In this week's session, Billy is doing his first ever solo episode, which is a perfect time to talk about his adventures around the Korean coastlines. Billy takes us to the island of Jeju, the beaches of Gangneung and his favorite hiking spots in Busan. He also shares stories of the people he met and the connections he made along the way.
Billy shares with us:
--his realizations about romantic relationships, being in the present, and romantic idealism
--Korea hiking recommendations
--a perfect two-day travel guide to Seongsan, Jeju Island
--yummy eats in Korea, chasing waterfalls, communication barriers, connecting to strangers, and understanding cultures.
--Jeju island travel tips
--What to do and see in Busan and Gangneung
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Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis Summer Sessions. I’m your host, Billy. Brian is getting caught up on life right now so I’m doing my very first solo episode and we’re live on Instagram right now. I’ve never done that before so we’ll see how that goes. Who knows, maybe someday, we’ll do a YouTube channel where you can watch all of our episodes. That might be kind of fun, but we’ll see how today goes first. Oh, as always, thank you to our listeners and our viewers out there. Special shout-out to our listeners in Woodbridge, Virginia. Yongsan, Seoul. Frankfurt, Germany. I love when we go international, I say it every single time, I love it when we go international. Aiken, South Carolina, and, of course, our dear friend Zeb who is playing all of the notes on his guitar in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Thank you so much for supporting our show. If you want a shout-out, send us a message at email@example.com or follow us on Instagram at mindful_midlife_crisis. You can also go to www.mindfulmidlifecrisis.com and click on the Contact page and hit us up there. We’re also on Twitter at @mindfulmidlife and we’re on Facebook at The Mindful Midlife Crisis Podcast. You can find all of this in our show notes and on our website. Be sure to check out our show notes. We have really important information in there.
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Speaking of super cool, Brian wanted me to let you know that he’ll be playing with Gen X Jukebox this weekend in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the Chrome Horse. I love these bar names like that. So Brian will be playing at the Chrome Horse this weekend. They also have a show on Saturday, August 20, at Tory’s Bar in Austin, Minnesota, not Austin, Texas, yet but Austin, Minnesota, does have the Spam Museum there so they’ve got that going for them. And then, of course, you can check them out at the Minnesota State Fair on August 26 and September 5 at Dino’s Gyros. They’ll be opening and closing the Great Minnesota Get-Together so be sure to check that out. Most likely you’ll see me at one or both of those shows depending on how many people are there. I’ve never been to any other state fairs but I did a little research and Minnesota has the second largest state fair in the United States behind Texas. 2 million people flock to the Minnesota State Fair and it’s a big deal here, and the main reason people go there is because of the mass quantities of food options they have. It can be overwhelming when you get there, but I have figured out how to navigate my favorite places. My first two stops are always the Blue Barn for their Nashville hot chicken on a stick and then I like to swing over to Mancini’s for the pig wings. Also, when you’re there, you got to get the big fat bacon, you got to get the cheese courage variety pack, and then I like to cap off the night with the sweet Martha’s cookies but I just get the cone, I don’t do the whole bucket. I don’t need the whole bucket, that’s just way too much. And then I like to take a trip down the magic carpet slide because it makes me feel silly and I laugh the whole way down because it’s fun.
So, when you’re leaving the state fair, you’re definitely going to be sweaty, bloated, and disgusted with yourself but if you check out Gen X Jukebox, then you’ll at least burn some calories dancing to songs by Alan Jackson, C+C Music Factory, Backstreet Boys, Gin Blossoms, Nirvana. It’s a high energy show that will remind you why the 90s produced the greatest music of all time. And I’m not here to debate that because there is no debate. The 90s produced the greatest music of all time. So, give Gen X Jukebox a follow on Facebook and Instagram and go get funky with Brian on the Bass.
