Busan, South Korea: An Insight for Muslim Travellers

Feature Article
Written by @Joehairie
Published for Korea Tourism Organization Malaysia

Formerly known as Pusan, Busan in South Korea is the second largest and most-populous city after Seoul. Famously known for its traditional markets, mountains, beautiful beaches, glamorous marine city, seafood and popular festivals such as Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), Busan is moving towards the direction of becoming Muslim-Friendly.

Thanks to Korea Tourism Organization Malaysia, we were privileged to visit Busan, enabling us to provide an insight for first-time visitors, especially Muslim Travellers.  Also, this insight is based on our itinerary which may benefit all first time visitors, regardless of religion.

Note for Muslim Travellers:
More and more hotels and attractions in South Korea are extending their hospitality to fulfill the obligations of Muslim travelers. For a full list of facilities equipped with prayer rooms (especially in Busan), click HERE

Muslims Prayer times in Busan
For Muslim Travellers’ convenience, here is the link to current prayer times in Busan (Faj’r to Isha’s), click HERE. As in other locations across the world, prayer times changes throughout the year. 

 

Getting to Busan

Malaysian travellers may travel directly from Kuala Lumpur to Busan. The route is currently served by AirAsia X. Those starting their journey in Seoul will have three options; fly from Gimpo Airport to Gimhae Airport in Busan, take the high speed train (KTX) or opt for the bus. It is possible to hop on an express bus from Incheon Airport in Seoul directly to Busan Dongbu Bus Terminal. We do think Gimhae is one great airport, probably for its moderate size that offers seamless movement for passengers. Going through Immigration, baggage claim and Customs was indeed hassle-free.

Links:
Complete guide for entry into South Korea, click HERE
Transportation from and to Gimhae International Airport, click HERE
Gimhae International Airport, click HERE

 

Weather in Busan

It was early December that we visited Busan. Personally, we would say that at that particular time Busan was a bit chilly in the evening and during day time, it was not that really cold except when it’s windy. However, some people wouldn’t be able to tolerate the dropping temperature especially when December coming to its end, so be fully prepared if you are coming during winter season.

Spring and Autumn are said to the best time to visit Busan which is between April and May for Spring while Autumn is between October and November. These two seasons have mild temperatures and favourable weather conditions. Winters (Starts in December) are cold, dry and with high winds.

 

Where to stay?

Your preferred place to stay will pretty much depends on your budget and itinerary. It can be a daunting task for first-time visitors but fret not as there are tonnes of information available online. Transportation system in Busan is quite efficient and you can get to your desired places easily. During our visit, we stayed at Ramada Encore Haeundae, a short 5 minutes walk to Haeundae Beach! The Hotel is located right before Haeundae station (subway line no.2 in Busan) .

Links:
Details of Busan's Transportation,click HERE
For full list of recommended hotels in Busan, click HERE

 

Dining Guide for Muslim visitors

Eating Halal food is a must for Muslims. While travelling in South Korea and specifically in Busan, Muslim Travellers may use this guide to help them to decide which eateries are best for them. Eateries in South Korea’s big cities are becoming more and more aware of Muslim Travellers specific requirement when dining. While becoming Halal 100% (as in Halal Certified by appointed authorities) is still a long way to go, at least there are some eateries where Muslim travellers are able to dine in comfortably.

When selecting appropriate eateries, Muslim travellers in Busan may observe the 4 labels above. The specification for each category is clearly described in the diagram below. Eateries normally display their respective labels at the front of the outlet, enabling Muslim diners to determine whether to go in and dine or simply walk away. At the end of the day, it will be individual’s decision and it is always smart to politely walk away whenever there is doubt.

For a full list of Muslim Friendly eateries in South Korea, click HERE.

 

Muslim Friendly Eateries in Busan

Here are some Muslim Friendly eateries in Busan that we were able to visit and had amazing foods.

