South Korea has imposed social distancing across the country until 13th September 2020. Please avoid nonessential travel and check for local government updates before planning a trip. Stay at home now and travel later.
We’ve had the wettest monsoon this summer. There were about 10 typhoons (of varying intensities) that wrecked havoc at vulnerable spots along the coast of the Korean Peninsula and Jeju Island. It has also been the longest monsoon season in recent years. We’ve never seen such a wet summer before in Korea. The rain and dark skies have successfully fooled me into thinking: I’m back home.
Haeundae Beach is at the farthest corner of Busan City. T-Money cards work on all modes of public transportation (metro, buses, and taxis) in Busan.We reached Busan Station (previous post) on Thursday afternoon and took the local metro to Haeundae Beach. We took line 1 from Busan Station and got off at Seomyeon Station to transfer to line 2. Haeundae Station is the third stop before the last station (on line 2) and the metro is practically empty on a weekday afternoon. Exit 5 (or 7) is about 10 minutes from the beach. Alternatively, buses 1001 or 1003 go directly to Busan Station. We chose to take the bus on our way back and it gets pretty crowded on a Saturday morning. Busan City Tour (BUTI) buses also stop near the beach and tickets can be bought at Busan Station.
Please refer to the previous post (link) for basic guidelines on travelling in South Korea during the pandemic. Always wear a mask and practice good personal hygiene.
Before the pandemic, we’d choose budget or cheap motels/pension houses/hotels to spend the night on a short trip like this. However, we decided to spend more on the stay given the times that we are living in. We didn’t have a plan in place and decided to make the location the highlight of the trip. There are many hotels and motels just across the beach. We were lucky to find one with a gorgeous view of the beach whilst being reasonably priced. Travelling on a weekday had its advantages because there were very few guests.
SEALIFE Busan is an aquarium located at Hauendae Beach and was just across us.
I was hoping to get respite from the rain and escape Seoul’s gloomy climate. However, the rain followed us to Busan and we spent the afternoon indoors and Basil caught up with work.
The subway opens right into a busy street with restaurants, coffee shops, saunas, and hotels. This street starts buzzing in the evening and at night.
We found this traditional Korean restaurant just outside the exit of the metro. I hadn’t eaten Korean food (other than porridge) for around 6 months. I ordered mandu-guk (만두국) and Basil ordered naengmyeon (냉면). These local restaurants are budget friendly and serve authentic Korean delicacies. Korean tourism has taken a hit during the pandemic and many small restaurants have been struggling to stay afloat. The manager/owner of this restaurant was so happy to see foreigners (travellers) and greeted us warmly.
There’s lots to explore on this street and Goresa Fish Cake (고래사어묵) cannot be missed. The counters are filled with different kinds of fish cakes and it can be pretty hard to choose from. We wanted to have a hot soup and ordered eo-udong (어 우동) with some fish cakes.
Haeundae Beach (해운대해수욕장)
Haeundae Beach is one of the most popular beaches in South Korea. In summer, hordes of visitors flock the beach to enjoy the sun and sand. Most Korean beaches open between July and August when the rain has subsided and summer has officially begun. In late June, the beach was pretty empty and a treat to walk along.
We went to the beach in the evening. The air was surprisingly cool for June and fog covered the towering buildings around us. The rain had stopped and a few people ventured into the sea.
We’ve never seen the fog and sea like this before. It was beautiful and a little eerie. I remembered the movie: The Fog. I had watched it as a kid and had a few sleepless nights afterwards. And I could never forget The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. I saw the televised show as a kid and read the book as a young adult. I can’t say which one was scarier because both left an imprint on my young impressionable mind. There’s something creepy about the fog and it’s the perfect ingredient to stir a writer’s vivid imagination.
The sea was turbulent and calming at the same time. I was born in a coastal town next to the sea and lived in a megapolis surrounded by the sea. The sea makes me feel alive. It makes me feel at home — no matter where I am. I could live here forever. Seoul was not on my mind.
Dongbaekseom Island (해운대 동백섬) was covered by the fog and Chosun Hotel was barely visible. Basil had explored the walking trail around the small island on one of his earlier trips. I thought it was too risky to explore the trail in the fog.
There are some fancy hotels just across the beach. It was hard to separate the fog from the grey skies above them.
I had spent the earlier day on a dentist’s chair feeling very dejected with how 2020 was turning out. My morale had hit rockbottom and I wondered when this year would get over. The soft lull of the waves and the gentle sea breeze took my mind away from everything that weighed me down. I found freedom in a fleeting moment that I wished would last forever.
The beach was littered with interesting finds. We spotted a crab that was overturned by waves. We helped it get back on its feet and it allowed us to get some closeup shots. I collected some sea shells to take back to landlocked Seoul.
It started drizzling and we found a trail that passed through the woods. We were wearing rain jackets and didn’t mind the rain.
The Bay 101
The wooded trail leads to Bay 101 — a fancy yacht club. There are many high-end restaurants and casual dining options here. At night, the buildings light up and it’s quite a spectacle. Reservations for boat rides can be made on the local website. We ordered a dessert and decided to come back on the next night.
Haeundae in the sun
The whether did a quick flip on the next day and we had a whole day of sunshine. We wanted to spend time outdoors — using minimum public transport. We had a couple of hours to spare after exploring the walking trail around Dongbaekseom Island (next post). The beach was packed in the afternoon and we didn’t want to add to the crowd. So, we hopped on a bus to visit a Buddhist temple (next post).
We rested for a bit in the room and decided to walk along the other side of Haeundae Beach. There were many people in the evening, but the beach officially shut by 6 p.m. and lifeguards asked people to come out of the water. The water can be quite cold even in summer.
Most people were walking along the beach and enjoying the evening breeze. It had been a very hot day (quite a contrast to the previous day) and I was happy to enjoy the salty sea breeze. Most visitors wore masks and followed the rules. However, there were a few people who weren’t wearing masks or maintaining social distancing.
The beach ends at the these towering buildings that double as residential suites as well as a hotel. There are many modern and foreign dining options around these buildings. We had already decided to eat at Bay 101 and skipped eating here.
We watched the sun set behind the buildings that lined the street. It had been a good trip and I wasn’t ready to leave yet.