Bursting with mountains and beaches, hot springs and seafood, South Korea’s second-largest city is a rollicking port town with tonnes to offer. From casual tent bars and chic designer cafes to fish markets teeming with every species imaginable, Busan has something for all tastes. Rugged mountain ranges criss-crossing the city define the urban landscape, while events such as the Busan International Film Festival underscore the city’s desire to be a global meeting place. Note that Busan is within the boundaries of Gyeongsangnam-do but is a separate administrative unit with its own telephone area code. There’s a noticeably absent cosmopolitan feel in this port city known for raw fish and a harsh dialect that people in Seoul sometimes find incomprehensible. Underneath the drab urban landscape created by an unimaginative use of concrete, quirky people jump the queue, shout while conversing and giggle at the sight of international travellers. Rough around the edges indeed, but like any rogue there’s a charming side that begins to emerge once formal barriers have been dropped over dinner and drinks.
Cultural mores prevent most people from initiating contact with foreigners. But if you take the first step, the level of kindness and generosity extended your way can be surprising.
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