 

헬로인디아 알와하 Hello India Al-Waha

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Address: 23-1 Gunam-ro 41beon-gil, Jung-dong, Haeundae, Busan, South Korea
Phone: +82 51-731-2015
Location in Google Maps: Click HERE
Operation Hours: 11.00-23.00
This eatery serves Indian, Lebanese and Arabic cuisine. Their well-known dishes are Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Naan and Biryani Rice. The brand have outlets/branches across South Korea.

 

남천숯불장어구이 Namcheon Gwangyang Sutbul Jangeogui

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Address: 71-1, Hwangnyeong daero, 489beon-gil, Suyeong-gu, Busan
Phone: +82 51-623-9276
Location in Google Maps: Click HERE
Operation Hours: 10.30-24.00
Jangeogui is Korean food that is made from fresh water eels, broiled or grilled. Here, at this eatery, we tried the charcoal-grilled eel. Honestly, it was weird in the beginning but as we go along, the grilled eel and its sides were actually delicious!

 

서울삼계탕 Wonjo Seoul Samgyetang 

Address: 36 Nampo-gil, Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, Busan
Phone: +82 51-245-3696
Location in Google Maps:  Click HERE
Operation Hours: 09.30-22.00
This eatery specializes in samgye-tang (ginseng chicken soup) and has had 60 years of tradition in Nampo-dong. Other famous dishes are Nokgak-samgye-tang (ginseng chicken soup with a deer horn).

 

더이스트인부산 The East in Busan

Address: 266 Gijanghaean-ro, Gijang-eup, Gijang, Busan
Phone: +82 51-722-2000
Location in Google Maps: Click HERE
Operation Hours: 11.00-21.40
We would say it is a semi-upscale restaurant that serves Fresh Snow Crab, steamed without seasoning! All main dishes (Crab Soup) and sides such as Sushi served to us were amazingly delicious! All types of seafood are available to choose from their Aquariums!

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Things To Do in Busan

 

1-Visit Busan Al-Fatah Mosque

Established in 1980 with funds donated from a Libyan benefactor, the Busan Mosque has grown into the largets Islamic Institution in the southeastern part of Korea and the spiritual home of all Muslims in Busan, Daegu, Ulsan, Gyeongsangnam-do and Gyeongsangbuk-do.

It plays a central role in the Islamic missionary activities conducted in the surrounding area. The renovation of its interior was recently completed by Turkish Government. This Mosque is visited by over 25,000 Muslims annually. Join the local community in performing daily prayers as well as in their communal activities. Male Prayer Room is on the 2nd floor while for female, on the 3rd floor. A halal restaurant, Cappadocia Turkish Kebab is located nearby the mosque.

30-1 Namsan-dong, Geumjeong-gu, Busan
Phone: +82 51-518-9992

 

2-Busan Marine Natural History Museum

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Busan Marine Natural History Museum is the first and largest museum specializing in marine natural history in Korea. Currently it has 25,000 items relating to marine life from more than 100 different countries, including rare and native Korean species.

Address: (Oncheon-dong) 175 Ujangchunro, Dongnae-gu, Busan
Phone: +82 51-553-4944
Entrance Fee: None
Operation Hours: 0900-1800 (Admission: until 1700)
Details: Click HERE and HERE

 

3-Gamcheon Culture Village

Dubbed as Santorini of Korea, Gamcheon Culture Village is a location that must be visited! It is actually a village (people still living there!) that used to be home to refugees that underwent an awesome transformation thus becoming a creative community. Some even named it as ‘Machu Picchu of Korea’ and ‘Lego Village’. We couldn’t agree more as once we went inside, we saw with our very own eyes the beauty of the village!

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It’s a village that comes with small alleys, mini museums and souvenir shops as well as trendy cafes run by the community members. We recommend that you spend at least 3 hours here to discover hidden gems in the small alleys. For the girls, if you see a shop renting Hanboks, try it and walk proudly, showcasing it to other visitors!

Address: Gamnae 2-ro 203 ( Gamchun- dong), Saha-gu, Busan
Phone: +82 51-204-1444
Website: Click HERE
Entrance Fee: None but support the community by buying the village map for just 2000 KRW and you will get 2 Gamcheon Culture Village postcards once all 4 stamps collected (checklist)!

