This year has been very hard to predict. Change has been the only constant. I spent the first six months exploring different nooks and corners of our apartment. On somedays, I’d feel brave enough to walk in the park and also pick up groceries. When social distancing was relaxed, we started our long dental journey. I hadn’t left our neighbourhood (in Seoul) or met friends for half a year.

Unlike me, Basil had to travel to different parts of Seoul and Korea for work. He had visited Busan earlier and was very keen to have me join him on one of his work trips. After a month of visiting the dentist and learning that I’d have to go for another month, I had reached a point where I had to get out of Seoul. I surprised him by conceding to his plan.

Basic guidelines for travelling in the new normal

  1. Check local government websites (Official Website of Busan City) to learn about social distancing rules and if it is a good idea to travel at all. South Korea never had a strict lockdown, but rules keep changing as per the situation and number of cases per city/province. Some tourist destinations might be shut if the number of cases rise drastically in a day.
  2. Wearing masks is mandatory in all modes of public transport and you could be refused a ride if you’re not wearing a mask. Masks are also compulsory in most outdoor spaces including beaches. You can remove your mask during a meal and wear it after you finish. There are different kinds of masks (season and activity) available in the market and you can choose what works best for you.
  3. Hand sanitisers can be typically found at every store, front desk, and restaurant. We carried our own sanitiser and alcohol wipes. I didn’t have to use public restrooms on this short trip. I carry paper soap, just in case there isn’t any liquid soap. Again, always wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
  4. We tried to keep this trip very short (about 2 days) and travelled on weekdays to avoid the crowd. We made this trip in the month of June — before summer and school holidays started.

Please Note: Currently, South Korea has enhanced social distancing across the country. The government urges all people to stay indoors and avoid nonessential travel. Check for updates or changes in social distancing rules on 6th September, 2020.

Busan Station

I had visited Busan Station, in 2015, on my first trip to South Korea. Back then, the train to Busan was packed to full capacity. Travel is a lot different now. Although there weren’t temperature checks (or scans) at the entrance of the station or before boarding; regular announcements urged passengers to follow rules, maintain good hygiene, and wear masks. A KTX official checked if all passengers were wearing a mask during their travel journey. Automated hand sanitisers are installed at entry points.

Busan Station is connected to the city subway internally. On the day of our arrival, we took the local subway (with one transfer) to Haeundae Beach (next post). The subway was quite empty on a Thursday afternoon. On the way back, on Saturday morning, we took a direct bus from Haeundae to Busan Station. The bus was packed and I was happy to have the windows open.

The entrance to Busan Station offers a panoramic view of the mountains and quaint villages. There are a couple of famous villages in Busan known for their murals and artwork. We weren’t sure if the tiered houses (in the above pic) were a cultural village or just old housing (villas) in the city.

The topmost floor of Busan Station is perfect to enjoy views of the cityscape and trains. There’s a lot of construction and I doubt we’d be able to recognise the city on our next visit.

I wanted to avoid the rush on a Saturday morning and we started pretty early from Haeundae. The bus journey took about an hour and we still reached way ahead of our departure time. We decided to look for meal options around Busan Station.

Texas Street

I wasn’t expecting to see Texas Street in Busan. It isn’t uncommon to see cutesy themed streets or villages in Korea and we’ve come across quite a few of them. However, most themed villages attract families with kids or young couples. Texas street was deserted in the morning and there was little I could learn about it. However, a quick internet search revealed that this street does a quick flip in the wee hours of the night and rivals Seoul’s Itaewon. According to Frommers, some bars double as ‘girlie bars’ — where clients pay for drinks and a hostess keeps them company. Blogger experiences have been quite different, some call it a foreigner street (now frequented by Russian sailors) and some corroborate Frommers take on it.

Chinatown

Texas Street opens into Chinatown. Chinatown could be recognised from anywhere with those red lanterns. Tourist traps like these are a turn-off. Most shops and restaurants were shut and construction work blocked sections of the road. Few restaurants were very popular and there was a line of young people outside the door.

Murals were painted on the walls of the street. Each mural depicts a story, but I’m not that fluent in Korean to get the gist.

The main gates of Busan’s Chinatown are painted gold and embellished with dragons and red tiles. I’ve visited China twice, and although that doesn’t make me an expert on the country, China is too diverse to be bottled in a particular image or colour. I find it amusing how a single image of a culture — can be replicated around the world — to increase saleability whilst enforcing a cultural stereotype. I prefer director Zhang Yimou‘s interpretation of the words ‘red’ and ‘lantern’. Raise the Red Lantern is a must-watch for anyone who loves world cinema.

Choryang Modern History Gallery

We weren’t in the mood for sightseeing and quickly peeked inside this modern gallery.

Uzbek Street

A section of Chinatown is devoted to Uzbek restaurants and grocery stores. This is why Basil wanted me to visit this neighbourhood. Last November, he had visited this street and bought non (Uzbek break) and samsa back to Seoul. This was just before our December trip to Uzbekistan.

