Day Trip to Busan, 10/30/22

At the end of October, I won two tickets to the BOF K-Pop Concert, part of Busan One Asia Festival. When I submitted my application for the contest on The Venti’s Instagram page, I had failed to read that it was in Busan, and when I won it, I was briefly tormented about whether or not to make the trip to Busan to attend the concert Sunday night.

In the end, I decided to go, booking a KTX train that left at noon and arrived in Busan around 3pm. The plan was I would drop my stuff off at my hotel, meet up with a new friend to attend the concert, go back to my hotel and take a bath and sleep, and catch the 8am KTX train to Seoul Station, where I would go straight back to work.

Seoul Station, KTX terminal

It was on the train to Seoul Station that we got news that the concert was cancelled, in light of the tragedy in Itaewon. I wasn’t going to waste the money I spent for the train and hotel, so I decided to go down to Busan by myself for a night and see what kind of fun I could get up to.

I’ve been to Busan one time before (which I still haven’t written about…) but didn’t get a chance to wander around Busan’s Chinatown so that was on my list once I got settled into my hotel, which was surprisingly close to Busan Station.

The KTX train took about 3 hours, during most of which I slept. I was vaguely aware of people coming and going, as many people take the KTX between cities, and not necessarily just between Busan and Seoul.

When I wandered around Chinatown, also known as Shanghai Street, it was around 3:30/4pm and I was surprised to see a lot of Cyrillic signage. During the Japanese occupation, many Chinese people moved here, and during the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Russian and Uzbek people moved into Chinatown, lured by the cheap rent.

I came across the Choryang Modern History Gallery, an open gallery that, at the time, was adorned by hundreds of white lanterns that had been decorated by children for some special occasion.

Here are some more photos of Chinatown in the afternoon.

The streets were relatively empty this Sunday afternoon, although there was a crowd outside this one Chinese dumpling restaurant. I decided to walk around a bit more, and found myself… on Texas Street.

I got to the end of Texas Street and was looking around for where to go next when I saw the most beautiful ochre-colored building in the distance.

three storied former hospital turned cafe, with a funny cat poster on the side of the building

I was lured by its incongruity and the couple taking photos outside the building. (Do they know something I don’t? FOMO is real, folks.) To my surprise, it ended up being a cafe: Brown Hands design cafe, Baekje branch.

Located in the old Baekje hospital building, which was the first modern hospital in Busan from 1922 to its closure in 1932, the building has seen a number of incarnations, from a Chinese restaurant to Japanese military officer’s accommodations, and it is now a cafe and storeroom for the Brown Hands design company.

It was a beautiful cafe that I admittedly did not spend enough time wandering around in. I had a very good iced americano but was disappointed that they didn’t offer hand-drip or alternative milk options. You can click here to view photos from inside the cafe.

If you visit Brown Hands’ main website, you might be surprised to find out that their main business is not that of coffee, but of interior design, from tables to door handles. The furniture within the cafe is obviously also branded, which was interesting. It’s certainly a concept I haven’t come across yet.

Before I decided to go back to my hotel for the night, I had to get food. I walked back to Chinatown and discovered that there was still a crowd outside one particular dumpling restaurant, called Sinbalwon/Shinfayuen. They had a take-out menu kiosk off to the side, so I took a look at what they had.

Having worked in the sandwich-shop industry, I can get behind the theory of “do one thing, and do it well.” This was put into practice at this dumpling restaurant, which offered six styles of dumplings, hot or cold, and three drink options. I ordered one hot and one cold, and a lemon sparkling drink. I only waited ten minutes or so, while I watched people come and go from the restaurant. When I got back to my hotel and cracked open my dumpling containers… I understood why there was a crowd. The dumplings were by far the best I’ve had. I could have easily polished off another order, and regret not adding a mooncake to my order.

After eating, I took a nice hot bubble bath and went to bed, ready for my 8am train back to Seoul. It was a nice little break and I wish I would have had more time to explore. This was my first solo Korea trip and I really enjoyed it.

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