Speaking of Brian, you may have noticed he’s been absent lately during the Summer Sessions because, listen, summertime is an insanely busy time for him with shows and family responsibilities. Plus, he’s the president of his company so he’s pulled in a lot of different directions. So I told him, you know what, dude, I got this, go handle your business, and I intentionally did not ask anyone to be a guest on this episode because I wanted to see what it felt like to do an episode on my own. I’ve been traveling around the world for the past 10 months by myself and have felt comfortable doing that. But, for some reason, recording an episode by myself feels very strange and silly and it’s definitely pushing out the pizza dough of my comfort zone. But I wanted to give this a shot and you can send me your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram, again, at mindful_midlife_crisis. Also, thank you to everyone watching this recording on Instagram Live right now, it sort of makes me feel like I’m talking to you so it’s not as weird. You can always message us at www.mindfulmidlifecrisis.com and go to the Contact page because we truly enjoy hearing from people because you never really know who’s listening to the show and what impact it’s having on them.
That’s why it was such a blast to talk to our lovely friend, hype woman, and super fan, Michelle Pan, last week about my trip to Denver because, like we said, she just shines so much love and light onto the world and we’re so grateful to the people who listen to this show and take something away from it and who share it with others. So don’t underestimate just how far a compliment or a nice gesture will go for someone. In fact, here’s what I want you to do. When you have a second, pause this episode and send somebody a compliment. It doesn’t have to be us but reach out and make somebody’s day with a sincere compliment. Or just let someone know you’re thinking about them. Because, trust me, they’ll be happy to hear from you, all right?
So, let’s talk about my time in Korea, shall we? I spent three months over there. I’m very excited to share with you my experiences. Next week, I’ll talk about my time in Seoul because my whole life changed during my two months in Seoul and the experiences I had and the people I met in Seoul completely changed my entire outlook on life. And I had this moment of clarity that I can’t wait to share with everybody listening but, before we get to that, this week, I thought I talked about my adventures along the Korean coastlines and rather than turn this into some sermon about what life lessons I learned as I looked out into the ocean day after day, I thought I’d just share with you where I went, what I did, that sort of thing, because my time on Jeju Island, Busan, and Gangneung all blended my experiences from the previous five months together, in that I once again experienced some anxious attachment issues because that’s who I am. But here’s the thing, and you’re probably tired of hearing about all that kind of stuff, but this is also where I started to recognize the importance of connecting with people who add value to my life and who will set aside time out of their day to hang out with me rather than chasing after people because I’m trying to be a people pleaser. And what’s interesting is that — and I never thought of myself as a people pleaser but when we did the Season 5 recap with Matt Hazard the second time we failed recording that episode, he asked me if I thought if I was a people pleaser, and, interestingly enough, I don’t think that’s ever been a description that’s been assigned to me because, professionally, no one would ever say that about me. But I was just talking about this with Episode 43 guest, Lori Saitz, that’s the F*ck Being Fine episode, I’m actually going to be a guest on her show here soon so be sure to look for our conversation on the fine as a FINE is a 4-Letter Word Podcast, but, interestingly enough, this idea of fuck being fine feels rather fitting for this episode because in my personal life, I do want to be liked, so I will go out of my way to do things for people I like but, at the end of the day, it can just be a bit much.
