Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Glimpse of Busan on A Tour Bus (Part 2)

A glimpse of something means to capture or take a peak at once but I realized I cannot just write about Busan City Tour in one post. So I made a Part 2 for Taejongdae Loop Tour while Part 1 is for Haeundae Loop Tour.

I described my first tour bus experience through the Haeundae Loop Tour as having seen Busan's side where the sophisticated corporate scent and emerald seascape of the beautiful beaches met in the other half of the largest port in South Korea.  Taejongdae is different

It is discovering the outskirts of Busan, the loop that go around the southermost of the city - a glimpse of the normal weekday of the locals, listening to how the oldies talk and I somehow acknowledged the difference in their accent from the Seoulites, more fantastic ocean views, and seeing the reasons why this is called the largest port in South Korea.

After a quick nap and somehow regained a doze of energy, I walked back to the departure point of the City Tour Bus to catch the 4PM tour.  This time I decided just to remain onboard the bus and contented looking at the sights from the window.  I didn't want to keep on looking at my watch for the 30-minute interval.  Furthermore, I read that the tourist spots require more walking time and I might not able to complete the whole loop tour. 

So for this post, I am posting more pictures as I completed the 1 hour and 40 minutes loop tour just inside the bus and without getting off.

First stop is the Passenger Ferry Terminal. Busan is the entry and exit point not only within the boundaries of South Korea like Jeju Island but also to the other parts of the world like Japan.

Second stop is National Maritime Museum of Korea (International Cruise Terminal).  This is the most distinct structure in the form of a ship.  Busan offers international cruises and that makes the place romantic as well.
the only national maritime museum in Korea with open-air performance hall
Third stop was the highlight of the tour - Taejongdae.  I was itching to get off the bus because of the audio visuals played on the tv monitor in front of me.  This is famous for its observatory and lighthouse overlooking the sea even as far as Japan's Tsushima island.

Next stop is the 75 Square.  I would have loved to get off again when I saw the audio visuals where there's a trail going down the sea.  It would really fun to take that trail and enjoy the view of the sea.  And this is one of the many reasons why I would like to go back to Busan again.

Next stop is the Songdo Beach where people flocked for the late afternoon walk.  It was more crowded than Haeundae Beach.

We then crossed over Namhang Bridge and reached BIFF Square and Jagalchi Market.  These are both famous for the international film festival and the fish market where you can eat what you ordered to be served.  It was not enough for me to just see it from afar so I decided to see the BIFF Square on my own the next day.  I spared the Jagalchi Market though as it was hard for me to eat alone in the fish market.

Going around Busan via Taejongdae Tour is like watching a 30-minute-travel documentary where you can only see a bit and pieces of the place.  Being a certified DIY traveler, I am looking forward to explore Busan more but at my own pace where I can really know the place - its culture, its history and what experience and memories it can offer.  The next day, for just half the day, I explored Busan via Busan Subway.  It was more fulfilling!

Here are some of the pictures that I took from the tour bus.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Glimpse of Busan on A Tour Bus (Part 1)

I'm not a fan of a tour bus neither a package tour. It limits my random travel plans at that very moment, my impulsiveness to just change my destination. It makes me bounded with time. And my attention is messed up with checking my watch from time to time rather than enjoying the place.  But in some circumstances like being in a place for just a day or two, taking a tour bus is the most feasible and convenient way to take a peak of the place.
My Busan City Tour Bus Ticket good for two loop tours - Haeundae and Taejongdae Tour
On the last major stop of my 10-day-solitary travel in South Korea with only two days to stay in Busan with scheduled side trip to Changwon Province (literally having a day to stay in Busan), I decided to take the City Bus Tour instead.

Busan is named as South Korea's second largest metropolis after Seoul and the largest port in South Korea.  It hosted Asian Games and FIFA World Cup in Year 2002 and APEC in 2005.  Every year, it offers venue for the International Film Awards, worldly known as PIFF (Pusan International Film Festival).

Busan City Tour Bus offers two tours - Loop Tour and Themed Tours.  Loop Tour is a hop-on/hop-off service that offers Haeundae Tour and Taejongdae Tour with the same tour duration of 1 hour and 40 minutes and 30-minute-intervals at every stop. It basically touring the Metropolitan City of Busan into two parts.  Themed Tours,on the other hand, offers specific tour on anyone's preference - History and Culture Tour, Haedong Yonggunsa Temple Tour, Eulsukdo Eco Tour and Night Views Tour. 

The Busan City Tour Loop Tour
With my stamina getting low from the cold weather and not having enough sleep and tiredness from the full-packed itinerary for the last 7 days in Seoul and Jeju with side trips to provinces in between, I chose the Loop Tour instead.  As much as I want to experience the Night View Tour, I thought I couldn't bear the coldness of the late winter more at night as I've hardly bear it during the day.

