|A woman hammers a nail into a wooden block, trying to win a prize|
If you live in South Korea, and if you and your love are wandering about Busan at loss for something to do this Saturday night, I recommend that you grab your better half and head to city centre for a date night in Seomyeon. The commercial hub of Busan, Seomyeon is home to the hip and energetic people that make this seaside city so great. With trendy shops and clubs lining the streets and stylish youth crowding the sidewalks, Seomyeon makes for a fun evening out, with plenty to see and do.
Located at the cross-section of Busan's two major subway lines, Seomyeon is a shopper's paradise, with three underground shopping complexes, a major department store, an outdoor market, and hundreds of small shops, cosmetics stores, and boutiques. Starting early and finishing late, shoppers flock here to snatch up the latest styles and to score a good deal. Leggy fashionistas sport short skirts year-round while their equally fashionable dates don shiny suits or model newer looks, such as cuffed slacks and deck shoes in the hottest colours. Make sure you look your best when you head to Seomyeon or risk feeling out of place among the good-looking and well-heeled.
|Pojangmacha serve up delicious local food for cheap|
After hitting the shops, you'll want to stay up late and enjoy the nightlife, so you'll need a bite to eat. With restaurants and bars all around, you'll have no shortage of selection. Dining with the locals at the outdoor food tents known as pojangmacha or at the ultra-kitsch In Tractor are two of my personal favourite places to nosh. Neither wind, rain nor cold weather will keep Busanites from their pojangmacha, found serving up hot snacks and cold drinks from dusk until dawn. My boyfriend and I sampled some tasty fried fish, and washed it down with some beer and soju for under 20,000 won ($20 CND) before setting off in search of entertainment.
|With my boyfriend, enjoying the lively atmosphere of the food tents|
|Tents stay open late to serve the after-bar crowds|
|Patrick with toy radish that he won for me from the claw machine|
and a surprise rose from a street vendor
Teens and twenty-to-thirty-somethings fill the local arcades and batting cages, where cheap games provide the perfect icebreaker for impressing your new date or for challenging old friends. Mini-hoops, air hockey, and video games clang, beep, and whistle, drowned out only by the shouts of young men playing beating their friends at shooting games and virtual taekwondo. The games spill out onto the streets where businessmen young and old clamour to grab cigarettes, soft toys, and other novelties from the sidewalk claw machines. Still others try their luck with roadside hawkers, who sell onlookers the chance to win alcohol or cigarettes if they can beat the carnival-style games. Young women giggle as they try to hammer a nail into a wooden block in under ten blows while men of all ages flex their muscles and attempt to break apart plastic bricks with a single punch. The lucky ones walk away with a large stuffed animal and a happy girlfriend while the not-so-lucky are left to nurse a bruised fist and battered ego.
|A man dons his punching glove for this street-side brick-breaking game|
|This man and his friends light cigarettes, chatting with|
a street arcade hawker to the amusement of onlookers
Appetites satiated and bets collected, most of Seomyeon's party-goers disperse, moving into bars and nightclubs for a long night of dancing and drinking. The performers among them head to the noraebang or singing rooms where they belt out love ballads and rock anthems until the sun rises and others pick up their guitars and spend the night busking on street corners. The remaining revelers stroll Seomyeon 1(il) Beon-ga or First Street, buying roses or candies from street vendors and posing for group photos in front of the large sculptures dotted along the sidewalks. The night out ends only when the weary pile themselves into taxis to head home for some rest before they return next week. So if you have a date to impress, or simply need something to do this weekend, head to downtown Busan and have some fun, Seomyeon-style.
|Guitarists busking along First Street, also known as Art Street for its large sculptures|
To get there: Take the Busan subway to Seomyeon station, stop #119 on Line 1 (Red) or stop #219 on Line 2 (Green). Take Exit 1 or 2 to reach Seomyeon 1(il) Beon-ga or Seomyeon First Street. Take your first right, then a left from Exit 1 to reach food tent street, located behind Lotte Department Store. You can read my review and get directions to In Tractor Pasta & Grill here.