You’ve listened, I can be a bit much. I’m pretty intense with things and I liken it to how I listen to music because if I hear a song I like, I will play that song over and over and over again until I get sick of it. And if you remember back in the day when we used to listen to cassette tapes, if you rewound and listened to a song over and over and over again, it would wear out the cassette tape. And I think that’s been my problem regarding my past relationships and I would get stuck in this romantic idealism of what I thought the relationship could be. I blame romantic comedies for planting this romantic idealism in my head. So, thanks a lot, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
But the thing is, I need to move on from this and I need to stop saying that’s just who I am because that’s just another way of saying, “I’m fine,” so this was a realization I started to make while I was exploring Jeju Island. So, I spent most of my time during my hikes and adventures ruminating on that. And those of you who are regular listeners to this show, you’ll appreciate this. Right before I left Seoul, someone I was interested in said to me, “It must be physically exhausting thinking as much as you do.” That just made me laugh because, yeah, like all this thinking that I do, it’s a lot of work. But, for me, it’s what I have to do in order to sort out the clutter in my mind. The problem, though, is that because I have fallen out of my mindfulness practice, I spend so much time on social media and dating apps so my brain is too cluttered with thoughts so gaining clarity during that time was extremely difficult. And, for me, considering I was traveling solo, the thought of having a romantic partner to share in some of my experiences was very appealing. But the problem is, I always turn into Tom from the movie 500 Days of Summer. I get swept up in the emotion of it all to the point where people like this woman say to me, “You’re smothering me,” and that anxious attachment personality that we discussed in the first summer session, that all came back to me again right before I left Seoul and it really got in the way of my ability to be present while I was in Jeju. But this time, rather than just being fine with it and sulking for too long, I decided to put my energy towards enjoying the rest of my time in Jeju, Busan, and Gangneung.
So, let’s do this. Let’s take a quick break and then when we come back, I promise I will share with you my Jeju Island travel tips. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m here by my lonesome talking about my time on Jeju Island. Let’s finally talk about what to see and do on Jeju Island because even though the perimeter of the island is only 274 kilometers or 170 miles, you could easily drive around the island in about three hours. There are many, many adventures that await you once you get there. Now, here’s what I’m gonna say really quickly. Keep in mind my Korean is terrible and I have been talking to some friends who speak Korean so that I can work on the pronunciations of some of these places, but I am apologizing ahead of time now if my Korean sounds terrible. So, here we go. I spent 10 days in Jeju Island and I spent most of my time hiking but I could have just as easily spent most of my time relaxing at the beach because Jeju Island truly has it all. I would liken it to Hawaii except it’s less tropical because they don’t get snow in the winter, and Hallasan, which is the tallest peak in Korea, that actually gets covered in snow as well in the winter, but when I hiked all 6,388 feet or 1,947 meters, the sky was blue and the sun was shining and what was cool was you could see almost the entire island from end to end. So, if you visit Jeju Island, which I strongly recommend, if you’re going to go to Korea, take a trip down to Jeju Island, it’s an hour flight from Seoul. You absolutely have to hike up Hallasan. Now, if you want my recommendation, I would say go up the easier but longer trail, which is Seongpanak, and go down the steep trail, which is Gwanemusa. Gwanemusa is far more scenic than Seongpanak but it’s brutally steep, brutally steep, and I saw people bent over gasping for air, which means you can’t really enjoy the scenery on the way up because you’re more concerned about whether or not your lungs are going to explode. So, again, my advice, make a reservation in the morning for Seongpanak and then head down Gwanemusa. Doing that will take you about six to eight hours to do a round trip. But if you don’t get to the checkpoint in time, they won’t let you go to the top so make sure you make your reservation for early to late morning at least a week ahead of time because it’s the most popular hike on the island so it does fill up so make sure you get on top of that.
Now, if you want a little easier hike, you will want to spend some time in the town of Seongsan, which is on the eastern coast of Jeju Island. Seongsan is a small town, mostly locals over there, but it’s absolutely worth visiting because, from there, you can hike up Seongsan Ilchulbong, which is essentially called Sunrise Peak. They actually have stadium seating up there that faces the direction of the sunrise but that does mean you have to wake up around five in the morning and hit the trail by 5:20 because it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to hike up a fairly steep trail if you want to catch the sunrise. I actually prefer the sunset from up there.
So, my recommendation for the perfect two-day adventure in Seongsan is on day 1, take a ferry to Udo Island in the morning, which is a smaller island off the coast of Jeju, and spend the majority of your day over there. You can rent one of those sweet e-bikes or you could get one of those small, funny e-cars that they have, like little two-seaters. You can rent and drive those around the island. You’ll definitely want to do one or the other because, that way, you’ll see all of Udo Island and there are a lot of cool sites to see when you’re there, trust me. You’re going to want to take it all in on Udo. Apparently, they are also well known for their peanut ice cream, which I did not know about so I guess I’ll have to go back there and have some of that. If you’re a seafood lover, which I am not at all, but if you are, pretty much every restaurant on Udo has fresh seafood so you can enjoy that. Then, a couple hours before sunset, you’ll want to catch the ferry back to Seongsan so you can hike up Sunrise Peak and watch the sunset from up there because, trust me, it’s majestic. If it’s a clear day, which, if I’m being honest, unfortunately, the pollution haze of Korea can ruin that from time to time, but if you luck out and you do get a clear day, you can see all the way to Hallasan, which is super cool with the sun setting behind it.
Then, the next day, you can get your butt out of bed early and hike up Sunrise Peak again and then catch the sunrise in the morning. And then after that, you’ll probably be a little tired but just down the street, there’s this really cool cafe that has beds on the side of a cliff and you can order some breakfast or tea or coffee or whatever and you just lie in the bed and look at the sun come over Sunrise Peak while the waves crash on the shore and you can enjoy your Korean baked goods. It was a very relaxing way to spend the rest of my morning that day.
After that, you can catch the haenyeo show at 1:30 and I think it’s again at three o’clock and you can watch it from the edge of the cliff. What’s fascinating about the haenyeo, which means sea women, is that they’re able to hold their breath for inordinate amounts of times, like for up to five minutes, and what they’re doing is diving for abalone, abalone, abalone, which is essentially a gastropod like a snail. I guess they’re delicacies in Korea. To me, the meat looks like an oyster and, again, I’m not a big seafood guy. But I did try it, I did not like it. This is a tradition and it’s fading away because usually haenyeo are older women. So if you’re on Jeju Island, you’ll probably see older women sitting along the coastline selling freshly caught abalone.
And maybe that’s my problem. I didn’t buy a freshly caught abalone from one of the haenyeo so the next time in Jeju, I’ll pay my respects by eating fresh abalone caught by the haenyeo right there on the shore. But I was skeptical. I honestly don’t think it’s going to taste any different because I just don’t like seafood. I like shrimp, but the rest of the seafood, I’m not a big fan of. And people were like, “How did you survive in Korea?” There’s so much more to eat in Korea than just seafood. Jeju Island also has black pork. You can check that out as well. You can go to the Korean barbecues and get some black pork and see what you think.
So that’s how I would spend two days in Seongsan. I spent more than that there but if you just need a couple days there, that’s perfect. That is absolutely perfect. And then, from there, you can head to the beaches on the northwest and north end of the island or you can spend some time in Seogwipo which is on the southern tip of the island and it’s the second largest city behind Jeju City. And in Seogwipo, you’ll find all sorts of ways to spend time in nature while still being able to access the comforts of the city. Seogwipo has a cluster of waterfalls you can chase and in the first session, we talked about how much I love a good waterfall and I found a bunch of waterfalls in Puerto Vallarta as well. So be sure to check out the three waterfalls that are in town, which are Jeongbang Falls, which actually falls into the ocean, which is really, really cool, and then just down the road is Sojeongbang Falls, which is a collection of three smaller falls that fall very close to the ocean, and then at night, go check out Cheonjiyeon Falls, which, and this is what’s insanely confusing, is spelled differently from Cheonjeyeon Falls by one letter, so one has an I, one has an E, and because my Korean pronunciation is horrible, I’m simply going to refer to them as the night falls and the three-tiered falls because that’s pretty much what they’re known for. So I didn’t make it to the three-tiered falls and I’m a little bummed because the pictures of each tier are stunning from what I’ve seen, but the night falls looked amazing when they turn the lights on and you can see the water cascading over the edge of the cliff into the river below. And not only that, while you’re over there, you can walk across the Saeyeongyo Bridge, which is all lit up at night, and it actually reminds me of the Los Muertos Pier in Puerto Vallarta, which some of you wrote in and said I forgot to mention walking the Malecón when I was in Puerto Vallarta and you’re absolutely right. If you are in Puerto Vallarta, be sure to take a stroll down the Malecón and do it during the morning and then again in the evening because it’s definitely a different experience.
I do have to tell this story because it’s one of my favorites from Jeju Island. So while I was there, there was this group of — they must have been college boys and I would say they were probably freshmen or whatever in college, and there’s probably about 10 of them and one of them said to me, “Hello, how are you?” and I’m like, “I’m good, man. How are you doing?” He’s like, “Good, good. Thank you, thank you,” and then his friends were like patting him on the back and that sort of thing. What I found in Korea is a lot of times people would practice speaking English with me and I thought that was really cool. I’ve talked before about how we need to be patient with people who are trying to communicate with us in a language that isn’t their own. And a friend of mine corrected me and said, “I don’t like that when you say patient,” because when people are trying to learn another language, what they’re really doing is they’re communicating that your culture is important to them and patience feels more like tolerance and I’m like, “Oh, well, thank you for providing that perspective for me. That’s a great way of reframing it.” What I thought was cool here was they were trying to connect with me and I should have gone and learned more Korean, I recognize that, but they were trying to connect with me in speaking English and then they came up to me a little bit later and they’re like, “We wanna take a picture with you,” and I’m like okay. So they wanted me to stand with my arms folded and they were like pointing at me. I don’t know if they thought like I was — I don’t know who they thought I was or they just thought that I looked cool or what, but we took a picture together and they were like, “Thank you so much, this totally makes our day,” and so we exchanged information and I think one of them is following me right now on the Instagram Live, which is pretty cool. But then another guy in the group, he was standing off to the side and then he came up to me after the group left and he was like, “I’ve been working up the courage for the last five minutes to come speak to you in English because I’ve never spoken to somebody in person in English before.” And I was like, “Whoa, dude, your conversation sounds great. Like let’s chat it up. Who are you,” that sort of thing. And so we just got to talking and he was telling me that he wants to be a director and that group that he’s with is part of a film school and it was just a really nice conversation and you could tell he was nervous and he kept saying, “I’m nervous. I’m nervous.” I’m like, “Hey, man, you don’t need to be nervous because you sound great, you sound very conversational, you sound very natural,” and it’s those kinds of moments that really stick out to me, those human connection moments, especially when we talk about stretching out the pizza dough of your comfort zone, he was really taking a risk right there and I appreciated that vulnerability because it is a memory that I made while I was there that I will absolutely never forget. So, thank you for making that memory for me. It really was meaningful and I hope it was meaningful for you too and I hope you’re listening to this episode. I’ll be sure to share it with you because we follow each other on Instagram.
So, I only spent a day in Seogwipo but if you head west from there, you can check out Sanbangsan, which is another — it’s an easy mountain hike and that will only take you a couple of hours. And then, from there, you can walk along the Yongmeori coastal walk. And one thing that’s really cool about Jeju Island is that you can hike the entire island following what they call the Olle Trail and I found an excellent guide to exploring the Olle Trail and I’ll be sure to link that in the show notes. The Olle Trail has 26 different trails totaling 425 kilometers and many people who live or frequent Jeju Island, their goal is to hike all 26 trails throughout their lifetime. I would say it’s probably a bit ambitious if you want to do it all at once but if you’re up for the challenge, I say go for it as long as you take the right precautions and the right preparations because I did a few of those hikes and they truly are scenic and they’re all numbered too. It’s very organized so you can keep track of which hikes you’ve done. You can find a map and cross off the hikes that you did. So check that out. Look in the show notes for that link.
Now, if you keep heading west, you can visit the tea museum. I didn’t do that but I’ve heard from people who have been there that it’s actually a cool experience. I didn’t budget that into my time there and since I didn’t rent a car, I had to rely on buses. A lot of people will tell you that you need a car when you visit Jeju Island. I actually found the buses to be fairly reliable most of the time and they got me everywhere I wanted to visit outside of a few beaches that were a little challenging for me to get to with the time that I had but I was very impressed with the buses. And the beaches I did visit were stunning and I lucked out because, one day, a teacher I met from South Africa named Tanya, she agreed to take me around the west coast of the island and we stopped at Gwakji Beach and Hyeopjae Beach and my friend Helen recommended her favorite beach which is Woljeongri Beach on the northeast coast of the island. If you do go there, make a day of it and check out the Manjanggul lava tubes because then you’ll get a real appreciation for just how volcanic the entire island really is. And along the same road is the super fun Kimnyoung Maze Park. I challenge you to beat my time of 7 minutes 29 seconds. Let’s just say I made several attempts and that was the only time I rang the bell at the finish in under 15 minutes. But it’s a lot of fun, absolutely go check it out.
Another beautiful beach along the northeast coastline is Hamdeok Beach and it’s here where I reconnected with one of my wonderful friends that I made in Seoul, Dr. Jihi. She just so happened to be visiting Jeju with her mom the same time I was there. It’s days like this that I remember because, as beautiful as the beach in the water and cliff sides were, spending time with Jihi and her mom is still one of my favorite memories from the trip because both of them were so kind and let me tag along with them for a few hours. I really enjoyed getting to know Jihi’s mom better because most of the people I talked to in Korea were around my age so I enjoyed getting another generation’s perspective of the Korean way of life. And not only that, but she’s taking English courses so it was funny how Jihi was like, “I’m not gonna sit here and translate for you the entire time so practice speaking English with him,” and her mom really couldn’t have been any sweeter of a human being so I want to sincerely thank the two of them for letting me be part of their mother-daughter experience in Jeju because it really was one of the highlights of my time there.
Now, you can either get the Hallasan from Seogwipo or you can get there from Jeju City, which is the largest city on the island. It’s where you’ll fly into when you first get there. It definitely feels like a city but you can go check out the Gwandeokjeong Palace on the north end of the city. I thought it was cool to walk around there at night when it was quiet and all lit up. I didn’t spend a lot of time in Jeju City because I either took the bus to Hamdeok beach or Hallasan or I took a road trip with a stranger along the west coast but I did meet my friend Jessica who lives in Jeju City so she showed me around to a couple of different places, places that weren’t on my radar, places that she likes to go to. There’s this cool coastal walk on the north end of the island so we went and checked that out. You can see the haenyeo diving just off the shoreline and then they’d set up shop along the sidewalk and sell you their fresh catch of the day. I definitely approached Jeju City with more of a rest and recovery mentality, because I was averaging about 25,000 to 30,000 steps a day on rugged terrain, oftentimes going up or down some sort of slope, and when — and here’s the thing, when you’re in Korea, some restaurants, especially Korean barbecue restaurants, they won’t serve you if you’re by yourself because it’s just too much food so there were definitely times when it was hard for me to find a place to eat. So, it was another reason why I was extremely thankful to have Jessica with me because then we could go places and I could eat something other than soup.
Also another recommendation that I got from Tanya from South Africa is Magpie Brewing and she told me to go there for their pizzas and I was all in because if you’ve been eating Korean food the whole time, sometimes you just want something different and they make a damn good pizza at Magpie Brewing in Jeju City so if you’re there, go check it out for something a little bit different.
So, let’s do this. Let’s take a break. You can Google all of those Jeju Island travel tips that I gave you and then when we come back, I’ll talk all about what to do and see in the beautiful beach towns of Busan and Gangneung. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m here by my lonesome today, reliving the glory days of Korea. If you want to check out my pictures from Jeju Island, Busan, and Gangneung, follow us on Instagram at mindful_midlife_crisis and you can creep through the past 10 months of travel pictures that I’ve posted.
At some point, I’m sure I’ll blog about this adventure but, for now, this podcast episode will serve as your guide for exploring Korea. So, real quick, here’s what I’ll say about Gangneung. It’s located on the east coast of Korea. It reminds me actually of the California coast because the beaches stretch for miles and miles and about 45 minutes to the west is the mountain range of Seoraksan National Park. That’s actually essentially where the 2018 Winter Olympics were held. And I got there the first weekend of June so it wasn’t all that busy yet and after hitting Busan hard, as you’ll see in a minute, I used Gangneung as just another rest and recover location because I was absolutely wiped out from traveling all over Busan for seven days.
So, from Jeju Island, you could take an hour flight or an overnight ferry to Korea’s second largest city, Busan. Busan certainly has a Fort Lauderdale or Miami feel to it, as far as the two main beaches and the architecture there. Interestingly enough, I actually heard way more English being spoken in Busan than I did Seoul. So I got the impression that Busan’s beaches attract quite a few travelers, which surprised me a bit because I wasn’t even really that familiar with Busan until I started doing research for my trip, but I highly recommend Busan, especially if you can stay near one of the beaches. I stayed at an Airbnb across the street from Gwangalli Beach, which is also where I paddle boarded off the coast of Asia, which means I have now paddle boarded off the coast of four continents. I only have Australia, South America, and Antarctica left. Gwangalli Beach at night is absolutely stunning because the Gwangan Bridge lights up in the most spectacular way. And there are buskers down there singing songs on the beach and you can sit there and listen to a variety of performers. They also have this amazing drone light show, which I’ve never seen a drone light show before. It was really cool. But considering how much I love fireworks, this totally captured my attention because I love bright and shiny objects in the sky, which is why I love Korea at night. It’s so amazing at night because the skylines in Seoul and Busan are just incredible at night. I absolutely love Korea at night.
And then the other main beach in Busan is Haeundae and what’s cool about this is that when you walk out of the subway station, the street is just lined with these beautiful flower arrangements all the way to the beach. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was so cool. Not only that, but the Haeundae Beach Sand Festival was going on and there were massive sand sculptures of various landmarks that represented each continent. So, for North America, there was the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. For Australia, there was the Sydney Opera House. For Europe, they had the Eiffel Tower and the Roman Colosseum. For Asia, they had Angkor Wat. And, I mean, these sand sculptures were like 20 feet high or more. They were huge. So, it was just wildly impressive.
And then from there, you can walk over to Dongbaek Park and walk around until you get to Bay 101, which has all these tall buildings that are beautifully lit up and then on a calm night, the light from the building reflects on the water and it’s just a really, really cool visual experience that you need to check out.
I also highly recommend taking a walk through the Gamcheon Culture Village, which is a collection of older, rundown but bright pastel-colored houses packed into the mountainside. I saw them described as looking like Lego blocks and I think that’s actually a really fitting description. In a way, it’s like walking around Venice because it’s very easy to get lost on the alleyways of those homes, but the colors of the homes under the sun gleam along the mountainside, so I recommend getting there in the late afternoon and then catching the sunset at Songdo Beach Skywalk, which is just a short bus ride away.
Or, if you want to feel like you’re flying over the water while the sun sets behind the mountains, you can take the Songdo Marine Cable Car from Songdo Beach to Amnam Park. I didn’t end up having time for the cable car, but I did something similar when I was in Lisbon and this had a way better view of the mountains from what I could see so I would certainly give this a shot the next time I visit Busan.
