Tag Archives: haeundae

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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That Burger Have No Meat

I take pride in my ability to accept Korean culture for what it is and not do like so many westerners – question and judge every aspect of life in Korea that differs from life back home.  But I reached my limit last weekend in Busan.  I have absolutely had it with the complete and total lack of customer service in Korea – especially in restaurants.  I have been amazed by how rare it is to find a restaurant (with the exception of some small, family-owned places) that cares at all about customer satisfaction.

Before heading to the beach on Sunday morning, Scott, Conor, Kelsey and I went to a place called Thursday Party for lunch.  They serve western food and are located convenient to the beach, so it seemed like the perfect option for a relaxing meal.  Little did I know that my blood pressure would be through the roof soon.

We decided to sit inside so that I wouldn’t catch on fire in the sunlight (turns out that was a good choice, considering the fact that I got absolutely fried later).  As with most western(ish) restaurants here, the primary language on the menu was English.  I went straight to the “burgers” section, as I’ve been searching for a good burger in Korea.  I decided to skip the section titled, “For Vegetarian and Beautiful Women.”

I settled on the “Bacon and Egg Burger”.  The burger comes with egg, bacon, BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayo.  I’ve had a few burgers topped with a fried egg, and they were all good, so I had to give it a shot.  The food came out pretty quickly, but there was some sort of mistake.  Something was missing from my burger.

Where’s the Beef?

That’s right, there was no beef in the burger.  I double-checked the menu, but there was no note warning that the Bacon and Egg Burger is, in fact, not a burger.  Furthermore, the price was just as high as all of the other burgers that were…burgers.  What the hell?

Of course, everybody else thought it was just hilarious that I bought a damn egg sandwich for 8,000 won (~$8).  I tried to get the our waitress’s attention, but that’s nearly impossible.  So, I just sat there and left the burger on the plate.  I wondered how long it would sit there before they would notice or say something to me.

It took about fifteen minutes for the waitress to pass by and notice that my burger hadn’t been touched.  I caught her staring at my plate, but she turned around and walked away as soon as we made eye contact.  About two minutes later, she came back with another waitress in tow.  Our waitress pointed to my plate, they had a short discussion that ended in giggling, and then they walked away.  I was so angry at this point that I could feel my heartbeat in my eyeballs.  The fact that Scott and Conor couldn’t keep a straight face only pissed me off more.

Finally, after all of the other plates were cleared from the table, the waitress came by and addressed the untouched burger:

Waitress:  Do you want burger to-go?
Me:  No, I don’t want it.
Waitress:  …what is wrong?
Me:  I expected a burger…because I ordered a burger.
Waitress:  Oh………that burger have no meat.
Me:  Right.  I know that now.
Waitress:  Ok.

That was it.  She just walked away, as if the problem was solved.  The worst part was that she had the nerve to come over and make sure that I paid the guy at the register.  I have never wanted so badly to slap someone in public, but I settled for glaring at her until she got nervous and walked away.  The manager, who watched the entire exchange, never thought to ask me what was wrong.

I never thought that I would say this, but I think customer service in the US has spoiled me.  But, that’s just the way Korea works, and it’s a minor hangup when I consider all of the things I love about this country.  I guess it will just take some getting used to, because I sure as hell can’t change it.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Weekend in Busan

As the title suggests, I spent some time this weekend in Busan.  This was my second trip to the coastal city located about 50 miles south of Daegu.  Conor (Ireland), Scott (New Zealand) and I caught the slow train from Daegu Station to Busan Station after lunch on Saturday.  The trip took less than an hour and a half and cost 7,000 won, or half the price of a KTX ticket.  We plan to utilize the slow trains for short trips in the future.

Thanks to the quickly approaching rainy season, we were treated to some beautiful clouds when we arrived in Busan.

The view from the main entrance at Busan Station.

I snapped this picture from the cab as we crossed Diamond Bridge near Gwangalli Beach.

We caught a cab from Busan Station to Haeundae Beach, which is arguably the most famous beach in Korea.  The weather was pretty nasty, so we walked straight to the Hostel (Pobi Guesthouse).  My new girlfriend (an irresponsibly hot hostel employee) helped us check in.  (Side note: she doesn’t exactly know that she is my girlfriend…but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.)

Instead of heading straight to a bar, we decided to save some money and have a few drinks in the hostel.  I had forgotten how much fun it can be to relax with friends in a quiet place, as opposed to fighting the crowds in loud bars.  Opportunities to hang out in a private setting are rare in Korea because our apartments are far too small to accommodate guests.

This would have been the perfect setting were it not for the damn teddy bears. As you might recall from my past posts – I am convinced that they are little more than cute and furry petri dishes.

After a few drinks at the hostel, we made our way to Gwangalli Beach to join the rest of our friends.  Shortly after leaving the hostel, Scott and I were surprised to find a new bar (under construction) with a familiar name.  It is being built less than two blocks away from the hostel.  This definitely merits a trip back to Haeundae Beach.

If you’re not familiar with this show, then please leave my blog (just kidding…kind of). It is definitely worth checking out if you’ve never seen it!

The rest of the night was a blur.  We spent the entire time bar hopping and neighborhood hopping.  Not long after meeting up in Gwangalli, the entire group (20+ foreigners) headed to the Kyungsang University neighborhood.  This is a hot spot for the 20-somethings in Busan at night.  We got tired of the crowded bars pretty quickly, so a few of us walked to a nearby Family Mart (Korean convenience store chain).  We were surprised to find that there were TONS of other foreigners who had the same idea.  We found ourselves in the middle of a block party of sorts.

From left to right: Stacey (USA), Will (UK), Kelsey (Canada)

I decided to head home early – I split a cab with the first group to return to the hostel.  I heard that I missed one hell of a party after 1am, but I was awake and alive on Sunday to enjoy the beach.  I think I made the right choice.

Yep…that happened.

I have a couple more stories about the weekend, but they can wait for other posts.  I think this is a great place to end it.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Haeundae Beach Trip

This is Busan:

I decided at the last minute to take a trip there this weekend.  Seth and I caught the KTX (awesome!) at 3:57pm, and we were on the beach before 6pm.  Living in a country the size of Kentucky can have some major advantages.

The KTX

I can’t say enough good things about the KTX.  It’s fast, easy, and relatively cheap.  We showed up at Dong-Daegu Station a at 3:15, and we were speeding toward Busan less than an hour later.  Unlike the subway, KTX economy cars are fitted with comfortable seats and are quite relaxing.  The train was so smooth that I didn’t even realize that we were moving until a shadow swept across my window as we passed a building.

We made a brief stop in Ulsan, and we were on our way again.  The entire trip, including the stop in Ulsan, took about 50 minutes.  Like in Daegu, the KTX station in Busan was very nice – clean and open with high ceilings.  We walked out the main exit and found ourselves in a small park where we found hundreds of people enjoying the weather.

Haeundae Beach

From the KTX station, we caught a cab to the beach.  We knew immediately that Busan was different from Daegu – the cab driver spoke to us and made an effort to understand what we were trying to communicate.  Hell, he even took us where we wanted to go.  The trip took about 25 minutes, so we had to split a whopping $16 cab fare.  We stepped out of the taxi and walked directly onto the beach.

For the first time in months, I didn’t feel like I was in Asia.  Between the masses of foreigners on the beach, and the hillsides covered in buildings, it felt a bit like we were transported onto a Mediterranean beach.

FYI: I don’t know this girl, but she was kind enough to pose for my picture anyway. It’s like when you think someone is waving at you, and so you wave back, only to find out their friend is standing behind you…but this time it’s captured on film.

After spending a few minutes on the beach, Seth and I checked into hostels and got cleaned up.  Seth got the last bed at the hostel in which all of our friends stayed, so I walked across the street and checked into a different one.  Fortunately, Indy House had plenty of room.  It was also quite nice.  Indy (the proprietor) keeps the place very clean.  It felt more like a ritzy summer camp than a hostel.

We all went out to dinner at a nearby beach called 광안리 (Gwangalli).  Dinner was aggressively mediocre (buffet), but the view from our table overlooking the beach made it all worthwhile.  After dinner, we walked back out onto the beach and enjoyed the weather and the full moon.

We spent the rest of the night bar-hopping.  I had to cut out early as I was incredibly tired.  I jumped in a cab before 1am.  I found out that next morning that I missed out on a lot more fun.  But that was OK, because I was awake and alive the next morning to enjoy the beach one last time before heading home to Daegu.

Until next time.

-Taft

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