Last week, I wrote about my #VacayWithAirAsiaX Busan experience. I made a small mention in my write-up that I was there in Autumn, hence the lack of activities.
No regrets though for I did put my camera to good use as Busan has sprawling landscapes of nature as well as its towering city skyline.
That having said, Busan is actually home to a host of activities all year round including the prestigious, star-studded Busan International Film Festival. By virtue of it being a port-city with the best of both worlds (beach and city) equals opportunities to really experience South Korea for everything that it has to offer.
And all year round, might I add! Here’s the annual calendar of activities (subject to change) for Busan according to seasons:
1. Spring (March – May)
Haeundae Sand Festival
Held on Haeundae Beach, the festival’s program is full of events inspired by the beach’s beautiful white sand. One of the highlights of the festival is the hot sand bath that’s believed to be beneficial for health and beauty, where visitors are buried in the sand from head to toe. Other events include a beach volleyball competition, an exhibition of different types of sand from around the world, and a marathon race. The festival will then continue into the night with spectacular fireworks displays, concerts, and other entertainment events.
Busan Lotus Lantern Festival
The Busan Lotus Lantern Festival is an annual tradition that provides visitors with an opportunity to experience Buddhist cutlure through the many activities being offered. To celebrate Buddha’s birthday, splendid lotus lanterns in different shapes and sizes will be on display. Around 1,700 temples, groups, and related organisations prepare diverse programs such as making lotus lanterns, sharing traditional tea, eating temple food, and celebratory performances. The main events are the Grand Buddhist Ceremony and the Lotus Lantern Parade, both of which attract a lot of spectators regardless of religous order. The Lotus Lantern Parade, followed by the Buddhist ceremony, will take place from Busan Station, Gudeok Playground, and Gwangbok-dong.
Gwangalli Eobang Festival
Every year in April, Gwangalli Beach becomes the venue for the Gwangalli Eobang Festival. This festival reconstructs the customs and warm memories of traditional fishing villages with a variety of events and programs. The most eye-catching are the “Draw-in the Eobang Net” and “Jin Du Eo Hwa” programs. With the use of torchlight, the “Jin Du Eo Hwa” program restores the traditional fishing method of the past. Flaming torches floating on Gwangalli waters is a magnificent sight to witness. The “Draw-in the Eobang Net” program uses a giant fishing net and encourages visitors to join. There is also the “Catch Live Fishes by Hand” program, which invites anyone of any age as long as they are willing to roll up their pants and wade through the water in the fish tank. Freshly caught fish can be cooked and enjoyed on the spot! Don’t forget to join in on the traditional folk games, enjoy the many foods, and at the end of the night, catch the fireworks show that decorates the night sky over the Gwangalli Beach.
Cherry Blossom Tree Festival
Spring time is the best season to get a glimpse of the pretty cherry blossoming trees in Busan! The Cherry Blossom Tree Festival is celebrated during the month of April at Gwangalli Beach. Exhibitions are a part and parcel of the Cherry Blossom Tree Festival in Busan, which includes a market for Korean traditional food, Korean agricultural, and special products. The traditional Korean games like archery and Sirum which is Korean wrestling alike the Sumo of Japan will be enjoyed by the visitors attending the Cherry Blossom Tree Festival, Busan.
2. Summer (June – August)
Busan International Dance Festival
The Busan International Dance Festival (BIDF) is one of the largest dance festivals in Korea. Dancers taking the stage in Haeundae hail from all over the world. This year, the festival was themed under the title “World Dances, Busan Moves!” In the festival, visitors can be assured to experience an eclectic mix of dancing that showcases a variety of excellent dance styles: classical ballet, modern dance, and more.
Busan Sea Festival
The Busan Sea Festival was first held in 1996 to promote Busan as a beautiful harbor city. The festival takes place at Haeundae Beach, Gwangalli Beach, Songdo Beach, Dadaepo Beach, Songjeong Beach, and at other places in Busan. The festival offers various cultural events and unique hands-on programs. As Korea’s first general ocean festival, it puts on many exciting programs including a great opening ceremony, cultural performances, and other special events. With a total of 6 beaches holding the event, each beach has different programs and performances for all ages.