Another cable car experience you can have is taking the train or the sky car from Seongjeong Beach, which is a short walk from Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which I’ll talk about a little bit later, all the way to Haeundae beach. And if you want, you can make a pit stop at the observatory over there and walk out on the glass floor and see the waves crashing below your feet. I used to get freaked out by those things but I’ve overcome that fear and now I think they’re cool. I will say the Skyrim at Grand Canyon freaked me out a little bit but that was also back in 2016 so I think I could handle that now considering I’ve been zip lining and parasailing, which I forgot to mention in the Puerto Vallarta episode. I think I could handle skydiving now. Even just saying that puts butterflies in my stomach but we should always seek out ways to stretch out the pizza dough of our comfort zone so maybe when I finally work up the courage to jump off an airplane, we’ll record that moment so you can hear me squeal all the way down because that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
So, if you haven’t figured it out by now, Busan is meant to be enjoyed outdoors along the water so if you’re looking for yet another coastal walk, you should check out the Igidae Coastal Walk which will take you all the way to another glass floor skywalk, the Oryukdo Skywalk. Or you can head over to the Huinnyeoul Culture Village, I don’t think I got that right, and walk the Jeoryeong Coastal Walk. And then, finally, you absolutely must visit the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which, surprise, surprise, is positioned along the edge of the sea. It’s a beautiful temple with a large golden Buddha which you see all throughout Korea, you see these golden Buddhas all over the place, and you can hear the waves crash along the shore while the monks chant and it made me feel this connection between nature and mankind. And I felt that feeling again on my last day in Busan because I spent the day hiking around the coastline of Taejongdae Park and I just happened to find a cliff where I could watch the sunset and there was no one else around and I remember this overwhelming feeling of happiness and completeness washing over me because I truly and honestly experienced everything I set out to see and do while I was in Busan. Granted, there were a couple of places I didn’t get to go but it really didn’t matter to me that much because, in that moment, as I was on that cliff by myself watching the sunset, I knew my time in Busan felt complete, but I also knew my time in Seoul did not feel complete and there were three chance encounters I had in Busan and Gangneung, plus my wonderful experience with Dr. Jihi and her mom in Jeju that proved to me that extending my time in Seoul by an extra month was the absolute right thing to do. So, the first chance encounter was when I found out my friend Ji Soo, who I met briefly in Seoul a couple of times with the hiking group I joined there, she was in town with her parents so I sent her a message and I was like, “Hey, I’m in Busan. Do you wanna grab a bite to eat?” and she was like, “Yeah, should I bring my ukulele?” and I’m like, “Uh, yes. You absolutely should bring your ukulele. Let’s go rock out.” So we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then we found a spot and Haeundae Beach and we just started playing and singing songs over the crash of the waves and it was this really beautiful moment that made me excited at the thought of having more experiences like that with her when I got back to Seoul.
So then, a couple days later, another friend I made from the hiking group, Mix from Thailand, she was in Busan for a couple of nights so she and I met up one night and walked along the beach and listened to the buskers entertain the crowd situated in front of them and the two of us got to talk about just like how meaningful this hiking group was to our experience in Seoul and I told her that the reason I extended my time in Seoul an extra month was 100 percent because of the people in that hiking group and she said, “I know. I don’t wanna go back to Thailand because I just wanna spend more time with the people in that group.” And then when I was in Gangneung, I was standing with this dude named Sotvic from DC and this ferry rolled in and as we were standing there, I recognized a woman from the hiking group named Irene. So I was like, “Irene, is that you?” and she looked up and she was like, “Hey, how’s it going?” so I ran down to the end of the pier to ask her what she was doing in Gangneung and she said she and her friend, Mi, who’s also from the hiking group took the ferry about three hours to an island off the eastern coast of Korea and they went camping for a few days. I was just absolutely struck by how random of a sighting that was because neither of us had any knowledge that the other was going to be in Gangneung on that day. She actually thought that I had already left the country and the randomness that I just happened to be standing by that pier at that moment when her ferry rolled in and just happened to spot her walking amongst all the passengers getting off that ferry, it was just such a wild coincidence and it just made me feel even more connected to the hiking group’s range of influence on my experience because, at that moment, I felt like I could travel anywhere in Korea and feel confident that I would always feel connected and grounded in some way.
So, next week, I’m going to share with you the beauty of Seoul and it’s without a doubt the most nourishing and life-affirming experience I’ve ever had and I can’t wait to share it with you. So, with that, for Brian, our Instagram Live fans, this is Billy, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care, friends.