For Labor Day weekend we celebrated the end of summer in the best possible way- a trip to the beach!
We had a three day weekend available to us and decided to head to Busan, which is located on the southeastern side of the Korean peninsula. Our plan was to sit on the beach, eat good food, and do nothing else. We have had a busy few weeks and were really looking forward to running away from responsibility. Our plan was to take a relaxing KTX train from Seoul to Busan on Saturday morning. We would have all Saturday afternoon, Sunday, and Monday morning to be lazy.
We got Korea-d. Majorly. A veteran Korea resident warned us of this phenomenon when we first arrived. To be “Korea-d” means that you have the best plans, everything is prepared, and then something happens. Something that as an American living in Korea you had no way of predicting, and worse, no way to get out of it. It’s like the poo hitting the fan, except in Korea you don’t know where to find the supplies needed to clean up the mess. We’ve been slightly Korea-d before, but nothing like this weekend.
On Saturday, we started our day early and arrived at the train station 45 minutes before our train left. As we already had seats reserved and just needed to check in, we thought this would be plenty early. It was immediately clear to us that 45 minutes was not going to be enough time. The place was packed. There were people everywhere, and, worst of all, huge lines for all the ticket counters. We tried to use the ticket machines to print our tickets, but a KTX employee was turning off all the machines as we approached. I thought that was odd considering it was a Saturday morning. After standing in a few lines and texting our friends who were encountering similar problems at a different station, we found out that there had been a train accident. (No major injuries!) The accident had occurred a few hours previous on the exact line that we were to travel on. Not only was our train canceled, but there was no guarantee that there would be trains to Busan on Saturday.
After getting our money refunded, we moved on to dealing with the problem of how to get to Busan. We could drive in our car, but it would take at least five hours, we would have to deal with traffic, and we would have to buy gas on the Korean economy; none of that sounded appealing to us. Our only other option was to try to catch a bus. We hopped back on the subway and rode 30 minutes from Seoul Station to Express Bus Terminal. We were lucky enough to book seats on a bus that was leaving within the next hour and a half. We ate a quick lunch and settled in for our 5 hour bus ride.
As our bus charged along Korea’s highways, I was immensely relieved that we did not drive ourselves; the roads were packed with cars, but our bus was able to use the bus lanes and keep a decent pace. I was surprised that the bus seats were comfortable and roomy enough for me to enjoy a nice nap after our morning of transit troubles.
We arrived in Busan about 5 hours after we had originally intended. However, we didn’t let that alter our original itinerary; our evening included tapas for dinner and a walk on the beach. We were Korea-d one more time by our hotel (Novotel Ambassador), when we discovered that the advertised hot tub required swimming caps and was divided by the sexes. I didn’t feel that wearing a rented swimming cap and sitting with strangers was going to be very relaxing, so we skipped that.
There were temples in Busan; we didn’t see them. There was an aquarium next to our hotel; we didn’t visit it. We slept in and sat on the beach. That was it. We have seen pictures of the beaches in Busan packed with people, but that wasn’t the case this weekend; there was plenty of room for us to find our own little sandy spot. The weather was perfect; hot enough to be out at the beach, not so hot that you are miserable; the water was rather cold, but still refreshing. I spent the day with my toes in the sand, reading a book, and eating good food. It was a perfect goodbye to summer.
We caught the train back to Seoul; when we stepped out of the subway, crisp autumn air greeted us. My favorite season is approaching, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead!