Tag Archives: busan

2013 Busan International Film Festival

Saturday night, a friend invited me to take a last minute trip to Busan today to attend the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) on Sunday. We were able to reserve tickets to a screening of Jim Sheridan’s 1993 film In the Name of the Father. We hopped on the slow train (무궁화) from Dong Daegu Station (동대구역) to Busan Station (부산역). In Busan, we rode the subway to Centum City – the station connected to Shinsaegae Department Store.

신새계 Shinsaegae Department Store Busan Korea

Main entrance at Shinsaegae Department Store in Busan.

I was delighted to see dumbass-proof directions as soon as I stepped off the subway. There was a big sign on the floor that doubles as a path leading all the way to the BIFF ticket office.

2013 Busan Korea BIFF, sign to ticket office

This walkway led from the subway platform all the way to the BIFF ticket office.

2013 Busan Korea BIFF, Ticket office at Shinsaegae

The main BIFF ticket desk at Shinsaegae Department Store. I imagine it looks a lot less dreary when the weather is decent.

We picked up our tickets and headed into the main festival area – a huge, modern convention center across the street from Shinsaegae. Unlike the department store, it was nearly impossible to navigate the huge, complex convention center. Our tickets read, “Cinema II”, but there were no signs indicating where any of the screening rooms were.

2013 Busan Korea BIFF, Convention Center

The Busan Convention Center, where many of the BIFF movies are screened, is a beautiful and modern building.

2013 Busan Korea BIFF - main entrance

Thanks to the weather, I was unable to get a good photo of the main BIFF building. This is what it looked like on opening night. Source

After asking for directions at three different information desks in two buildings, we finally found our cinema. The directions, “go straight” weren’t quite adequate since the screening room was on the sixth floor of a building that can only be described as a labyrinth.

Fortunately, our timing was perfect. As we hit the seats, the film began to roll. It was not my first time seeing the movie, but it has been a long time. I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first time.

At the end of the credits, a speaker came out and asked everyone to keep their seats. Jim Sheridan was making a surprise appearance to do a Question & Answer session. It was interesting to hear him speak as he wasn’t a particularly dramatic guy, so his answers were all short and to the point.

2013 Busan Korea BIFF, Jim Sheridan answering questions

Jim Sheridan answers questions from the crowd at BIFF after screening In the Name of the Father (1993).

By the time the movie and Q&A were finished, we had to hurry to the train station. I wanted more time to explore the festival grounds, but I’m hoping to have that opportunity this week. If the approaching typhoon doesn’t ruin our plans, my roommate and I will return to Busan to see two or three more movies on Wednesday. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Train Wrecks and First Class

I’m on a train from Daegu to Busan. It’s the wrong one. We sat in a nearly-empty first class and nobody noticed, all thanks to the confusion generated by a train wreck that happened in Daegu earlier today.

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All passengers are being rerouted, everyone told to just get on whichever train is heading in the right direction.

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I’m not sure where we are at the moment, but this is not the normal route to Busan. Instead of the normal 45-minute straight shot, we are moving slowly through lush valleys criscrossed with rivers and spotted with the occasional farming village. It’s turning out to be a great trip.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Korean Love Motel #2

G&G Motel  is the second stop in our tour of Korean love motels. I must say – this one was pretty awesome! I was so impressed with VOV, the motel I showed you in Korean Love Motel #1, that I decided to head back to the same neighborhood.

G&G is literally beside VOV, less than fifty feet from one entrance to the other. Just like VOV, this place is near downtown Busan and within easy walking distance to a TON of fun night life near the Seomyeon area. For 60,000 won (~$55) on weekends and 45,000 won (~$40), it’s not a steal, but it’s a decent price for the quality.

Map - G&G Motel Busan

The entrance to G&G wasn’t as flashy or nice as some of the other motels. Frankly, I’m not sure what made me decide to go in and check it out – but I’m glad I did!

Entrance to G&G Motel in Busan

As I mentioned in my last motel post, most Korean love motels have themes. G&G’s theme was a little difficult to pin down – but I think it had something to do with Africa…or animals in general…or movies. Despite the motel’s inability to choose a direction, I was totally impressed with our room. I was assigned to the safari/zebra room.

G&G Motel Busan - Bed

The bed was HUGE and comfortable. To the left of the bed was a huge piece of wood that served as curtains. It completely blacked out the room. Much better than even the best cloth or vinyl curtains!

G&G Motel Busan - Computers and TV

As you can see, the TV was pretty big. The computer, which is a standard love motel amenity, was nice as well. I got a lot of mileage out of the filtered water dispenser and air purifier below the TV.

G&G Motel Busan - Flowers

Although horribly tacky, I liked this decoration that was suspended between two panes of glass that separated the bedroom and bathroom. Then again, tacky is the name of the game in Korean love motels.

The bathroom was the best part of the room. Unlike at VOV, this bathroom was totally separated from the room itself. I liked this added privacy. I also liked the fact that the bathroom was huge – even by American standards.

G&G Motel Busan - Toilet and Shower

On the left is the shower stall. This room had a great rain-style shower. The shower head was about 18″x18″ square. I expected a weak shower, but I was surprised to find that the water pressure was decent despite the size of the shower head. And on the right is my old friend – the Japanese super-toilet!

