On the application form that I filled out to teach in Korea, there were slots where I was to put down the top two cities that I’d like to live in. The application also stated that they would try to honor my wishes, however I might not get to live in the cities that I requested. I actually did get to live in the city top city that I wanted to, it just wasn’t what I had pictured or seen on the internet. When you look up Busan on the internet, there are tons of pictures of high rises on the beach, multicolored houses, and a city spread across mountains. The images you can easily see on the internet are mostly from Haeundae, and Gwangalli beach, and their surrounding areas. I however, was on the other side of Busan. The unpopular, non-touristy northern side of Busan.
Not many people had heard of the Buk-gu area, but that’s where I lived. In fact, I’d meet a few Koreans who had spent their entire lives in Busan, and had never heard of the area. While the touristy side of Busan had beaches, a huge shopping mall, thriving foreigner community and universities, my side was much more quiet. There were less people, and I was mostly surrounded by families and older people.
I’ve mentioned before about being the only English speaking foreigner that lived in my neighborhood, up until the last 6 months that I was there. During my first year, I spent a lot of time on the popular side of Busan, because that’s where the majority of my friends lived. However, after breaking my talus bone, and having difficulty getting around, (Korea is not really set up for those with lower limb injuries, or physical impairments) I started to explore areas closer to home. Tourist areas obviously get the highlight of any city/country, but there are lesser known gems to be found in other areas as well. I’d like to tell you a bit about one of those gems I found not too far from where I lived.
Gimhae is a city across the Nakdong river from the northern part of Busan where I lived. Getting to Gimhae was easy, about 45 minutes, or less depending upon how far into Gimhae I was going. All I had to do was take the Busan-Gimhae light rail transit, which began at the airport. There are 21 stations on this line, and many attractions are not far from it. (I also lived close to the Sasang bus terminal, so that’s also an option).
Once home to the Gaya empire, one of the largest Kim clans in Korea, (descendants of King Suro, the founder of Gimhae) has its origins here. What immediately drew me to Gimhae, were the museums. There were several history museums that I visited. These museums told the local ancient history of the city, and had many artifacts from the Gaya period. There is also an outside museum park that has styles of houses that were used then, as well as other replicas of daily life from that period of time.
Gimhae also had nice parks, and restaurants. There is a thriving foreigner community, so in addition to Korean food, you can also find eastern European, and Southeast Asian food here. Yeonji park is probably the most famous one in Gimhae, and is known for it’s beautiful scenery and fountains.
I also visited royal tombs, and a little hanok village. Hanok houses are traditional Korean houses, and there is an area you can visit and see these houses. I believe some of them are hotels that you can stay in for more of an authentic experience. Notably the most famous tomb in Gimhae belongs to its founder, King Suro. This is easy to find, as the station is named after him.
Gimhae was a fun place for me because it was filled with nature, as well as history. If I’d lived in the more popular areas of Busan, I probably would not have ever taken time to look around Gimhae at all. There’s a lot that can be said about Gimhae, and this is just a very brief account of my experiences there. I encourage you to seek out those gems in hidden places the next time you take a trip, or to look for them in the areas where you currently live.
Here’s a quick video of part of the subway ride to King Suro station: