What’s up in Busan? Some ideas for delegatesIt’s difficult to get bored in Busan, From the hustle and bustle of a fish market to the serene sunrise over the sea, the port city illustrates both the dynamism and the “morning calm” faces of Korea. In addition to its intrinsic charm, the city has gathered its resources to show its visitors for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings an especially good time. Korea’s second city says its second to none in its readiness to greet more than 6,000 guests from 21 Pacific Rim nations.
First things first - food
Don’t worry if you can’t do without a Big Mac fix; you’ll find all the fast food you need here. But the sea gives Busan a big advantage in seafood, and its signature dishes revolve around sashimi, or hoe in Korean. The best place for your sashimi is at Jagalchi Market in the port area. That’s about a 30-minute taxi ride in traffic from the major APEC venues, Bexco and Nurimaru APEC House, but it’s worth the trip. Facing the sea, hundreds of street stalls and restaurants are clustered, full of live fish and other seafood. Visitors can bargain with the street vendors, who will then prepare the delicacies on the spot. A glass of soju, Korea’s favorite strong drink, makes a good accompaniment to the couldn’t-be-fresher raw fish and the sea view. It’s a quintessential Busan attraction.
If you prefer a more sedate atmosphere for your sashimi, head to the Mipo “sashimi street” in the Haeundae Beach area, near the APEC function sites. About 20 sashimi restaurants stand facing the sea. Assorted sashimi of flounder, red snapper and sea bass is available at about 35,000 won ($33), with side dishes and spicy fish soup.
Another Busan delicacy is blowfish soup, which Busanites swear by as a hangover remedy. Walking from the Paradise Hotel to the Haeundae district office building, you’ll see five restaurants names for the soup. Geumsu Bokguk (051-742-3600) is the oldest, opened in 1970. There is also the popular Chowon Bokguk (051-743-5291). Busan people willingly endure long waiting times in line for the soft, plump blowfish slices boiled with assorted vegetables and garlic. A bowl costs between 7,000 and 13,000 won.
For a break from fish, you can try the Harbor Town building in the Haeundae district, where Indian, Vietnamese and Japanese are among the many cuisines available.
Seeing the city - tours and events
To get to know Busan in the shortest time possible, the special city tour programs for APEC visitors are probably the best option. Some of the tours, the following for example, are free for APEC participants. For a view of the city’s history, try the three-hour tour on Monday through Thursday that includes the Buddhist Beomeo Temple, the United Nations Memorial Park and the Busan Museum. The museum is celebrating the APEC meeting with an exhibition of Korean traditional clothing and accessories.
For views of the port, Busan’s lifeline, try a pleasure boat ride around the harbors and bringing into view attractions like Taejongdae, a rock cliff, and Oryuk Island. Available Monday through Saturday, the tour takes about three hours.
Another free tour program takes you to Mount Yongdu Park and Gukje Market on Monday through Saturday afternoons. At the park, you can watch traditional cultural performances and games, which are being staged beginning today. Mask dances, folk music performances and a mulberry paper art exhibit are among the attractions there, the Busan city government says.
If you’re willing to invest a bit of money and more time, there are more tour possibilities in the city and further afield, including some to the ancient capital city of Gyeongju, famous for its historical remains. Check at your hotel, or have a Korean-speaking friend call 051-463-0084.
Some of the tours will give visitors a hands-on experience with Korea’s cultural traditions. From today through Nov. 20, for example, visitors can learn the art of brewing and drinking tea at Busan Women’s College. For pottery lovers, tours begin today and run through Nov. 20 to the Gijang Ceramic Art Center, where participants can throw pots and have a look around a traditional kiln. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, another tour will give participants a chance to try their hand at playing traditional musical instruments.
Also, an exhibition of lacquer ware by the artist Jun Yong-kok will be on display at the Busan City Hall building tomorrow through Nov. 20.
Ambitious Busan city and APEC organizing officials have arranged dozens of cultural events, and they are also free for APEC delegates, the city says. There is a performance of Jongmyo religious service music at 5 p.m. next Saturday at the Busan Cultural Center (051-625-8130). The performance, which was staged in Korea’s royal court during the Joseon Dynasty, has been named a World Cultural Treasure.
Another traditional music performance for APEC is “Fragrance of Korean Music” at 7 p.m. Friday at the Dongnae Cultural Center (051-550-4481). The performance features a Korean stringed instrument called the gayageum.
You don’t even have to leave the APEC venues for some cultural enrichment. At Bexco, beginning today, there is an exhibition of traditional Korean food, with the emphasis on royal cuisine. That show runs until Saturday. Visitors can taste rice cakes and alcoholic drinks fit for a king. At 2 p.m. daily, visitors can join in making rice cakes themselves.
On the other side of the Bexco is a display of cutting-edge information technology, one of Korea’s leading industries. Organized by the Ministry of Information and Communication, the show begins Tuesday and runs through Nov. 21. Visitors can browse displays of wireless broadband Internet gear, digital multimedia broadcasting equipment and other gee-whiz technology. More information on the exhibit is available at www.apecitkorea.org.
On Thursday, the right place to be will be around the Gwangan Bridge, where a massive fireworks show is on tap. Planners say the show will include more than 80,000 pyrotechnic devices in a 50-minute show that also includes a laser light show.
For more Busan tour help, call 1330, where information is available in English, Japanese and Korean. Tours can be booked on the Internet in English at http://tour2busan.com.
by Chun Su-jin