Saturday, 14 August 2010

Summer Vacation in Busan

Ken and I decided to take a spur of the moment trip to Haeundae this week. This area of Busan is known for its popular beach – a large, sparkling, stretch of crystalline sand, bordered by frosty blue waves that beautifully break on the shore.

Haeundae beach is infamous for the thousands of people who visit its waters on a regular basis. In the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records, Haeundae was recorded to have 7,937 parasols firmly planted in its sand at one time. Stories have been spread about the beach being too overcrowded – enough to ruin any day trip or vacation spent

Originally, Ken and I had planned to spend our entire summer vacation of ten days in Jeju-do, but it being pretty much the top summer destination in Korea, we would’ve spent over fifteen hundred dollars alone on the flight and motel fees.

Knowing the probable outcome of heading to Haeundae for a few days, Ken and I went for it anyways. We knew we were deserving of a little sand ‘n’ sun after running weeks and weeks’ worth of English camps.


Upon arrival in Haeundae, Ken and I scouted for motels. About five or six blocks from the beach, there were several alleyways that were filled with flashing neon signs for motels. We had seen them once before and knew that our best bet was to focus on those brightly lit areas.

After finding several motels marked at 80,000 –100,000 won (80-100 CAD) per weekday, and 90,000 – 140,000 won on the weekends, we finally settled on a motel where the manager bargained his price to 60,000 won for Wednesday night, 70,000 won for Thursday night, and 80,000 won for Friday night. Ken and I didn’t complain. We had found a swanky motel room fit for a hotel, complete with a Jacuzzi, a wide-screen plasma TV, a couch, and a computer equipped with high-speed internet.

In the morning, Ken and I planned to head straight to the beach. The sun beamed with golden streams of sunlight, cottony clouds decorated the skies, and cool, salty air swept between the tall buildings. However, there was one problem – Ken had forgotten his bathing suit! Afraid of being caught nude by the beach police, Ken and I went in search of some swim trunks to wear for the next few days. They were incredibly easy to find. The streets were littered with shops and stands selling swim wear, sunglasses, sandals, all from 5,000 won – 60,000 won! We easily bought two pairs of summery swim shorts directed ourselves towards the water.

The beach wasn’t at all what we expected. Although there were thousands of red, white, and blue parasols lining Haeundae’s shores, there were still men calling out to visitors to rent parasols. They were quite inexpensive. At 5,000 won for the two of us, we were shown to a spot in the rows and rows of blue umbrellas sticking up from the soft sand. A large beach mat was set up between two parasols, and we were set. We didn’t need anything else, not even the yellow swim tubes that were being rented for 5,000 a piece.

The strips of parasols seemed to make a relatively safe environment in which to leave our things. There were beach bags, purses, shoes, and towels left under almost every parasol. Obviously, we didn’t bring our wallets to the beach, but took out enough money for lunch and other little luxuries. There were men and women walking through the lines of umbrellas taking advantage of thousands of resting visitors. They sold bottled water, boxes of fried chicken, beer, soda, and pat-bing-sue (shredded ice with sweetened red beans, ice cream, and fruit).

It was finally time to enter the water. The turquoise waves crashed upon us and left our eyes burning from the salt, but the crisp, cold water was undeniably refreshing after each dive into the waves. Ken and I weren’t sandwiched between other people in the water, but rather, everyone had their own space to aimlessly float on their tubes, or swim with the waves. During our timeouts from the water, Ken and I rested and people-watched. We saw several men, bodies smeared in tanning oil, strutting their stuff along the beach. There were also some scantily-clad women, choosing to dawn petite bathing suits and stiletto heels. In contrast, there were many people who played it safe and wore shirts and shorts over their bathing suits. We saw one young pair of parents who had dressed their delicate daughter in a bee-striped bathing suit, complete with a set of foam, black wings.

The popular Haeundae beach scene cooled down at around six o’clock in the evening, and visitors started to leave. The lifeguards and jet-ski patrols had finished their duties, and were herding swimmers onto the shore. The police patrollers were getting ready for their nightly rounds, making sure that no one was to enter Haeundae’s waters while it was dark. Garbage collectors began to sweep the littered beach, moving quickly to beat the shimmering sunset before the sun gave out completely. Amazingly, almost all of the thousands of parasols and sandy beach mats had been folded up and put away for the night. All of the swim tubes were deflated and piled under a few tarps. By seven ‘o clock, the beach looked impeccable, as if it had been untouched all day.

After drying off in our motel, Ken and I went in search for some good ol’ city grub. Through the salty mist that filled the air, we found a large selection of outdoor cafes, outdoor stands, boisterous bars, seafood restaurants, mouth-watering grills, and several chain restaurants, luring us in with their rich aromas and brightly-lit signs. We treated ourselves to chili-shrimp pasta, a parmesan-crusted, chicken quesadilla and smoothies at TGIF, which amounted to around 40,000 won – the same price as one dish at a seafood restaurant.

However, our night wasn’t over. We worked off our supper by taking a stroll around the beach (so romantic!), and found many little bits of entertainment along the main streets. There were stands set up with mini games, such as scooping up a certain number of fish to win a prize. Ken won me a little stuffed leopard after throwing 32 darts and popping 20 balloons on a wall (to be fair, I threw a few of those darts, and Ken had had a large can of Heineken beer before starting the game). We dubbed our spotted animal, “Dah-teu” in honour of the game from which we had won him.


For the next couple of days, the weather was perfect enough to be outside, but the water was a tad chilly to swim in all day. Our time was filled with romantic walks on the beach, tough geocaches around the area, a hike up to Haeundae’s famous lighthouse, and plenty of movies, beer, and pizza.

Haeundae was everything we had hoped for in a vacation. During those four days, we hadn’t had a care in the world. We soaked in plenty of rest and relaxation, had a blast in the sun and water, and returned to Andeok with amazing tans.

- Jess

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