A Very Busan Christmas!

By February 12, 2015East Asia

Okok, I know it’s February. But two months behind schedule is pretty much where my blog lives. So even though everyone is totally ready for winter to be over, I’m going to talk about the peak of the holiday season instead!

By the time this Christmas rolled around, my husband and I were ready for a break. Money had been tight since I lost some work in July and we hadn’t even had a weekend out of town in months. But without any money in the bank, it looked like we would be spending the five day Christmas weekend at home in our apartment. But then, out of the blue, my saint of a mother gave us the most miraculous Christmas/birthday present any broke person can receive: a vacation.

Hauendae Beach Hotels

huddy in the hotel

With two tickets on the KTX and a nice hotel in Busan for the holiday weekend, we were set to get out of Seoul. The KTX is the high-speed rail in Korea which makes the 5 hour journey to Busan in just 2.5 hours. The ride is smooth, comfortable, and allows panoramic views of the Korean countryside. It’s by far the best way to travel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love trains?

With a hotel room on Haeundae Beach overlooking the East Sea (or sea of Japan, whatever) we were ready for a weekend of eating, drinking, and exploring. So here I present you with a few lovely highlights from our all-too-brief foray into Korea’s second city.

Haeundae Beach

Busan Beaches

Though it was slightly warmer in Busan than in Seoul (about 10°C), it certainly wasn’t warm enough for swimming. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a beautiful beach. As we checked into our hotel, the MS Haeundae, we were greeted with stunning views overlooking the ocean as the sun began its descent towards the horizon. Though the bed was ridiculously comfy, we fought the urge to stay in the cozy room and headed down to the beach to breathe it all in. Of course, Korean beaches are packed with selfie-stick users no matter what the weather, even on Christmas Day. I can’t quite explain the vibe at Haeundae Beach, but we instantly fell in love with it. There was something more laid back and open about the neighborhood than most places we go in Seoul. It felt relaxed and fun and welcoming and we both decided we would move to Busan if we were staying in Korea another year.

So we got some beers and sat at the edge of the beach listening to some live music that popped up and watching the waves of people flood in and out of the expansive beach. One of our favorite things to do is just have a nice sit and drink and chat.

Busan Beaches

Busan Christmas Tree Festival

christmas in busan

Once the sun set, it was time to find a little more action than beers on a beach. Busan celebrates Christmas each year with the Christmas Tree Festival, which drapes the city center in twinkling lights and provides that magical holiday feeling so many hold so dear. We wandered through the buzzing streets of the central Biff Square, thoroughly enjoying just taking it all in. Biff Square is a shopper’s paradise with every boutique imaginable lining the streets. Huddy and I, however, have always been more people watchers than shoppers, so we continued on our meandering way.

We were in the market for a proper Western-style burger, but when we finally reached Farmer’s Burgers at 8pm, they were already closing (what?) Apparently they had a busy day and decided just to shut it down. More on that later. The festival was bright, festive, charming, and enough to make walking around in the cold a worthwhile endeavour. Back in the States, Christmas is an onslaught of lights and advertisements and music and ugly holiday sweaters, but somehow in Korea I started to miss all those obnoxious festivities, if only just a little. Busan was just the right amount of Christmas spirit to quell my longing for cocoa and carolers.

Busan Christmas Tree Festival

Gamcheon Culture Village

I’ve already seen so many bloggers cover this awesome neighborhood, so I won’t go on about it. But if you’re in Busan, you have to check it out. Wandering through steep, narrow alleys, searching for ever-more eclectic paint jobs and intriguing doors, it’s one of the coolest places I’ve seen in Korea. It probably deserves its own blog post, but instead you can just look at these pretty pictures and try to find the elephant.

gamcheom culture village

we must find the elephant house!

we must find the elephant house!

gamcheon culture village

no elephants here...

gamecheon culture village busan

getting warmer...

gamcheon culture village

we made it!

gamcheon culture village

After somehow finding our way out of the maze that is that tiny village, it was time to head straight to the KTX and back to Seoul. Our three days in Busan were spent eating delicious food, wandering around neighborhoods, drinking (of course), and even a good amount of curling up in our comfy hotel bed watching movies. Because what’s the point of getting a nice hotel if you’re not gonna use it? Busan is a spectacular city that manages to stay relaxed despite its 4 million inhabitants. I’m sorry, Seoul, but I think Busan just may have you beat!

