we walked to the next subway station, the Jungang Station, and went back to the Busan Station to get our luggage out of the lockers and go to the hotel to check in. It was then when I realized, I missed my camera bag! (although not the camera). I thought I’ve left it in the locker, but it wasn’t there. After some memory work, we came to a conclusion, that we must have forgotten it at the Pizza Hut at the start of our walk. I wasn’t sure, however. So, we dragged our luggage down to the subway and then returned to the Lotte Mart near the Jagalchi Market. I was so happy when I arrived at the Pizza Hut, and the woman remembered me and gave me my bag, that she found!
Finally, we could take the subway to our hotel for the next three nights, the 369 Hotel. It is located just a short walking distance from the Yeonsan Station. It is more of a motel than a hotel, but our room was spacious, the guy at the reception was friendly and spoke English and even showed us how the coffee machine works, as they offer free coffee for the guests and we couldn’t read the (Korean) signs.
The hotel is in a motel area. There are so many “Love Motels” in conservative South Korea, and they were and are often used by couples to have a discreet meeting. That’s why the entrance is a bit hidden, and at the check-in counter, you don’t necessarily see the face of the employee (or he or she sees yours). We wanted to include at least a motel in our journey, as they belong to South Korea’s hotel and accommodation culture. They are also relatively cheap, and it seems, that many are transforming into regular hotels, like the one we were in. Another reason we chose the hotel, however, was its proximity to the Yeonsan Subway Station, where two major subway lines cross and which seemed to be a perfect base for our planned excursions into Busan.
Our next excursion was just four stations away – Hurshimchung. It is a huge Hot Springs Bath House. So, we exited the subway at the Oncheonjang Station at Exit 3 and walked across the bridge over the street and arrived at a shopping mall. We kept to the left and walked along the path above the ground, past some restaurants, and at the end took the escalators down and crossed the street in front of us at the pedestrian crosswalk and walked straight toward into the Oncheonjang-ro 119beon-gil. The street is full of (mostly fish) restaurants, and we soon reached the huge building with the spa inside at the left. At first, we weren’t really sure, as we entered and suddenly in a huge restaurant/bar, but we walked through it and then came into a hall with a bakery, where escalators lead up to the spa. You can also enter Hurshimchung from the opposite side, we found out (from the Oncheonjang-ro 107beon-gil).
At the reception, we got our keys, which eventually can be used to pay for anything you purchase inside since one has to be completely naked in the bath. It is a gender-segregated bath. But first, we had to lock away our shoes, then going further to the changing room to completely undress and put our clothes in the locker. For the uninitiated, it could be a bit uncomfortable. It didn’t really bother us, as we already visited many Onsen on our trip to Japan (once even a Sand Bath), and also in Taiwan. We’ve got used to it. It is an experience, that shouldn’t be missed, when in South Korea! There are actually quite some Hot Springs to choose from, and in Busan, Hurshimchung and Spa Land are the biggest Bath Houses.
Inside the huge and spacious bath, there’s a big warm bath in the middle, surrounded by many more baths and saunas. I especially liked the waterfall massage shower for my legs (after all the sightseeing related walking around…). The pools have different temperatures – from cold to more or less cooking – and some are scented (like Jasmin). There are even pools outside and a pool with seats and a table. You can really stay there for quite some time, and we did. I also booked a full body scrub and was bloody red afterward … o.k. just kidding. Even though it felt like I was rubbed with sand-paper, I really felt rejuvenated!
When we were finished, we felt so relaxed and healthy, that we, of course, stopped at the bakery on the ground floor and treated ourselves with some delicacies. All said, our first day in Busan was auspicious, and we were looking forward to the next day, where we wanted to take a look at the famous Haeundae Beach.