On this day: Busan, South Korea

See more from my On This Day series here, where I celebrate travel memories on their trip anniversaries.

On November 6, 2018, I was in Busan, South Korea.

It was our second day in South Korea and it was time to make a day trip to meet up with our friend in Busan. She was attending a conference there and would accompany us back to Seoul to join us for the remainder of our trip through South Korea and Japan.

Set at the tip of the Korean Peninsula, Busan is the country’s second most populous city after Seoul, with a population of 3.5 million inhabitants. It serves as the economic, cultural, and educational centre of southeastern South Korea, with a busy port separating it only 193 kilometres from neighbouring Japan.

An efficient three hour ride on the high-speed KTX train brought us to Busan, landing us in the central neighbourhood of Choryangdong. Our first stop was, of course, for food and we decided to try out the local specialty: bibim milmyeon, a dish of cold wheat flour noodles topped with spicy paste sauce, vegetables, and beef.

Once sufficiently satiated, we hopped onto the local train for a couple stops to get us closer to Gamcheon Culture Village. In retrospect, we perhaps should have transferred onto the bus to get us up the steep hill.

Following a long upward trek, we reached our destination. Nestled within the foothills of Busan, this small neighbourhood is characterized by its steep paths and colourfully painted houses. It actually started off as a shanty town for Korean War refugees in the 1950s but later went through a period of urban regeneration, and has since become a major tourist attraction.

We stopped at the information centre to pick up a copy of the tourist map which apparently wins you a prize if you visit and collect stamps from a selection of attractions. However, we failed in our attempt to convey to the desk staff what we were looking for, so opted to just explore on our own. There were a few cafes dotted along our route, but we went for a cute sweet treat from the cotton candy stand, which provided some fun photo opportunities.

Heading further through the village’s twisting alleys brought us to various street art installations.

Following a couple hours of exploring, we travelled back downhill to meet our friend. Along the way, we stopped at Jagalchi Market, a world famous spot for fresh fish and seafood. We didn’t stay for long, as the market was not very busy when we entered and it was awkward as we quickly became the target of vendors accosting us at every turn.

Once reunited with our friend at the Busan train station, we went out for dinner before our return trip to Seoul. Our final meal in Busan was sundubu jigae, a classic Korean comfort dish of soft tofu in spicy stew.