The original plan was to have a meal at a local Uzbek restaurant and relive our Uzbekistan trip. However, we had a heavy breakfast and I wasn’t hungry enough to have a heavy lunch. We packed bread (non) and some other savouries for Seoul. The restaurant also had a bakery and grocery store. It’s possibly run by Uzbek (of Russian descent) locals and is soul food for those far away from a place they call home. We were disappointed with what we bought and I guess: you need to go to the real place to be able to appreciate the real flavour of a country.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

28 replies on “Quirky neighbourhoods around Busan Station

  1. Modern History Gallery looks like a great place to visit. It’s been ages since I’ve visited any gallery and as much as I miss traveling, I find myself longing for cultural experiences too. Hopefully next year! Thanks for sharing and have a good day. I hope all is well ☺️ Aiva

    1. Actually, the gallery is pretty small. I don’t know if museums are open in S Korea. We are generally sticking to the outdoors. Travel has changed a great deal. Hopefully, there’s a light at the end of this long dark tunnel! Take care and stay safe!

    1. You did? It is very conveniently located. Most hostess bars are designed to get the patron to pay for as many drinks as possible. But, in some cases it could be different. These areas can get sketchy. 😦

    1. I’m so sorry you had to cancel your trip. I know how much you were looking forward to this trip. 😦 Local markets are seriously affected and who knows if they will be able to stay afloat after this phase of social distancing. We’re expecting another wave in winter (flu season) and each new move gets stricter.

      1. It was very disappointing but I will get there eventually :-). I really don’t want to go until restrictions are lifted and things are open. SK has (with a few sad and largely avoidable exceptions) handed Covid19 extremely well – or at least that is how it appears from afar. If it is any consolation I think the general consensus is that Covid is not particularly seasonal and can occur anytime … and if anything summer is worse as people flood beaches etc. From an Australia perspective as I understand it flu plus covid deaths for the winter we are just coming out of now are way less than flu deaths alone for the previous winter BUT that has come at a massive cost to the economy.

      2. Sure! It makes sense for things to officially open. We’ll have to wait and watch how the comings seasons unfold here. Summer wasn’t as bad. However, public holidays are always a little worrying. Fingers crossed!

    1. Hi Helen! Hope you’re doing well! Tourism has taken a bad hit this year. I know so many friends who had to cancel their trips and flight tickets. Some places were packed though. Haeundae Beach was crowded on Friday afternoon.

  2. I got such a kick out of Texas Street! The stereotypical western lettering and cactus were about the only things that seemed particularly Texan to me. Maybe they have country music bars and the girls who entertain are wearing cowboy hats and boots! Haha. 🙂

    1. hahah…I was thinking about you when I saw Texas Street. 🙂 It was so dead in the afternoon. Honestly, I was irritated with Basil and was in no mood to walk through these streets! He was dreaming of Uzbek food! 🙂
      I thought Texas Street was a street with American burgers, grills, and bars. I’ve seen similar streets in Itaewon & Noksapyeong (Seoul). I also met a Korean-American girl who was from Texas! 🙂 Such areas generally attract expats/foreigners.
      I read about the hostess bars on the internet. Who knows what happens in the night? 🙂 The guy who wrote about it seemed to be having a good time here!

  3. How lovely that you made good use of a chance to escape Seoul, even though it was just a short break, Cheryl. I hope it did your soul good, and that by now your dentist journey is complete. It is eerie to see the streets so empty.

    1. Hi Jolandi! It’s so good to hear from you! 🙂 Basil had to force me to make this trip. I was super paranoid! I was so happy to escape Seoul.
      We did a slightly longer road trip in August. We rented a car and explored the east coast of Korea. I’m not sure when I will start writing about that. Our Korean study is getting more intense. 🙂
      Actually, we haven’t completed our dental work. We took a break for a month. 😦
      Hope you’re well and finding ways to stay sane in the city! Autumn is around the corner and I’m looking forward to the change in colour. 🙂

      1. Good luck with finishing the dental work, Cheryl. I’m sure you are both wishing it to be over.
        Language learning can take over one’s life. 🙂 Hat off to you!
        I love the colours of autumn – enjoy them!

  4. Ah, I just knew that was Texas Street which located close to Chinatown,,I didn’t give that much attention back then.

    Let’s stay safe, sane, and healthy cheryl.

    It’s nice to be back again to blog, although just for blogwalking. 🙂

    As for me, I still have no inspiration to write one. 😀

    1. Hi Yuna! How are you? Hope you’re doing well! It’s been such a long time since I heard from you.
      Blog writing keeps me sane. 🙂 I know times are hard. We’re all trying to find a way out of this. Hope you have something that make you happy. Take care! xo

  5. This sounded like a breath-of-fresh-air trip for you, Cheryl. Traveling during these times is so different and from what you described, it can be an unsettling experience. It sounds like South Korea are going along with is and getting used to it. I’ve been following the news and it seems South Korean isn’t doing as bad compared to other countries and life seems pretty normal over there except for social distancing measures.

    Looks like quite a bit to see and eat around Busan station, and Basil was lovely to show you around 😀 Like you I wasn’t expecting to see Texas Street. Interesting to hear it does a flip at night and caters to people who are looking for a hostess. I was thinking it would be a strip of Texan food lol. Texas Street and Chinatown do look deserted…I guess people are wanting to stay home and stay safe.

    That is a great observation about Busan’s Chinatown. To be honest a lot of Chinatowns all over the world look similar with red and golden arches and dragons. I do think these are important parts of Chinese culture but at the same time other colours and symbols are also important in Chinese culture.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.