Oh, I almost forgot. We went back to Farmer’s Burgers just before catching the KTX. Verdict: overrated. Our favorite places to eat were Sharky’s and the Wolfhound. Any other restaurant recs in Busan? And who’s got the best burger? I must know!

10 Comments

  • Hi Taylor,

    Cool off the wall images here! I recall my wife saying that during beach season in Korea folks sit almost on top of one another. Space is at a premium so you won’t get your Western 5 feet or whatever we folks are used to when it comes to invading or allowing our private space. That hotel room view sounded amazing.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan
    Ryan Biddulph recently posted…17 Blogging Lessons I Learned on a 22 Hour Flight to BaliMy Profile

  • Thanks for sharing your experiences in Busan! I was in Seoul around Christmastime this past year and in Daegu for the actual festivities. Though it was a nice holiday, I think I will travel for the next Christmas–Busan just made it to the top of my list! I love your photos, your candor and your openness about your experiences. Looking forward to reading more!
    Lindsay Mickles recently posted…Angkor Wat: A Lifelong Dream FulfilledMy Profile

  • Nadia says:

    Busan’s a treat right!? Living here is pretty cool, but I can get so caught up in work or a host of other activities. It takes a post like this to remind me of how special a place like Busan is and how I shouldn’t stop exploring. Like the elephant house! I’ve never heard of it and I’ve been here for a year now… shameful lol! Adding that to my to-do list!
    Nadia recently posted…A close scrub in Spa LandMy Profile

  • Glad you guys were able to do something for the holidays (can’t believe its already been two months since then!). Busan is the perfect place to escape some of the colder Seoul weather. BUT! Even if it does seem warm enough to swim, don’t do it! If it’s not beach season, the police will come and make you get out of the water haha!

  • Matt says:

    I feel like its almost impossible to not havr a good time in Busan. Such a fun, eclectic city with tons of great food. I think the pace of it compared to Seoul just makes it a great experience. Glad you seem to agree!

  • I loved the ‘Where’s the Elephant’ game; I got way too much of a kick out of that. I’ve read about Gamcheon so many times, but never actually made it there! I’m heading back to Korea in the fall, I’ll try and make a point to visit this time.

    Great photos in this post!
    Nathan Anderson recently posted…Being American in IranMy Profile

  • Charisse says:

    Nice photos! I’ve been to the same beach and it is beautiful! The selfie stick phenomenon here is rampant. I need to get a photo of the multiple groups who use it. I went to a festival and I swear it was everywhere.

    I love the small colorful village you visited. I need to go back to Busan and check that place out.

    Just to let you know, was the first photo caption suppose to be “hubby” rather than “huddy”?
    Nice work on the blog. My Christmas post was also a couple months late. I totally understand how a blog is difficult to keep up.

    • Taylor says:

      Thanks! And yeah, Gamcheon was super cool. But actually my husband’s name is hudson, so his official nickname in my book is “huddy the hubby.” Thanks for looking out though!

  • Duke Stewart says:

    I love Busan and can’t think of many places in Korea that would be better to stay during Christmas. We were also there for the lights around Christmas and have made Nampo Dong kind of a base whenever staying in Busan. Best street food experience I’ve had here, to be honest, is there. I hope you’re 2015 is a bright one and that you’re able to get out of Seoul more often. Shout if you’re ever in the Yeosu area. We’d gladly show you around! Thanks for another great read!
    Duke Stewart recently posted…The Philippines, Manila – Why I Want to Go BackMy Profile

  • Hi Taylor, great post! I’ve done most of the things you did and they are all awesome in their own way. I love the KTX of course and wish I could have one back home. The beaches are a bit overrated to me, don’t care too much for them, but I loved the Gamcheon Village and how you could explore through the maze. Nice post, I enjoyed the nice reminder of Busan, which I like very much. P.S. I agree that Wolfhound is a great place to eat and drink.

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