Thursday, June 23, 2011

Haeundae

It seems I already wrote a similar post to this years ago, but after 8 million posts, I can't really remember everything I do. Anyway, this was going to be a photoblog, but then I realized that the widely unread 2009 post already was one, and I was going to use some of the same pics. If you want to see my old pics, click the link. If you want to see how horrible Haeundae can be in August, Google it.

In this space and in real life, I’ve been known to complain about Korea a time or two. No, no, don’t disagree, it’s a fact. As much as I complain, I should also give Korea props when they get something right.

In the fair city of Busan, they got Haeundae beach right. Sure, it’s not the best beach in the world (Boracay, for my money.) In a lot of categories, it’s not even the best beach in Korea. Jeongdongjin has far better water. Sangju beach on the south coast has better sand. Seogwipo has better diving. Gangneung is better for camping. Hanagae beach in Muuido, Incheon is much more convenient to Seoul. Even nearby Gwangalli in Busan is clearly more scenic. However, for sheer fun factor, nothing touches Haeundae.

Haeundae has killer restaurants. There’s Thai, Turkish, Mexican, Italian, burger joints, and of course a ton of Korean, especially of the raw fish variety. In fact, for international dining options, Haeundae probably beats every given neighborhood in Korea outside of Itaewon and Hongdae (and maybe, just maybe, my hood).

Haeundae has no shortage of bars. This is a huge change over the last few years. Sure, Haeundae has always had a lot of places to get a drink, but only recently has it exploded in western-style bars that have an actual bar and stools rather than Korean hofs that just have tables. As recently as 2008, there were two legit bars in the greater Haeundae area. Now, there are more than anybody could ever visit over the course of a weekend.

Haeundae has some of Korea’s finest hotels, and also some of its worst. The main point - there are so many hotels that something is bound to be available in any price range, from $20 a night to $2,000.

Haeundae has a lot of places to get a drink, beyond bars. There are several convenience stores, several of which don’t require crossing a busy street to reach. Fortunately, with all this beer at easy reach, there are also tons of public restrooms available too, most of which are surprisingly clean.

Haeundae has a lot of cool tourist attractions. There are woodsy areas, water sports, a casino, and Korea’s best aquarium.

Haeundae is relatively easy to get to. There are a million bullet trains a day linking Seoul and Busan, and Haeundae itself is on the Busan subway line. There is also a real train station, making it easy to get to major regional cities like Ulsan, Pohang, and Daegu.

Haeundae even has a good name. Hey-oon-day. It sounds nice. It sounds much more like a place one would want to linger than, say, Sokcho or Boryeong or, god help us, Jeongdongjin. It sounds, well, beachy, and it rolls off the tongue like Boracay or Copacabana.

I just finished my 8th trip to Busan, so I’ve now been there more times than I’ve been to Vegas. I’ve hit up Haeundae at some point on each trip. Vegas ebbs and flows. Every time I’ve been to Haeundae, it’s been more interesting, facility-wise, than it was before. I presume I’ll go again before I’m done here. Well done, Korea, well done.

That said, I really need to write a complainy post, and right now. The Dark side, coming soon.

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