Busan International Magic Festival
Busan International Magic Festival is the largest magic festival in Asia. Taking place on the famous Haeundae Beach and at Busan Citizen’s Hall, this year’s festival introduced 100 magicians from different countries to perform in various magic shows. What more, fans of magic had the chance to interact with noted magic gala shows, Busan International Magic Contest, attend lectures by noted magicians, magic dramas and more, making this festival a unique type of magic festival. Amongst the other programs were such as the guerrilla magic tour, international magic competition, night gala show, child/silver magic show, magic dealer show, international traditional magic project (China), global kids magic show, invited planned performance (magic drama), etc.
3. Autumn (September – November)
Busan International Film Festival (BIFF)
The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) held annually in Haeundae-gu, Busan is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia. The first festival, held from 13th to 21st September 1996, was also the first international film festival in Korea. The focus of the BIFF is introducing new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian countries. The 16th BIFF in 2011 saw the festival move to a new permanent home, the Busan Cinema Center in Centum City. The Busan Cinema Center is an about USD150 million structure designed by Austria-based architecture collective Coop Himmelblau. The about 30,000 m² Cinema Center includes a 4,000-seat outdoor theatre; 4 indoor screens under an LED-covered roof; media centre; archive space; and conference rooms; allowing the festival to include industry forums and educational activities.
Gamcheon Culture Village – Alley Festival
The Gamcheon Culture Village Street Festival is an annual event organised entirely by the local residents, from the planning stage to the operation. The festival offers a variety of new and exciting performances and cultural arts for visitors to enjoy. Gamcheon Culture Village was formed after the Korean war, when many refugees settled in the area, building houses one on top of the other. The area is now famous for its multi-colored roofs, maze-like streets, and the beautiful murals decorating the walls of each house. Festival programs include an alley tour, hands-on experiences to get to know the joys and sorrows of the village’s history, and explanations on over 40 cultural art pieces throughout the village. Wandering through the streets and alleys, you will discover the hidden stories of the grandfathers and grandmothers living here. Small performances will take place on the rooftops above, adding a lively feel to this unique festival.
Busan Fireworks Festival
The Busan Fireworks Festival takes place every October along Gwangalli Beach. The festival’s diverse programs of cultural events, high-tech laser light shows, and myriad of unique and colourful fireworks make this one of the area’s most popular festivals, drawing crowds of over 1 million visitors each year. Though most people flock to the beach for a closer view of the festivities, nearby Hwangnyeongsan Mountain also offers a great view of the fireworks. The festival is open to attendees of all ages and also features other activities such as the Busan Fireworks Festival eve concert and various street performances.
Korea Open Busan International Dragon Boat Festival
The Korea Open Busan International Dragon Boat Festival is held annually along Suyeong River in Haeundae, Busan. Dragon boating is a water leisure sport in which about 20 paddlers per boat row in time to the beat of a drum. Anywhere from 12 – 30 people can sit in one dragon boat (also called yongju or yongseon in Korean) and the crew consists of paddlers, pacers, a drummer and a sweep. The sweep controls the direction of the boat and the pacers control the pace, while the drummer beats the drum to generate excitement. There are three kinds of matches (men’s, women’s, and mixed teams) competing to be the fastest. Dragon boat festivals are now held in various places around the world, and international competitions take place every year in Europe, America, and Asia.
Busan International Rock Festival
Busan International Rock Festival is a leading music festival in Korea, representing the openness and youth of the coastal city of Busan. The festival is organised with the goals of discovering new musical talent, revitalising the music industry, and celebrating indie bands. Along with the international film festival in October, the Busan International Rock Festival has played a vital role in promoting the artistic affluence of Busan, the largest port city in South Korea. The festival is widely recognised as strengthening ties between renowned musicians worldwide. It is a fun and widely attended event that is a must-see for any rock music lover in Korea.