 

4-Haeundae Beach 

For its popularity, it does not matter if you come here during the day or in the evening as long as you come here! But of course it will be up to your own preference. We’re in Busan during early winter so it was a lot different than things during summer. The beach is about 1.5km long, over a 30~50m wide area with shallow bay, perfect for swimming (not during winter!). There are all kinds of accommodations from luxury hotels to private guesthouses have developed in the area around Haeundae Beach thus making it as a perfect summer vacation spot. Various cultural events and festivals are held throughout the year.

Address: 264, Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan

 

5-The Bay 101

Located in a culture and art complex in Haeundae area (near to Haeundae Beach), this spot attracts visitors for its beautiful night view of the city. Facilities available here are; Yacht Club, Gallery 101, Restaurant, Cafe, Function/Seminar rooms and many more.

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Address: 52, Dongbaek-ro, Haeundae
Website: Click HERE

 

6- Discover Street Food

Be adventurous by finding street vendors in locations off the beaten path. You do not necessarily have to buy or consume the foods but at least you get to see what the locals like to eat. It is an approach to get closer to the locals way of living. For Muslim travellers, while it is important to observe dietary requirements, there are actually some street food that you can actually buy and consume. But even if you’re not buying, you will get a whole new perspective in regard to street food in Korea, something that you can be proud of when relaying travel stories to friends!

(Hint: Yummy delicious Ssiat Hotteok, Gyeran bbang )! 

Location: Across Busan

 

7- Busan Christmas Tree Festival

Obviously, an event to come to only if you are visiting during winter season! The Busan Christmas Tree Festival is Busan’s annual winter event held in the Gwangbok-ro area of the Jung-gu District in Busan. For 2018, the Festival is ongoing for 37 days beginning  December 1, 2018 until January 6, 2019. There will be three different zones with spectacular lights as well as other activities such as performances.

Location: Around Gwangbok-ro, Jung-gu
Highlight: The Giant Christmas Tree

 

8- BIFF Square

BIFF Square is a place where it used to be where the Busan International Film Festival was held. Currently, it’s a shopping street full of Korean cosmetic and fashion brands; a place great to wander around to hunt for the ‘movie celebrities hand-print’ and be amazed with its ‘Star Street’ and ‘Festival Street’ which is 428-meter in length. Street vendors of many kinds, some selling delicious street foods are just everywhere! Take note that BIFF Square, Busan Tower (Yongdusan Park), Busan Christmas Tree Festival, Gukje Market and Jagalchi Market are all nearby. You may need a whole day to see all these places in one go.

Address: 20, BIFF gwangjang-ro, Jung-gu, Busan

 

9- Jagalchi Market

Said to be one of Busan’s cores, Jagalchi Market is located on the shore-side road in Busan’s Jung-gu. It is in within walking distance from BIFF Square. Being Korea’s largest seafood market, both live and dried fish are sold here. As most of the people who sell fish are women, they are called Jagalchi Ajumma, which means middle-aged or married woman in Korean. The market’s main building has 7 floors and it will be best to come here during day time so that you will have enough time to go around.

Operation Hours: 0500-2200
Must do: See, buy and eat fresh seafood!

 

10- Shinsegae Centum City 

A landmark of Busan, Shinsegae Centum City Department Store is registered as the largest department store in the world! With 11 floors, it houses countless number of items all under one roof as well numerous entertainment spots such as ice rink, golf, cinema theater, restaurants and a large Spa! If you love shopping, you need at least half-day to go around and more if you go to the Spa!

Address: 35, Centum nam-daero, Haeundae-gu, Busan
Operation Hours: 10.30-20.00
Website: Click HERE

 

11- Spa Land

Located inside Shinsegae Centum City Department Store, it has its own entrance and exit as its operation hours is different than the shopping complex. With 2 floors and 8264.5m² in size, the Spa offers separate bath for men and women as well as common meeting place for both genders to enjoy the outdoor foot bath as well as Dry Sauna zone. Snack bar is also available. The private area for each gender requires customers to be in their birthday suit but not in the common area.

