Busan Part 4: BIFF Square

πŸ‘« We also discovered Busan International Film Festival or better known as BIFF Square around the area. This is a 428 meter long street divided into "Star Street" and Festival Street". It features not only movie theaters but profusion of decent restaurant options, shops, clothing stalls and street food.

Temperature gets down near freezing at night so the craving for a hot steaming soup were creeping through our veins. Before heading back to the hotel we opted to have our dinner at this nice restaurant that offer Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken soup) and fried chicken.

They also gave us this Korean alcoholic beverage for free. I took a little sip and that's how I knew immediately the drink contained alcohol. This is probably Soju or Makgeolli, not sure about it. I'm not a drinker.

The Samgyetang was very nourishing and healthy in my opinion. We returned to the hotel more than satisfied.

Till next time, 

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Busan Part 3: Jagalchi Market

πŸ‘« Jagalchi market was a nice change of pace where you can see the real lifestyle of the Busan locals. This is one of the largest seafood markets in Asia. You'll find a wide array of fresh clams, mussels, sharks, octopuses, squids, shrimps, lobsters and so on. You can buy it fresh and proceed to the second floor and let them cook it for you for a minimal fee and dine there. On the same floor you can also find the dried seafood section.

Till next time, 

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Busan Part 2: Gwangbok-dong Cultural and Fashion Street

πŸ‘« Yongdusan Park stretches to the escalator access- descending to Gwangbok-dong Cultural and Fashion Street. This area is more like a smaller version of Myeongdong in Seoul that is filled with shops and boutiques. But it was magical because the street was decked out in Christmas lights and tons of holiday ornaments. People also wrote their wishes on cards and hung them on Christmas trees. It amazes me to see Korean people embracing the joyous spirit knowing that many of them are Buddhists.

Till next time, 

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Busan, Korea Part 1: Train to Busan

πŸ‘« Train to Busan? Seoul Station? Oh no! I'm not referring to the South Korean zombie apocalypse horror thriller movies, but our travel from Seoul to Busan via the KTX high-speed train. We left Savoy Hotel and arrived a bit too early at the Seoul Station. While waiting, I decided to buy two bento boxes for our lunch from one of the food stands in the station before boarding. I had no idea they were selling Ekiben on the train itself.

Seoul Station

Seoul Station serves the highest number of passengers in Korea

food stands inside Seoul Station

Seoul station platforms

Train to Busan - getting ready for departure

HB managed to book a suite for a better price. This place was called Elysee Motel before but changed their name to Hotel Elysee. I would still consider this a motel rather than a hotel. In fact, Donggwang-dong area is surrounded by several inns and motels.

It was our first time to stay in a motel so I was a little worried and curious at the same time. In the Philippines, we have this negative perception on motel establishments as we viewed it as "cheap love motels". But it was different in Korea because I saw some families who stayed there. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a nice huge room with great amenities. Plus Hotel Elysee was located just up the road.

After we settled in we visited a nearby park to spend the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, the road was steep and high so even only a few minutes of walking I was already feeling tired and sighing heavily. In my opinion, I don't recommend older people to stay in this area. 

Yongdusan Park which harmonizes the 118 meter high Busan Tower is one of the local spots in the city of Busan. It is called Yongdusan because the shape of the mountain looks like the head of the dragon that climbs to land from sea. The park occupies an area of 69,000 square meters. The pride of Yongdusan Park is a night view of Busan Tower. There is a statue of General Lee Sunsin who was great commander in Joseon Dynasty period. There is also the commemorative monument for the April 19th anti-government student protests.

On another note, if you like Korean horror films I suggest you watch "The Wailing".πŸ‘ This is far better than "Train to Busan". ( ゚o⌒)

Till next time, 

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A Rare Experience Into the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

πŸ‘« I wasn't aware that HB was planning to get the DMZ/JSA tour. I was a bit hesitant and would have preferred to stay in the hotel and tucked into bed as I was already feeling exhausted after days of touring. But thank goodness, HB made a decision to make reservation 4 days before the day tour! He looked up online, called up a local travel agency for a guided bus ride to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA).

JSA Visitor Center

Souvenir / Gift shop beside the JSA Visitor Center

We were relieved to have a spot one day before our departure in Seoul. We were eager but at the same time apprehensive since this tour was something completely different. But everything ran perfectly. The itinerary of this combined full day tour includes in the Panmunjom JSA where guests will experience the tense atmosphere on the border line. 

South Korean soldiers standing guard on the border seemed like in their 20's. The one in the front was our JSA tour guide. He speaks fluent English with an American accent.

a South Korean guard inside a JSA conference room
It was one of the riveting and unnerving trips we had ever been on, primarily because this is the most heavily armed border in the world. Observing the young Korean soldiers and the North Korean guards standing face to face without a concrete barrier or fence makes my blood run cold. 

You will also get the chance to descend into the Third Infiltration Tunnel dug by the North Korean Army into the South, in preparation for a sneak attack. Don't worry, the South Koreans have blocked the actual Military Demarcation Line with three concrete barricades. It consists of two parts, 358m long interception tunnel and 265m infiltration tunnel. However, please be reminded that the tunnel is potentially hazardous for people with known heart disease or asthma. Photos are not allowed inside the tunnel.

The third infiltration tunnel tour starts at DMZ Tourist Information Center

Helmets for the visitors who are going to access the tunnel

lockers for visitors

DMZ Souvenir shop
Tourist Map of Paju
We also visited the Dorasan Station, which is a railway station on the Gyeongui Line, in the northernmost stop on South Korea's railway line.

Our Korean guide was knowledgeable and sharing us some interesting trivia. She also took us to a traditional Korean restaurant during lunch where we sampled a delicious Bulgogi with several side dishes. One niggle though I think it's important that tour guides be trained, how to treat all guests "equally". We were the only Asians among the many Caucasian tourists who joined the tour. And I felt like she treated and regarded us as "less priority" during that time. Tsk, tsk, tsk...

Please remember that guests who are going to join the DMZ tour will be asked to sign a waiver upon entering, and you must have your passport with you on the tour. There are restricted areas so you can't roam around freely and you are strictly asked to follow the instructions of your tour guide when and where to take a photo. After the tour, drop off locations are chosen from a list that tour company gives you.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a highly militarized strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula. It was established at the end of the Korean War to serve as a buffer zone between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The DMZ is a de facto border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. (source)

Till next time, 

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