There are three types of tour buses - open-top bus, double decker bus and ordinary bus.  Depends on the schedule, it's a luck if you happen to take the open-top bus, but at that late winter weather, I thought it's more lucky to take the double decker bus.  And I was lucky! I took the double decker bus as my first Busan City Tour Bus.

The Double Decker Tour Bus
 At 12:oo noon, after I deposited my luggages at Pusan Inn Motel before the 2PM allowable check-in, I took a short walk towards Arirang Hotel at Busan Station Square, the departure point of the City Bus Tour.  I took the Haeundae Tour first for one main reason that it has a stop at Shinsegae Department Store, Guinness World Record of the largest department store in the world. 

 After paying KRW10,000 for the hop-on/hop-off loop tour, I boarded the bus. I was the first one and chose the first row so I had the best view to take photos.  It's not airconditioned (of course) but spaciously comfortable to just take a look of Busan in just two hours.  The pre-recorded tour is in English and each seat has its own monitor where you can freely browse the places and learn a bit about it - eating is not allowed but at least a mobile web service if you have Korea simcard is good enough as an additional perk. As efficient as the passengers buses in South Korea, the tour bus left Busan Station exactly as scheduled with only me and  two Japanese tourists (mother and daughter) on board .

Inside the Tour Bus
 Haeundae Tour starts at 9:30AM in Busan Station and the whole day tour ends at the same place at 6:40PM. We were on the main streets of Busan for about 10 minutes before the first stop.  Of course, the leave-less trees, pre-empting Spring lined along the streets, the less number of high rise buildings, presence of container vans make Busan exudes provincial feel.

Then, the pre-recorded tourist guide in the bus plays the visuals for the first stop, Busan Museum.  I settled with that and did not mind of getting off the bus.  When nobody from the three of us went down to get off the bus, the tour continued. 

In the next 5 minutes, the tour bus passed through the streets taking a few turns until it reached the main road along the harbour with the sights of the beach.  I was getting sleepy already and the sight of the beach woke me up! I looked at my bus tour brochure. Next stop was Gwangalli Beach. This time I thought of getting off the bus and explore the beach but thought of asking the driver first about the time he can stay.  He told me for two minutes.

I quickly got off the bus for a quick glance of the beach.  There's a few people around and not so many things to see so I settled to take a photo and hurriedly board the bus again.  (This is what I hate about tour bus). 
The view from the tour bus - with Gwangan Bridge

The view that made my heart alive at that moment!
Gwangalli Beach
The bus moved on to the next stop - Nurimaru APEC House.  It was intentionally built for the 2005 APEC Summit Conference and considered as one of the tourist attractions in the city after the historical event.  The place is densed with pine trees overlooking Hauendae Beach and the beautiful landscape around Gwangan Bridge.  
Nurimaru APEC House (photo from
Around that moment, the high-rise buildings, exquisitely sophisticated architectures and uniquely designed infrastructures that I can only see in person in Singapore and KL and only seen in magazines and internet  reveal the hidden and fierce beauty of Busan.   It left me in awe and wonder how it is to work in Busan where I can work in a corporate world while enjoying the perks of beaches and the charming provincial feel.  This is where having two personalities can both fit in.

I did not get off the bus when it stopped with the next stop in mind - Haeundae Beach.

Proclaimed as Busan No. 1 Beach, Haeundae boasts a magnificient seascape, the best subject for panoramic shot.  It has long stretch of coastline beautified with the backdrop at both ends - the skyscrapers buildings and residences that colorfully covered the island.

The beach is fine sandy, best for playing around in the sand and not for swimming though at that winter.  I guess it's crowded during summer.  I maximized the 30-minute interval in the beach.  I enjoyed watching families, with parents  running after their kids who ran after seagulls  in the sand.  I felt envy though watching couples standing near the water holding hands together.  The place is a bit romantic for such a chilly afternoon weather.

Haeundae Beach also houses the famous attractions in Busan such as Busan Aquarium which is named as the largest aquarium in Korea.  The 1Km long sandy beach is also filled with luxurious hotels and restaurants.

the couple by the beach
After a quick but a bit unsatisfied thirty minutes in the beach, I went back to the city tour bus stop and waited for the next tour bus.  I haven't had much of my time yet but had to keep going.  It was already past 1Pm and I had wanted to check-in and took my much needed nap.  ( I woke up as early as 5AM and took the 6AM bus to Jeju Airport for my 9AM flight to Busan.)

The tour bus arrived at the expected time.  This time, it's an ordinary bus (not double decker or open-top) with more tourists on board. It stopped in Haeundae Station, then at Shinsegae Department Store and Busan Museum of Art (Bexco).  Though I wanted to see the largest department store in the world, my tiredness and sleepiness ruled over me.  So I just stayed onboard and decided to finish the tour on board.

Then, the tour bus crossed over the Diamond Bridge named as "Gwangan Bridge" which I personally described as the gem of Busan as it offers the great view of Busan during the day and fascinates with its spectacular lights at night.  I had the beautiful sights of Busan from the bridge. It was so beautiful that I told myself I should return and see more of Busan.