G&G Motel Busan - Vanity

The vanity was a nice touch. I usually apply my makeup standing up, but if I needed a vanity, this one would have been awesome!

And no Korean love motel room is complete with Engerish. The G&G definitely did not skimp on the Engerish!

G&G Motel Busan - Engerish 2

G&G Motel Busan - Engerish

If you’re ever near downtown in Busan, I suggest you check this place out.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Korean Love Motel #1

I am fascinated by Korean love motels. Despite the uber-sketchy name, most love motels (러브모탤) are not seedy, by-the-hour dive joints. These once-taboo establishments have become part of mainstream Korean culture over the past twenty years. I found an excellent explanation of love motels in Korea. The full article can be found here:

“Briefly, love motels are ubiquitous motels that have their sociological origins, like Korea’s bang culture, in the fact that Koreans tend to live at home until they are married. In a developed country, where people may not get married until their late twenties or thirties, this results in lots of people who need to get away from their parents for a while.

The phrase ‘love motel’ conjures up an image of something seedy and dangerous. The truth is nothing like that. Yes, they are used by young, unmarried couples, and people carrying on affairs; yes, some of them rent rooms for two hour stays. But they are also used by business travelers and families on holiday. Koreans may snicker about them, or be embarrassed by them, but I have never stayed in one that felt dangerous.”

I travel around Korea often. Intercity travel is so cheap and easy that I try to visit a major city or historical site at least once per month. Last month, I rode the KTX to Busan twice and stayed in two different love motels.

Korean HostelDuring my first six moths in Korea, I repeatedly made a rookie mistake: staying in hostels. I booked ahead, which limited my flexibility, and paid upwards of 30,000 won ($25) to sleep in a dorm room with several other travelers. This usually meant waking up several times at night as groups of drunk twenty year-olds stumbled into the room. This was not my idea of a relaxing weekend away, but it was the only way I knew to travel without spending an arm and a leg at a hotel.

Sometime last summer, a friend turned me on to love motels. I’d heard the name before, but I always assumed that they were dirty places that cater primarily to businessman/hooker clientele. I was way off. For a little more than the cost of a bed in a hostel, you can rent a large, clean room with tons of cool amenities.

On a recent trip to Busan, I decided to start documenting these motels so that I could share them with you. I’ll start with my current favorite: VOV (Voice Of Victory Hotel).

Busan VOVtel Love Motel

Located near Dongrae Subway Station (동래역) in downtown Busan, VOV is tucked into a small side-street with at least a dozen other love motels. All of the motels on this street appear to be nice and each has its own theme. The VOV’s theme is cities. Each room is decorated with photos and accessories from a different famous city.

VOVtel 1

I stayed in New York City. The entire room was wallpapered with a huge panoramic photo of Times Square. The shower and toilet, which were inside the main room instead of a separate bathroom, were surrounded by frosted glass walls with black and white photos of the New York Times printed on them.

The shower was huge an had a rain-style shower head that was set directly into the ceiling. The toilet was a high-tech Japanese model with a heated seat and bidet. Best of all, the toilet seat warmer can be activated in advance with the remote control (seen in the picture above). The remote allows a guest to control all of the lights, the toilet seat, the TV, the heat and A/C from the big comfortable bed.

Busan VOV motel room

As you may have noticed in the picture above, there were two computers in the room. They were equipped with large screens and placed side-by-side on a long desk with two comfortable office chairs. They had internet access and tons of useful information about Busan tourism. Each was equipped with a USB multi-charger that could charge almost any cell phone. They thought of everything!

The best part was the price. VOV only costs 40,000 won ($35) during the week and 60,000 won ($55) on weekends. It was absolutely worth the extra $15-20 to relax in style.

I’ve been to a few other love motels in the past month, and I plan to stay in plenty more, so this will become a regular post in coming weeks and months.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Return to Haeundae

It seems that Busan has become my weekend getaway of choice lately.  Last weekend, I made my third trip to Haeundae Beach, the most famous beach and one of the most famous neighborhoods in Korea.  It is advertised as a “world-class” resort area, but it is more Daytona Beach than Hilton Head.  At night, it has a spring break party vibe, and during the day the beach is absolutely packed with tourists.  But I like it nonetheless.

This time, I traveled with a Korean friend who showed me a couple of places that I would have otherwise never known existed.  First, she took me to Chinatown, which was more Russian than Chinese and completely underwhelming.  The only fun part was looking at all of the horribly tacky shirts hanging all over the place – mainly in the Russian clothing shops.

After escaping Chinatown, we went to one of Asia’s largest department stores, 신새개 (shin-sae-gae).  The name translates to “New World”.  It is huge, clean, elegant and packed with a great selection of stores ranging from Cartier to GAP.  We spent a few hours just wandering around.

The rest of the trip was spent walking around the Haeundae neighborhood and beach.  At night, we went bar-hopping and explored the night life.  The next morning, we took a short hike through a park that adjoins the beach and offers some amazing views of the city.  On the north side of the park, we stumbled across the site of the 2005 APEC conference, and we took a tour of the room in which several world leaders met.  It wasn’t an exciting tour, but I found it interesting.

Enjoy the pictures!

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Until next time.

-Taft

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