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Return to Busan

Haeundae Beach at Night (Cameraphone photo)

Haeundae Beach at Night (Cameraphone photo)

Having been roughly 23 months since I last visited Busan for the first time, I felt it was definitely time to return to a city that I greatly enjoyed. Busan, more particularly, Haeundae Beach, reminds me so much of where I grew up in Long Beach, California in terms of the beaches, restaurants, city layout, vibe, and very pleasant weather, which all prompted many reminiscences during my brief stay.

As soon as I stepped off the train, I immediately realized that it was so much warmer in Busan than Seoul, no joke! Seoul was -7 degrees Celsius when I boarded the train, and Busan was close to 12 degrees Celsius when I woke up at the hostal the following morning. As South Korea’s second largest city, Busan honestly does not carry a vibe of a large metropolis, but rather a pleasant seaside town. In comparison to Seoul, the relaxed and endearing vibe is the most prominent thing I noticed this time around. Busan and Seoul are two totally different worlds. People were considerably less pushy, xenophobic, and not in a frantic rush. There were several instances when friendly strangers would openly attempt smalltalk with me on the subway or around town, which is practically unheard of in Seoul. It honestly shocked me at first, but then I quickly figured that this is how it should be; smalltalk between strangers should not seem like an awkward activity. And although I certainly experienced a bit of heaven, I also unfortunately experienced a hellish nightmare during my return to Busan.

(3) Chan's House

Chan's Guesthouse - Social Room

Chan’s Guesthouse – Social Room

(1) Wood Elephant Decor - Chan's Guesthouse

(2) Indian decor - Chan's Guesthouse

Again, I booked my stay at Chan Guest House; a wonderful, India-inspired hostel just a few blocks away from the sandy shores of Haeundae Beach. The overall experience was just as magnificent as before. Upon arrival, Mr. Chan and his old childhood friend were sipping makkoli and immediately invited me to join them. We subtly drank and chatted for several hours until I realized it was close to 3am and needed to get to bed if I wanted to have a productive Saturday venturing around Busan before meeting up with an artist friend of mine for dinner.

Before heading to bed, Mr. Chan brought out what’s called a “Sitar” (Indian style guitar) and started playing it. I couldn’t resist but to stay up longer relaxing and listening to the soothing music.

Mr. Chan

Mr. Chan

I got a late start and headed out into Busan just before lunch. I stopped off at the Busan Museum of Modern Art, but was gravely disappointed. There was so much unused space and nothing remotely appealing to look at. That sounds rough, but I was just expecting and hoping to find a piece that was somewhat appealing to gaze into. Instead, I left with my mind in a knot craving a burger.

It was still overcast, but not cold, as I then ventured to locate Farmer’s Original Handmade Hamburger; a tasty, specialty burger joint near Busan Tower. I came across it randomly during my first visit to Busan a few years ago and ordered the tastiest burgers I’ve had in South Korea to this day. So, despite the fact that I was extremely famished and getting cranky, I was earnestly hoping it was still there.

Farmer's Original Handmade Hamburger - Busan, South Korea

Farmer’s Original Handmade Hamburger – Busan, South Korea

Farmer's Original Handmade Hamburger Menu - Busan, South Korea

Farmer’s Original Handmade Hamburger Menu – Busan, South Korea

To my great delight, Farmer’s was still there, and now in a larger, re-decorated building consisting of many themed rooms that I found aesthetically pleasing.

Zebra Room at Farmer's

Zebra Room at Farmer’s

Two years ago I tried the Los Angeles and Texas Burgers, and this time I tried the Cancun and Honolulu burgers. I left stuffed, but supremely elated having satisfied my long-awaited desire for a very tasty burger.

Not far from the burger joint was the Busan Modern History Museum, which was the next place on my itinerary.

(13) Busan Modern History Museum

Busan Modern History - 1800 to 2000

Busan Modern History – 1800 to 2000

The Busan Modern History Museum is a well-organized and informative museum that houses a variety of artifacts from Japan’s colonization of Korea, in addition to artifacts and information stemming from the Korean War and U.S.-Korea relations.

Japanese Aggression Poster - Busan Modern History Museum

Japanese Aggression Poster – Busan Modern History Museum

Busan in 1930

Busan in 1930

Typical Japanese Storefront in Busan during Japanese colonization of Korea

Typical Japanese Storefront in Busan during Japanese colonization of Korea

Japanese Flag and colonial artifacts

Japanese Flag and colonial artifacts

In Preparations for Implementation of Conscription of Korean Youths

In Preparations for Implementation of Conscription of Korean Youths

Poster Promoting Less Consumption of Rice during War Time

Poster Promoting Less Consumption of Rice during War Time

Japanese business advertisement during Japan’s colonization of Busan, South Korea

Japanese business advertisement during Japan’s colonization of Busan, South Korea

In essence, this museum portrays Busan’s modern history commencing from when it was colonized by Japan in 1876, leaving out any major significance that Busan might have had before then, which I thought was a bit strange. Almost 80% of the museum is dedicated to Busan’s colonization by Japan, and although I found it informative, interesting, and of course, very unfortunate, I saw things worded in such a way as to breed a hatred for Japan, not that this visual history already subliminally does that. I very much enjoyed my visit, but what I think this museum needs is something that shows how Korea-Japan relations have improved over the years, so that the visitor doesn’t leave with such a cold, deathly heart towards Japan. I’d recommend making a visit here.

It was definitely time for a beer after the museum, but not just any beer, micro-brewed beer. Next stop: Hurshimchung Brau.

(20) Hurshimchung Brau Beer

Hurshimchung Brau Brewery - Hotel Nongshim, Busan

Hurshimchung Brau Brewery – Hotel Nongshim, Busan

Hurshimchung Brau, located inside Hotel Nongshim in north-east Busan, is german-style brewery & restaurant that brews some fabulous beers. Their Weizen was magnificent and I would have had two if I hadn’t had a dinner planned. I hope to return here again for another brew next time I’m in Busan.

From the brewery I headed to El Olive Restaurant on the other side of town to meet up with an artist friend of mine who is opening a new art studio near Haeundae Beach and is hoping to start a new blog in order to advertise and chronicle her work.

El Olive Restaurant

El Olive Restaurant

Inside 'El Olive' restaurant just before closing.

Inside ‘El Olive’ restaurant just before closing.

El Olive Restaurant was a super nice place and we had a pleasant evening chatting about art, life, Spain, and a variety of other topics. The first half of my weekend in Busan was marvelous and I remember feeling how glad I was for deciding to come. However, my pleasant disposition would soon change.

After returning to Chan Guest House and chatting it up for awhile with Mr. Chan, I took a shower and then went to bed. I felt a little weird at the time, but nothing that seemed serious. Close to two hours later I woke up with the sudden urge to vomit. I made a quick dash to the bathroom knocking my head against the short doorway and then slipping against the sink before I could release this urge in the toilet. It was painfully horrible! I was in the bathroom for almost an hour, and when I thought it was all over while lying in bed again, I was forced to make many more dashes to the bathroom throughout the entire night depriving me of any sleep. When it was around 5:30am and I started vomiting a lot of blood, and it was then that I decided it was definitely time to head to the Emergency Room.

I knocked on Mr. Chan’s door and asked where the closest hospital was, but instead of giving me directions, he kindly escorted me there. Not only did he escort me there, but he acted as a translator, caretaker, and friend during my 8-hour ordeal at the hospital, where I would continue vomiting and enduring a long wait for an endoscopy that was recommended by the main doctor overseeing me. I was a little reluctant, but I figured it would give me peace of mind knowing if there was a major problem or not. I somewhat regretted this later, as I was not put to sleep for it. Having an endoscopy while awake was one of the most gruesome experiences I’ve ever had. It was so terrible! I don’t wish it upon anyone! In Korea, I learned that in many cases an endoscopy is done while the patient is awake. I suppose that hospitals save in paying an anesthesiologist, but at the cost to grave pain and inconvenience to the patient. I do not want to experience it ever again! And despite the struggle, it was great to have Mr. Chan, and my friend Kevin from my Bible Study group, who happened to be Busan at the same time, stay and be there with me. It would have been supremely tough without them.

My endoscopy was negative, which was a great relief, and not before long I was discharged from the hospital. By this time I was deeply craving apple juice, something of which I had been promulgating and dreaming about all day, but the doctor said it would not be smart to even drink water until the following morning. It was late-afternoon by then, and since I was in no shape to take a train back to Seoul, I informed my school that I would not be coming into work the next day, which I had been informing of my situation since my admission to the Emergency Room. Therefore, I spent the rest of the day sleeping like a rock intermittently waking up for a few moments here and there until I finally got up the following morning at around 8am. Having slept 13-14 hours, I felt right as rain.

I said my farewell to Mr. Chan and explained that I would never forget his kindness and care in helping me deal with my unfortunate illness. Then I savored a bottle of the tastiest apple juice I’ve ever had, no doubt!

2 comments on “Return to Busan

  1. Dennis
    December 19, 2012

    Did you ever figure out what it was?

  2. Carey
    December 20, 2012

    Glad you are feeling better! Nice trip to a nice town turned ugly at the end.

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“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.”

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