Busan is the Korean New Jersey. I don’t mean the Jersey Shore guido kind of New Jersey. I’m talking about the overcrowded stretches of sand that have been completely ravaged by man and no longer resemble their natural selves. Now, I have never been to New Jersey so what I’m saying might be completely false. For all I know the beaches of the Garden State might actually have white sand and crystal clear water, but in my imagination I picture brown sand and brownish-green water packed with New Yorkers on summer break. Something tells me the New Jersey of my imagination might be a little closer to reality.
Whether or not the sardine can-esque beaches really are a trademark of New Jersey doesn’t matter because I know for a fact that everything I ever thought of as being quintessentially Jersey is in fact found in South Korea. A couple of weeks ago I went to Busan, the second largest city in Korea. It is also a favorite place for the people of Seoul to go on long weekends due to it’s nature as a beach city. Korea isn’t especially well known for its beaches but all the guidebooks and websites kept saying the beaches in Busan were among the best on the peninsula. I didn’t go to Busan planning on seeing something as pretty as St. Lucia or the Cayman Islands. I went expecting something along the lines of Daytona or Cocoa Beach which ended up being a fairly accurate assumption.
The beaches themselves weren’t all that bad, but there absolutely nothing about them that looked in any way like they were a part of nature at one point in time. Busan’s skyline goes right to the coast and then plummets into the water, a bridge connecting two sides of a bay runs parallel to the water in the horizon, and umbrellas completely cover the shore so there is no trace of sand left. Not even the water is safe. Bright yellow inner tubes form a line that closely follows the shore. That being said, those annoyingly colored tubes were pretty fun to bob around in while drinking a beer and hitting Korean children when the waves rolled in.
When I wasn’t spending my time on the beach, I was able to visit the Busan Aquarium and a Buddhist temple outside the city. The aquarium is located right on the beach so the whole area outside was more crowded than Disneyland in the summertime. The crowds did not let up inside the aquarium either, but the inside was air conditioned and it housed some sharks and penguins so the massive amount of people didn’t bother me too much. In addition to various sea creatures swimming about, the tanks also feature fake animal statues that just kind of hang out while the real ones swim around them. So while it may look like an anaconda is about to pounce on you at any moment while you’re innocently looking at the piranhas, you can actually be assured that is in fact a fake snake.
The temple outside of Busan was just as crowded as the beaches but the scenery around the buildings was among the best I’ve seen in Korea so, again, I did not think much about the entire population of Seoul having followed me down to Busan. The temple is right on the water and built up on the rocks on the coast. Statues of Buddha are found scattered throughout the complex and the architecture is the stereotypical Asian style I love. I only got to spend a little bit of time wandering around because I had to catch the bus back to Seoul but visiting this temple made me want to see more of the many scattered throughout this country.
Even though Busan might not be a Korean equivalent to Miami, it was fun nonetheless. I actually think that if I did decide to do another year teaching in Korea I would want to spend it living in Korea’s New Jersey instead of Seoul. That’s what Snookie would do at least and what’s good enough for Snookie is good enough for me.