Sunday Special – Busan, South Korea


Today we’re going to check out South Korea’s second largest city and the world’s ninth busiest port: Busan. Located on the southeast coast this urban centre of 3.6 million residents has plenty to offer. Being a seaside port it is has beaches where you can relax and then take to the nearby mountains for some views and hikes (or tram car if you get tuckered out). With food markets a plenty this city is also a haven for food lovers and seafood would be high on the list. This is what I have found out about intriguing Busan:

  • Beaches – Recognized for its beaches Busan is not lacking in available sand-time. Some of the notable beaches include¬†Haeundae Beach (very popular in summers and this site of the yearly Polar Bear Swim in the new year) and¬†Gwangalli Beach (which has golden sands and a view of Gwangan Bridge that lights up at night).
  • Hiking – With the mountains as natural artwork it is not a wonder that plenty of people would want to connect with nature though hiking. Do remember to research the trails and the levels of difficulty so you won’t be surprised. Some popular areas to hike are Jangsan Mountain which has two points you can trek to; Geumgang Park which is home to the Geumgang Fortress; and Seunghaksan that offers some very pretty views.
  • Food – Food is one of my favourite topics and Korea does have some tasty dishes (as I learned when I was in Seoul many many years ago). With Busan being a seaside city it is naturally a delight for seafood lovers. Be it renown markets like Jagalchi Fish Market or cafes and restaurants serving up local specialties such as seafood pancake (dong-nae pajeon) to gourmet restaurants, Busan will no doubt impress many a foodie.
  • Sights – There are plenty of areas to see and wander about in Busan. Among them are the¬† Gamecheon Cultural Village, a family friendly area where you can see the colourful buildings holding much history. It does have plenty of stairs and alleyways that will give you a different viewpoint on every turn. Youngdusan Park Tower offers a view from its perch at 118 m /59 ft and a park that you can relax in. Set in the backdrop of the mountains,¬†Beomeosa Temple is considered one of Busan’s top-rated. And it’s location offers some great vistas of the city.
  • Busan International Film Festival – Held every October since 1996 it runs for 10 days showcasing both international and Korean films. A popular event, tickets sell out quickly.
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Busan at night РSouth Korea. Photo credit: Rsmokov, Haeundae veiw from Gwangalli, CC BY-SA 4.0

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A sunny day Haeundae Beach РBusan, South Korea. Photo credit: StephNurnberg, Haeundae Beach in Busan, CC BY 2.0

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Everything I Was Ever Told About Hong Kong Was A Lie!


Everything I was ever told about Hong Kong was a lie!!!!

Yes you read that correctly. I was lied to! LIED TO! 

Alright, melodrama aside – I wasn’t lied to, however, what I was told over the years by many is not the Hong Kong that I discovered through both research and on my recent memorable trip. Some of the things that were relayed to me were along these lines:

  1. There is not much to do in Hong Kong 
  2. It’s just urban sprawl, nothing but a concrete jungle
  3. You can see everything in 2 days 
  4. It has great designer shopping and fabulous food but that’s about it
  5. Everything is super expensive
  6. It’s so crowded, so many people (okay – that one is true though things run quite smoothly in Hong Kong it seems)

Hearing this is what that had me overlooking Hong Kong as a destination. Until recently I viewed it as place where I would pass through, staying only a few days while en route to another destination. It wasn’t until I decided to go away for a week¬†in February that I even decided to look at it. I wanted to go somewhere that I could explore in a week without feeling like I was missing out on going elsewhere in the country.¬† A week in Japan seemed to rushed. Same with Cambodia. Maybe a European city? Nope. Not in mid-winter. And no resort sun destinations where I would inevitably have to fork over extra money for a single supplement, punishment for travelling solo. So on a whim I looked at some YouTube videos about Hong Kong as it met my initial criteria. I was surprised! There were many activities and sights that piqued my interest. I did further research and realized I was misinformed! I decided that Hong Kong was my next destination!!

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Hong Kong’s skyline at night – Photo taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

So let’s address these misleading ideas that I had. Please note that this is based on my experience in Hong Kong.¬† I know others have different accounts and some have similar ones.¬† I will make another post of many of these places that I visited in a future post.

  1. There is not much to do in Hong KongNot true!! Museums, theme parks (Disney, Ocean Park), nightlife, hiking, markets, shopping, temples, discovering street art, sensational views, wandering neighbourhoods, dining, historical sites. So much!
  2. It’s just urban sprawl, nothing but a concrete junglePartly true!¬†Hong Kong is a big city with a population of almost 7.5 million. It has a numerous skyscrapers, buildings of all types, an impressive public transit system, and all of this in an approximately 1, 100 sq km / 424 sq mile area
    1. What you may not know is that 40% of Hong Kong is parks and nature reserves. There are areas where you do not feel like you are in a city. Hong Kong is comprised of numerous islands with a substantial area that is separated from mainland China simply by the border. Not all of it is developed. Hiking and walking has become quite popular with several trails set up for all levels and nature is close by.
  3. You can see everything in 2 days¬†No, you¬† can’t!¬†You can see many of the major sights in 2 days especially if you plan well. But to see and do more you do need extra time. I had 6 full days and I did not see everything I had hoped to (I also went to neighbouring Macau for a day trip so more like 5 days)
  4. It has great designer shopping and fabulous food but that’s about itThere is more!! So much more. Yes, Hong Kong is a shopping haven and has even better food of every style of cuisine. No doubt about it yet there is so much more to this city.¬† Explore more! Isn’t that what travel is about? =)
  5. Everything is super expensiveMostly true!¬†Hotels, designer shopping, drinks, some food, some tours and entrance fees can add up very quickly. Very quickly. Though there are hacks and ways to save money. Hostels are comparable to Europe though far less expensive than hotels. I don’t know about AirBnB or other options but worth a look. Shopping at markets is cheaper and you can find knock offs there too. Street food and some ‘mom and pop’ restaurants are more affordable and very tasty. The MTR (subway system) is inexpensive and runs like a well-oiled machine. I love the MTR! Star Ferry is even cheaper!
  6. It’s so crowded, so many peopleTrue! Very true though I put it on the list because despite the sheer density of the place I found it to run quite smoothly. Yes, traffic is heavy but which large city is it not? The MTR was crowded but it got me where I needed to go with great ease. Walking around I noticed places well marked. If I got lost it was due to my own horrible (and I mean horrible) sense of direction. If you can get used to being bumped into strictly due to the sheer volume of people then you can manage Hong Kong. And taking advantage of Skip The Line tickets and arriving EARLY can get you to the major sites with relative ease (otherwise expect to wait).¬†
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Nature along Lantau Island’s Wisdom Path and Lantau Trail – photo taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