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Address: 35, Centumnam-daero, Haeundae-gu, Busan
Phone: +82 51-745-2900
Operation Hours: 0600-2400
For Admission Fees, Rules and Regulations, please refer to their official Website: Click HERE

 

12-Busan Cinema Center

Adjacent to Shinsegae Centum City Department Store is Busan Cinema Center, a venue of the Busan International Film Festival, which is a major world film festival. There are theaters of different sizes in the 3 buildings of the center, named Cine Mountain, BIFF Hill, and Double Cone. The center runs a tour program as well as film-related lectures. Known as the cinema paradise of Korea, the center is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Busan.

Address: #1467 u-1dong Haeundae-gu‚ Busan
Phone: +82 51-780-6000
Website: Click HERE

 

13- Join Fish Cake Making Experience Program

At Goraesa Eomuk Haeundae, apart from having delicious eomuk (fish cakes), learn the art of making and preparing your own eomuk dishes! Cooking class is available on the upper floor of the restaurant. Have fun with friends or family members in learning the Korean way in preparing eomuk.

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Address: 14, Gunam-ro, Haeundae-guBusan
Phone: +82 51-1577-9820
Website: Click HERE

 

14- Songdo Beach Skywalk

The 365-metre-long Skywalk extends out from the edge of Songdo beach with view the of city skyline and Songdo Beach which was opened in 1913 as Korea’s first official beach. The curved Skywalk is said to be similar to a dragon shape.

Address129-4, Amnam-dong, Seo-guBusan, South Korea

 

15- Songdo Air Cruise 

Busan Air Cruise starts from Songdo Bay station up to Songdo Sky Park. We highly recommend you to hop on the crystal cabin so that you may have clear view of whatever is down there or around you! One-way travel time is about 8 minutes and 30 seconds. The Sky Park houses Korea’s first Cable Car Museum, Asia’s first trapeze “VR SkyWing”, a garden, replicas of dinosaurs  and many more.

For ticket’s price and more information, visit Busan Air Cruise Official Website, click HERE.

 

16- Learn How To Make Halal Makgeolli

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Makgeolli or Makkoli is Korean version of rice wine. It is an alcoholic beverage which makes it a big NO for Muslims. However, at Yeonyojae School Of Cultural Fermentation, Muslims may now learn how to make Makgeolli, minus the alcohol part. If you are visiting Busan and have the interest to learn the art of Making Halal Makgeolli, Yeonyojae is the perfect place for you.

Yeonyojae
School of Cultural Fermentation
2-3F, 110 Jeonpodae-ro Nam-gu, Busan
Phone: +82 51-636-9355
Email: dana@ynjschool.com
Website: www.ynjschool.com

 

Bottom Line

We would say that Muslim Travellers will not have any significant issues when visiting Busan. There are plenty options when it comes to dining as more and more eateries are becoming Muslim Friendly. The introduction of labels and categories for eateries will somehow help Muslim travellers to have more confidence whenever they are to dine out.

Busan Al-Fatah Mosque is located in Busan and Muslim travellers who needs to perform Friday prayer or Congregational prayer, may do so at this particular Mosque. Muslims are welcome at anytime to come here be it for prayer times or joining in the communal activities.

On another note, Busan as a popular tourist destination offers many activities and attractions. Our visit to Busan was based on a 3 days itinerary and we believe if you stay a bit longer, you will be able to do more things, at your own pace, according to your budget and time. We have listed for you 16 Things To Do and 4 Eateries to visit. It will be up to you to design your own itinerary based on our recommendations and perhaps adding some other activities.

For more information about Busan and other locations in South Korea, visit Korea Tourism Organization official sites, by clicking HERE and HERE.

The trip to Busan from December 2, 2018 to December 4, 2018 was organized and sponsored by Korea Tourism Organization Malaysia.

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