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:


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