Sea Art Festival
The Sea Art Festival was started in 1987 as a part of the pre-Olympics cultural events of the 1988 Seoul Olympics. It continued every year with the aim of providing a distinctive outdoor exhibition using the spaces of Haeundae and Gwangalli to hold events from 1987 to 1996. The Sea Art Festival has grown into an independent and specialised exhibition of local art that reflects the natural environment and conditions of the region. From 2000 to 2010, the Sea Art Festival was merged into a part of the Busan Biennale. It was separated from the biennale in 2011 and became an independent festival held every odd year on the beach in Busan in order to transform the Sea Art Festival into unique cultural brand. The friendly public atmosphere and communicability that the Sea Art Festival has become naturally connected with is a driving force to build a more familiar and popular image. The Sea Art Festival is also the earliest oceanic art festival is a pioneer in events of its kind.
4. Winter (December – February)
Sunrise Busan Festival (The New Year Festival)
The Sunrise Busan Festival has established itself as the premier coastal cultural festival, taking place on land, sea and sky, and including an air show and a ship flotilla at sea. Among those eager to greet the first sunrise of the new year after bidding farewell to the final sunset, the Sunrise Busan Festival is a popular winter festival, particularly among foreign tourists. At Yongdusan Park, there will be an array of artistic and festive events for the new year – as well as an opportunity to watch the first sunrise of the year, from this panoramic vantage point in downtown Busan. Events both large and small will be staged at many other popular tourist sites around Busan, including at Dadaego Beach, Haeundae Beach, Gwangalli Beach and Dalmaji Park, for those intent on seeing the year’s first sunrise.
The Dalmaji Festival draws some 200,000 to 300,000 moon watchers on each year’s first full moon day (usually around 15th January). They gather and pray for their wishes, watching the full moon rise over Haeundae Beach. The festival consists of a variety of games including kite-flying, nol twigi (seesawing), farmer’s music, traditional mask dance, and other customs. “Feeding the Dragon King” ceremony takes place on Haeundae Beach where people contribute specially prepared rice cakes and fruits as an offering to the sea, hold candles in their hands, and pray for year-long peace and happiness. A grand feast reaches its climax by the burning Daljip (Full Moon House) as the full moon rises above the sea.
Polar Bear Swimming Contest
The Polar Bear Swim festival is not meant to be a competitive event. It is more an opportunity for the participants to run on the beautiful white sands, feel the cold winter wind on their faces, and wish for a year of good health as they enjoy swimming and playing in the ocean water. The energy of the young demonstrated by running into the cold winter ocean is enough to fight back the winter cold. Visitors can also go to Dalmaji Hill near Haeundae to relax at any of the well-known cafés there. From here, you will be able to take in the breath-taking sight of Haeundae, along with exciting performances. There are some events like Aerobic dance performance, ice carving display, body-painting model’s walking and belly dance. And there is time to draw for accommodation’s tickets or airline’s tickets. Every participant is offered T-shirts, towel, and a polar bear doll.
How to get to Busan, you ask? AirAsia X, the world’s best low cost airline* flies from Kuala Lumpur to Busan 4 times a week.
Alternatively, you could also fly in to Seoul via AirAsia X, then take the high-speed KTX train into Busan from Seoul.
AirAsia X operates 14 times weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul, South Korea.
As the flight takes about 6 hours and 20 minutes, you might want to also pre-book baggage allowance and save up to 88%, or use the “Manage My Booking” function to add-ons e.g. Hot meals, Seat options, Premium flatbed, entertainment, and others. Hey, gotta get comfy, right? 😉
Not from Malaysia? Fret not! AirAsia X also offers “Fly-thru” service (connecting flights), with over 43 Fly-thru for Seoul, South Korea spanning across 15 countries in Asia region, Australia, and Saudi Arabia, and over 29 Fly-thru for Busan, South Korea spanning across 9 countries in Asia region and Australia.
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