Gamcheon – Busan’s Dreamscape on the Hill

fullsizeoutput_756Holly’s Coffee seems to be the perfect blog writing refuge and has  become a little bit of a routine. Its a great latte and not far from the hostel. For some reason Busan has made me feel really relaxed and I don’t feel that pressure to go out early and make the most of the day – because Busan is just about as 24 hour as you can get – this lovely coffee shop included.

IMG_1179Yesterday,  I certainly had a lazy start and ventured at somewhat of a dither to Gamcheon Cultural Village. As my first proper sight seeing day I hadn’t decided where to go and was just wandering up the hill. But the Maps.me was telling me it was only a 40 minute walk. So if you visit, although there are plenty of transport options to get up that hill (and it is steep) you can easily walk from the Gwang Book area. Also you get a chance to see a less touristy part of the city with local markets and interesting dwellings. There is a small tourist office at the start (top) but I just found myself sauntering aimlessly and in a delightfully desultory fashion up and down the lanes, many stairways, narrow passages and just enjoying the strange, beauty and colour of this area. I know I am probably overly descriptive about things I see, but you could be in a scene from an Anime film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Grand Budapest Hotel if you like any of that stuff. Its slightly fantastical, slightly Southern European…no I shouldn’t try and compare.

Whilst revelling in the slightly trippy, colour assault was quite enough for me, some visitors might need more. There are many things I didn’t explore or quite understand such as the House of Peace, Hope, Darkness etc (maybe someone can enlighten), but the higher part of the village seemed to be where all the trinket/tack shops are and some interesting street food and cafes. IMG_1211Lower down the slopes there is a temple, a market,  a cultural centre with an excellent viewing deck, and the more high brow restaurants. Many of these are closed on Sundays incidentally. It also starts to mingle with the real lives of residents: flooring shops, groceries and snooker halls – because actually people live here – its not like an attraction with a really tangible perimeter.

IMG_1237After my passion for coffee shops, the next really important thing for me is tea, and I found a tiny place called the Plate which boasted a British menu. And for the first time in 3 months, I had a ‘mug of tea’. I applaud them.

I think the key here is not really to go to Gamcheon with any expectations. Just delight in its quirkiness and dreamlike colourful beauty. I imagine in the height of summer this would be pretty crowded but I was lucky enough to be here in mid October on a slightly rainy, cool day. I would go again because I think I haven’t been able to take in its beauty in one visit. IMG_1188

Busan – slumbering beast

fullsizeoutput_713I have just arrived in Busan after an easy transport day from Kansai. Yes one of those days when everything goes to plan – my bag weighed in at 22.7kg – even the check-in staff were impressed. The plane was a new 737-800 – nice and with excellent service. At Gimhae Airport I headed straight for the KT roaming centre as recommended on some travel forums. I bought a 5 day SIM for 27 000 won – I had to fit it straight away for some reason but they even gave me a paper clip and it worked immediately! (In contrast to my Japan Experience B Mobile one which never worked.) Next to the KT centre was the Tourist Info – and the excellent staff member there rung my hostel and asked what was the best way to get there.  An airport limousine bus took me literally to the door for 6000 won (about £4) . I’m incredulous.

IMG_1135I enjoy traveling on a bus through cities as you are slightly above the traffic and can see many things. I have been a Japan a month and got used to its ways, and Korea definitely had a different feel. When I say slumbering beast of a city – its because it reminds me of something that spreads a bit like an oversize, uncomfortable amphibian. fullsizeoutput_73f.jpeg
Or the way bread dough spreads if you drop it down. With a little elasticity and heaviness, pulling it back from the sea – just. Very tall slender high rise clusters yawn out of the sloping, colourful traditional villages as you are looking into the distance. Closer – everything is gaudy – a bit dirty, and the graphemes look like potato printing. Traffic is bad and there is a very hurried vibe. Crossing the road to the hostel was a very dicey business.

The hostel is on the 7th storey of a high-rise with a view of Busan Harbour Bridge. I can’t complain. It’s kind of odd being sandwiched between an accountancy firm and an IT company or something. Next door is the monumental Lotte Mall – a phenomenon I have not come across before. Thirteen storeys high – it boasts a Sky Garden which is the size of an average UK city park, a 360 degree observation deck, aqua park, cinemas etc.  Hudson Bay meets Meadowhall squashed upwards. It was my first port of call as I needed some groceries. Not the right place. (£2 an apple) But the park and observation deck seem pretty  spectacular and distinctive to me.

After a brief exploration this morning – I am gratified immensely to find a plethora of proper espresso coffee shops after the complete dearth in Japan. No need to make do with  Asian Starbucks’ weird, creamy mix.

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