I have to say that Hong Kong did not disappoint. I was excited to see what I had learned in my research and discover on my own as well. Soon, after telling people about my forthcoming trip I was given some useful tips. Some by fellow travellers, others by expats. Bonus! I found it to be a city that was so easy to travel in. I know I’ll go back there as it still holds places that are undiscovered for me.¬†

Oh and guess what? There is a growing and tasty craft beer scene! Yay!! Good beer!

Hong Kong Highlights


Hello from Hong Kong. I’ve been here four nights and have a precious two more left. This has been a trip like no other. Two hours before leaving to come here, after clearing security at Vancouver, I received some very worrisome news. Needless to say trying to enjoy myself was weighed down with concern. Though the newness of this destination proved to be a good distraction albeit slightly tainted. Fortunately the best possible outcome occurred and I have relaxed and enjoyed this world class city. And for someone who is not fond of hot humid weather coming here in winter has proven to a bonus for me. I had hoped it would have been sunny as in weeks prior but the clouds decided to stay. The rain fortunately has been staved off.

Once at home I will write about my impressions of Hong Kong. In meantime, here are some photos of my time here.

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders the World

View from Victoria Harbour

View of Victoria Harbour (Kowloon side)

Victoria Harbour

 

From Victoria Peak

View from the Sky Deck at Victoria Peak – a stunning view despite the clouds

Incense burning at Man Mo Temple

Offerings of incense at Man Mo Temple

Incense coils at Man Mo Temple

These are coils of incense hanging from the ceiling at Man Mo Temple

Crystal bottom cable car enroute to Lantau Island

Glass bottom cable car taking me up to the Big Buddha on Lantau Island

Arch at Lantau Island

Archway by Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island

Big Buddha on Lantau Island

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island

Temple at Po Lin Monastery

One of several temples at Po Lin Monastery

Clock Tower

The Clock Tower at Victoria Harbour (Kowloon side)

Star Ferry - a longtime icon of Hong Kong

Star Ferry – I took a harbour tour with them

Trams a.k.a Ding Dings

I took a ride on one of Hong Kong’s tram cars – referred to as Ding Ding’s by the locals

Pottinger Street

Pottinger Street

Market stalls in Mong Kok neighbourhood

Fa Yuen Street Market in Mong Kok neighbourhood

Fish for sale at the Goldfish Market

Goldfish for sale at the Goldfish Market in Mong Kok 

One stall of numerous ones at the Flower Market

Mandarin plants for sale at the Flower Market in Mong Kok

 

Bruce Lee statue at the Garden of the Stars

Bruce Lee! One of the statues at the Garden of the Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui neighbourhood

 

Tomorrow I am off to Macau!

My Top 5 Cities to Wander


The Internet is riddled with Top 5 lists or whichever number is trending so I figure I will post one too. Where does this wanderer like to wander? Aside from just about everywhere I do have some faves. As I continue to traverse the globe I suspect this list will change though this is the list currently. 

It’s all about the cities. I have to say I prefer cities and the energy found within them. Of course small towns and nature are phenomenal and even entire countries I find amazing, though today it’s about the urban landscape.¬†

Here they are:

  1. PARIS РParis! Paris! Paris! Arguably the most beautiful city on the planet, I always find wandering in Paris a joy. The art, the history and vibe. 
  2. ISTANBUL – An extremely close second, Istanbul took my breath away with its history, architectural beauty and culture.
  3. CHICAGO – Not only did I have a fab time in the Windy City I adored its arts, buildings and that deep dish pizza
  4. BUDAPEST РNot only does Budapest offer a gorgeous and clean city there is much to do.  Caving nearby, history, ruin bars & thermals baths makes for a very fun city!
  5. GEORGETOWN (a.k.a.¬†Penang) & BELGRADE – tied for 5th as I was unable to decide. Both so different yet equally cool. Penang’s street art and street food within a chill atmosphere compared to Belgrade’s history, great people and fun nightlife made it a definite tie.¬†

There you go. My current top 5 cities. Next up will be my fav countries. 

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders the World 

 

Top row (L – R): Paris, Istanbul, Chicago
Bottom row: Budapest, Belgrade, me on boat in Belgrade, Georgtown (Penang)