Two Days in Busan

To only see Seoul on a Korean vacation is an absurd task. Like an all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue, you simply can’t experience all the city has to offer in the unfortunately short time you have. (And, also like the barbecue, you leave feeling bloated and confused, wondering where all your money went.)

Enter Busan. Busan is Korea’s second city: its Los Angeles, Lyon or Montreal, sitting on the southeast coast of the Pacific. There are five mountain ranges, six sunny beaches and noticeably few worthwhile touristy spots. This is nice. It means that, as a visitor, you can go to the country’s largest markets and be surrounded by locals who are there to actually shop; climb a mountain and you’ll be surrounded by Korean hikers. From a tourist’s perspective, it’s humbling.

I am, of course, biased, having lived in Busan for nearly two years and having visited Seoul precisely thrice. To be honest they’re both beautiful, graceful and bustling metropolises—but, as with any city that’s not the country’s largest, Busan just feels cozier. This two-day itinerary is meant to reflect that.

gamcheon

A full two-day guide for GoMad Nomad – go on! Read it!

HIT THE STREETS: SIX RULES TO SHOP BY WHEN SHOPPING UNDER AN UMBRELLA

NEARLY EVERY MORNING, an old Korean man sits on a white plastic stool near the southbound Bomnaegol bus stop and sells apples. Business suits hurry by while he sits patiently, in his tackle vest and fleece, occasionally pounding his thighs as older Koreans do, to keep the blood pumping. I call him the “Apple Man”, because when I first noticed him his cart was filled with apples, of which he sells seven for 3,000 won.

I once tried to buy a cucumber from a woman around the corner from me, and she confidently charged me 5,000 won. I asked her again, and she stuck five fingers at me, rapidly saying other things I did not understand. I now refer to her as “Racist Cucumber Lady” and we glare at each other when I walk past her shop twice a day.

My first published piece for Busan Haps, just in time for spring. 

CROWD CONTROL: THE POLARIZED SHOPPING CULTURE IN BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA

IF YOU WANT TO BUY AN APPLE in Busan, you have basically two options. You can go to a department store—Lotte Mart, Hyundai, Shinsegae—which are 12-floor goliaths offering everything from Gucci products to a park on the roof. Your other option is a street vendor, a wizened old Korean who will offer often-bruised produce surrounded by flies.

What’s amazing is that, in Busan, the lower classes have banded together to create their own Centum Cities—booming, popular marketplaces that are both mirror images and polar opposites of the luxury department stores.

My latest piece for The Mass Ornament, and my first photo essay. It took me a few weeks to compile all the pictures—there’s about six locations in Busan that I jaunted through to see what they were like. Almost every shot was taken as incognito as possible, just walking and holding the camera by my side (which is why so many shots are profile-oriented instead of landscape/horizontal).

I’ll also put up a link to my Flickr here, for those interested in the shots that didn’t make the cut/anything else I’ve shot over the years.