The last tourist spot is UN Memorial Cemetery.  It serves as final resting place of the UN soldiers during the Korean War.

My Haeundae Loop Tour ended in Busan Station at around 3PM.  It was a quick three-hour-tour of the other half of Busan - it's place where sophistication of the corporate districts and shopping malls and serenity and calmness of the beaches collide.  This loop tour is the the city-ness in Busan.

Hurriedly, I walked past the Busan Station Park Sqaure towards Pusan Motel Inn where I checked-in and took a quick rest before I continued my next tour - Taejongdae Loop Tour.

Tour Duration and Time Calendar of Haeundae Loop Tour:


Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Lifetime Discovery of The Majestic Splendor of El Nido

For the last ten years that I've been travelling around the Philippines and abroad (Asia in particular), I associated the memories with the people that I've gone with and the unforgetable experiences that I had but not the places that I've been to. 

The memories from traveling with my different group of friends were always about the crazy moments when we were together (either about the different extreme adventure, embarassing moments, a little of scary and spooky experiences),  the unforgetable conversations (some secrets shared when everyone's sober) and the laughter that we shared together.  Those are the moments that became unofficially the common topic when we get together again and can still share the same laughter all over again.  And the pictures that painted our memories are fit for a "throw-back-thursday" or "flashback-friday" post.

Traveling with my family is like extending our usual activities from home to another place where we just enjoyed being together playing majong, bingo or cards.  Those are the moments where we strenghthen our bond as a family, getting out of the usual corners of our abode and just having fun.

My recent solitary travel to South Korea for ten days was all about a different experience - it was more about myself, asserting my self-confidence and independence, and somehow knowing my limits. 

The Beach Front

However, coming to El Nido in Palawan is all about the place. The memories that I made there is having the connection with the place itself. For some reason, I found the calmness and the charm of El Nido that the any imperfections could not falter its beauty.

El Nido is the the living proof of the  majestic creation of God. What a wonderful world we are blessed with that any wordly things are incomparable.

the view of El Nido Town from the sea

I haven't been around the small town of El Nido during my short stay of three days and three nights neither did I talk a lot with the locals (only with our tour guide Kuya Felix, our boatman Kuya Dodong and some of the staff in Marina Garden) but having my personal space in the bamboo-made bench and native hammock at the beach front and the majestic view in front of me were just enough for me to say, "I shall return! I should be here every year!". 

The Panoramic View of Helicopter Island
Coming to El Nido is very tough! It takes a lot of time and patience to reach this paradise. At some point I personally experience the literal meaning of "taking the bumpy road to reach the best destination". The six-hour-bumpy-curvy-zigzaggy journey to El Nido from Puerto Princesa and praying to arrive the town alive worth it all!

At the Peak of Matinloc Shrine

Known a long time ago as Bacuit Bay, El Nido got its name when the flock of swiflets' edible nests (or known as Nido in Spanish) were abundantly found at the rift of the limestone cliffs.  Like the rest of remote provinces in the Philippines, El Nido possess the same charm of simple lifestyle of locals.   For people like me who have lived in the slow-paced province of Negros and the fast-technology-driven city of Bacolod and Metro Manila throughout my existence in this world, El Nido has both of these world and that make its grandeur.

The perfect hue of blue and green at the Small Lagoon

During the day, you can enjoy sailing along the sparkling and calm water of Bacuit Bay while passing through the majestic rock formation, looking up in awe at the skyscraping limestone cliffs, snorkeling and finding nemo in its anemone at the most shallow water of the pristine beaches, taking a dip in cool waters of lagoons, climbing up the peak of limestone in a Shrine built in an island and got the best spot to look at the horizon of perfect hue of green and blue, discovering the secret lagoons and beaches, and most of all, eating lunch in an island you can claim as your own for the time-being.
One of the rock formations in Bacuit Archipelago that make El Nido the grandest of them all!
I'm a fish, not a dog!:-)
Hello there, Nemo! :-)

when the beauty under the water is beyond indescribable
our simple yet festive lunch at Star Beach

At night, you can stroll around the town for local seafood menus or go Italian with pizza, pasta and risotto in various selections of Italian-inspired restaurants.  You can enjoy the ambiance of themed restaurants like an art gallery or the exotic charm where coming in barefoot is more inviting than wearing your footwear.  Either you can have the Filipino fushion crepe after a sumptuous dinner or end the night along the shore with a glass of mojito while enjoying the sound of acoustic and country-style music. 

My solitary moments in El Nido

My underwater experience

This is the place where someone from the city couldn't miss that little noise in the island, and, somebody from the province can still experience the simple lifestyle.

Up until this moment, it is still a wonder why El Nido is different from my experiences in Coron, Puerto Princesa, Davao, Bohol, Negros or even Pagudpud. What is this connection all about? What did I find there that I told myself I should come back. 

 That, I will continue to discover.

Credits: Special Thanks to Anna for arranging our trip. Here's the link of our itinerary.