Thursday, November 14, 2013

South Korea Trip 2013: Day 1 in Busan (Nampodong, BIFF Square, Gwangbok Street)

Lotte Dept Store at Nampodong
My dream holiday to South Korea finally came true! When AirAsia first launched their new route to Busan in April earlier this year, I chanced upon the cheap airfares and managed to book a return ticket for approximately RM800!

After months of researching on the internet and tedious planning (since I'm on a self-guided tour) on my maiden visit to South Korea, I was ready to experience the country that I've only been to see on my television and through K-pop songs I loved to listen.
Busan Tower Hill Hotel
I booked a 4 night stay at Busan Tower Hill Hotel in Jungang through Agoda, for approximately RM300 per night. My stay was split into 2 parts, the first night in Busan, then another 4 nights in Seoul, and another 3 nights in Busan before heading home to Kuala Lumpur. They have a luggage storage service too, so that's another brownie point from me, since I left my luggage with them before leaving for Seoul via KTX.
Cozy beds and warm ambience in hotel room
I loved the service provided in Busan Tower Hill Hotel. The beds were cozy and comfortable, and all necessary amenities including toiletries were provided. Counter staff were polite and friendly, and very helpful too!
Clean bathroom and toiletries are provided
I loved that they were generous with their body wash, shampoo and conditioner. Not many hotels provide such huge bottles of toiletries. The best of the toilet was the warm bidet! Never fear of sitting on a cold toilet seat during autumn or winter again!
Gwangbok Underground Shopping entrance just outside the hotel

After checking into the hotel at 4.30pm, I had a stroll around the surrounding area. Since it's autumn, the sun sets around 5.30pm and by around 6pm it's already completely dark. With nothing much to do, I had a walk looking for dinner. Jungang Station is the nearest subway station to Busan Tower Hill Hotel, take exit 1 since it's the nearest. 

Next, I found Gwangbok Underground Shopping Center just a short walk out the hotel. It's somewhere where Lotte Departmental Store is in sight, to be precise.

One thing great about Korea is there are many entrances to their underground shopping centers or subways, so just go down any entrance you encounter because you'll eventually end up in the same place no matter where you enter from.
Nampo Underground Shopping entrance
Nampo Underground Shopping Center is linked to Gwangbok Underground Shopping Center, if you walk along following the signs, you'll end up here from where Lotte Departmental Store is. If you exit from Nampo Underground Shopping Center, you'll find yourself closer to BIFF Square and Jagalchi Market.
Buzzer given when you order food or drinks
I had my first dinner at Lotte Departmental Store since it was Sunday and not many shops around the hotel were open. I had a great first experience with the buzzer! It will buzz when your order is ready. Then you proceed to collect your order at the designated counter. 
Jeonju Bibimbap at Lotte Dept Store food court
The Jeonju Bibimbap (approx 7000 won; RM21) I had was quite similar to the bibimbap that I've tasted in KL, so there's nothing to shout about. What I loved was every other meal I had in Korea came with free refillable drinking water, so that's savings in terms of drinks. Their meals are usually around 7000 won, which means it's a budget of RM20 every meal, (thank goodness food in Malaysia is cheap!) but of course it's a huge portion each round with many side dishes (kimchi!).
BIFF Square entrance opposite Jagalchi Market
Next up after dinner I went to BIFF Square to get a glimpse of night market life. There was a particular hotteok stall that was popular and has a long queue. 
Look out for this hotteok stall with a long queue somewhere outside the Eight Seconds store
The hot hotteok (1000 won; RM3) was delicious and was a perfect snack in the cold weather. 

Hotteok, the perfect hot snack in the cold weather
I also tried the spicy grilled chicken (2000 won; RM6) on a long stick, but unfortunately I was too busy eating to take pictures!
Entrance to Yongdusan Park (Busan Tower) along Gwangbok Street
Next I had a stroll back to the hotel from BIFF Square through Gwangbok Street. This street is quite nicely done up and I find myself thinking that I was in some European country. Many branded stores, both international and local, lined this street.
Hollys Coffee next to Teenie Weenie on Gwangbok Street
There seems to be no shortage of coffee chains on Gwangbok Street too. Hollys Coffee, Coffine Gurunaru, Tom N Toms Coffee, and Caffe Bene are among the coffee shops you can opt to stop for a hot drink here.
Caffe Bene along Gwangbok Street
I stopped at Caffe Bene for a drink before heading back to the hotel. It's endorsed by Crayon Pop in very Christmassy red uniforms, which is sure to put you in the Xmas mood. Next up for Day 2 is the KTX ride to Seoul!

Read about my experience in Chungmuro, Namdaemun and Myeongdong here!

Read about my experience in Edae, Hongdae, D-Cube City and Dongdaemun here!

Read about my experience in N Seoul Tower, Namsangol Hanok Village, Garosugil and Go-To Mall here!

Read about my experience in Gyeongbukgung, Bukchon Hanok Village, Samcheongdong, Changdeokgung and Insadong here!

Read about my experience in Busan (KTX and Busan City Night View Tour Bus) here! 

Update: Check out my latest account of my trip to Japan in 2015 here. Stay tuned for more updates on this trip!

The author was thrilled to be able to step on the grounds of the Land of the Morning Calm. Busan was a pretty much laid back town and next up is the adventurous shopping experience in Seoul! Look out for the next post!

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