Saturday, August 31, 2013

Busan: More Than Just A City Tour Bus

My first experience of a tour bus in Busan just proved me right that there's not much of fun for a traveller like me to wander around a place in a tour bus - it's boring, it puts limit to MY curiosity and most of all, it makes ME a prisoner of time (as I have to hop on/off every 30mins).  One good point is the built-in video tour that sort of providing information about the place - can be amazing with its high technology media visuals but at times I found it boring as well.  

Note that I'm speaking for my preferred way of going around the place but nevertheless, Busan City Tour is a tourist-friendly and the most convenient (the right description I may say) to see Busan in a day.

Amidst the fact that I literally tour around Busan through Hauendae Loop where I described this part of Busan as a place where sophistication of the corporate districts and shopping malls collide with the serenity and calmness of the sea,  AND,  Taejongdae Loop  that depicts the ordinary daily life of local folks while preserving their culture and heritage -

I felt I did not wander Busan as it deserves for its worth.  

Nothing can stop me from exploring Busan on my own - my usual way, that is, riding the subways and taking public buses; not even the stinging coldness of early Spring and my deteriorating energy and aching body from literally going around South Korea for the last seven days.

So on the following day and technically my last full day in Busan, I purposely squeezed a quick side trip to the province of Jinhae  in the morning just to take a glimpse of Spring - an impulsiveness that I just thought on my first day in Busan because of the blooming arrays of Cherry Blossoms trees along the streets of Busan, I thought there could be more in Jinhae.  And then spent the rest of the day exploring Busan via subway and public buses.

On the spot itinerary while riding the bus from Jinhae to Busan
On my way back to Busan, I wrote down on the Subway Map the places that I'd see and took notes of the exits:
1. Shinsegae Department Store
2. Namcheon Cathedral
3. BIFF Square
4. Yongdusan Park
5. Taejongdae Beach

Named as the Guinness World Records' Largest Department Store,  I found myself facing the fear of heights for the first time when I entered Shinsegae  Centum City.  It's ironic as I already tried the 800m zipline in Bukidnon, Philippines but not scared of it.  Prominently standing with 14 floors, I did not dare to look down as I was going up to the 8th floor.  It was a bit scary that I only stopped at 8th floor where the Fashion Street is located, then went down at 4th floor spent most of my time at H&M shop.  I stopped myself from splurging on shopping so I strictly spent only an hour in the mall. 
Shinsegae Centum City

Next stop is Namcheon Cathedral which is also known as the Archdiocese of Pusan.   In every places that I chose to explore in South Korea, I always searched for a Catholic Church where I can pay visit and thank God for guiding me safely throughout my journey.  I read from my research that Namcheon Cathedral has it's unique architectural and interior design, uncommon for the usual Catholic Church.
Namcheon Cathedral
Following the directions, from Centum City, I got off in Namcheon Station and walked towards Exit 2.  There I gasped some air as I looked up at the highest stairways I've ever seen in South Korea's subways.  The light that came from the top were like a beam of strenght that told me to keep going as I was on the right direction.

From the subway exit, I kept on following the street signs, turning left until I saw this sign:
 Jesus Loves You

It was heartwarming feeling that I felt a pinch in my skin  - goosebumps!  It has always been amazing how I am always guided while looking for the church.  I had experienced the same in Beijing while looking for St. John's Church in Wanfujing on a Palm Sunday.

Still unsure if that was the church, I opened the gate and walked further until I saw the uniquely angular-designed structure with KBS stations as it's backdrop.  From my view, it looked like a lego puzzle piece attached to its perpendicular stand.

As I walked towards the entrance, I noticed the door is closed and seemed like the mass was going on and I was not sure if I can still enter.  I decided to wait for the mass to finish and went around the vicinity.  At the side of the church is a garden with a grotto and mini-chapel with stoned benches along the pathway.  I took my seat at the front of the grotto and uttered my prayer.

As I waited, I looked in awe at the angular wall designed with stained glass in squares from the bottom to the top. The rays of sunlight strikes against it that make it looked like skylight roof creating a beam light that resembles the star when Christ is born. 

After more than 30 minutes, I heard people coming out of the door.  I then went inside.  It was more beautiful in there!  The light that I imagined outside creating the beam of light are actually providing the natural light.  The spaces without the pillars are illuminating as if providing a spotlight to the altar.

It was so serene with some old folks gathering inside.  I found my little space where I said my thanksgiving prayers.  I was about to end my first solitary travel and I was blessed to have this dream fulfilled.

As the sun sets and so with my trip to Busan, I went on and took the subway to Jagalchi Station.  In my list was to walk around the BIFF Square or famously known as the Pusan International Film Festival that hosted for several years since it was inaugurated many international film festivals.

More than just an establishment, the BIFF Square served as the lifetime memorabilia of the handprints of the actresses and actors. It is lively from day to night with its street market and variety of stores in every blocks.  Anyone will enjoy just looking at various trinkets sold along the streets while munching some streetfood that are usually part of the scene in every K-dramas.

At some time, I joined the locals as they enjoy their  food on the streets.  The more people falling in line in a food stall, the more it was enticing to take a bite.  But as the daylight went off, so with my body from being too tired, I decided to call it a day.  That means, I have the reason to come again with my List of To Dos and Places to See that are not completely off yet of my bucketlist - to walk along the trail of Yongdusan Park, seafood dining at Jagalchi Market, splurge on best buys at Nampo-dong Underground Shopping and stay for a night and experience public bath (jjimjilbang) at Haeundae Spa.  

Nonetheless, the on the spot itinerary on my last day in Busan made my solitary travel more fulfilling.

Travel Tips:

Getting to the places via subway:

Shinsegae Department Store (Line 206 Centum City Station Exit 1, 5 minute walk)
Namcheon Cathedral (Line 211 Namcheon Station, Exit 2 by taking the long stairs and keep walking and turn left at the intersection.  It's beside the KBS Building
BIFF Square (Line110 Jagalchi Station Exit 7, 5 minute walk)
Jagalchi Market (Line 110 Jagalchi Station Exit 1o, 5minute walk)
Yongdusan Park (Line 111 Nampodong Exit 1, 10min walk and then take the escalator)

* Take the One-Day Subway Pass for a unlimited rides during the day of purchase for only KRW4,000.00

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