Over the nearly two months I have been in South Korea, it is safe to say I have settled into a routine. I have a list of my favorite restaurants, my favorite places to shop and places I now know to avoid. With coursework and looming midterms, it is easy to forget that, aside from being a student, I am also a tourist. With this in mind, my trip to the city of Busan this past weekend was a much-needed break and an incredible experience.
Busan is the second largest city in South Korea and is less than half the size of the Seoul. A port city, Busan is home to beautiful beaches, great seafood and plenty of places to explore. While there is much to do there, it has the same relaxed, laid-back atmosphere that seems to exist in every beach town around the world.
Seoul is such a fast-paced, bustling city that it can be overwhelming and hard to catch your breath sometimes. So much so, in fact, that you can forget to stop and take in your surroundings. In Busan, my experience was just the opposite. I had time. I had space. I loved stepping out onto my hotel balcony every morning and looking over the city to see the foggy mountains in the distance, and thinking how grateful I was to be in that place at that moment. Spending Friday night at the beach drinking wine coolers with my friends was a welcome respite from the smoke-filled clubs to which I have grown accustomed.
This is not to say that my time spent in Busan was all relaxation and no adventure. The Busan International Film Festival, one of the largest film festivals in Asia, was happening when I was in town, and I was offered the opportunity to choose from hundreds of screenings of films from all over the world. I also visited Shinsegae Department Store, the largest department store in the world, before finishing off the weekend by crossing an item off my Korea bucket list: eating sannakji — live octopus.
The fish markets in Busan are unlike anything I had ever seen. Each seller has an assortment of large and small tanks filled with an array of sea critters ranging from eel to octopus to fish. This place is far from vegetarian-friendly, because after you have made your selection, the seller reaches into the tank, picks up the poor creature and chops it up right in front of you.
Having my food killed in front of me was, without a doubt, an experience I will never forget, however I would not say it is something I am keen to experience again. Once I got over the fact that it was still twitching, the octopus was actually delicious. I chewed carefully, having read online that a few people had died from choking on sannakji. That said, I recommend anyone interested in a little culinary adventure to go for it. It is with this attitude that I have been trying to go about everything I do in South Korea.
Busan will forever be a great memory for me. I cannot put into words how excited I am to be in South Korea each and every day. Even when I may be bored sitting in class, I know that the opportunities to experience something new are endless here. My trip to Busan underscores the importance of stepping back from your day-to-day routine and being open to whatever adventure presents itself.
Jasmine White is a junior in the College. settling in seoul appears every other Friday.