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I do want to point out: this IS a pure blue-collar town. I do think the facilities here are great and there's some stuff to see, but if you need the stimulation of a big, modern city, Busan may be better. Masan is modern enough, but its not a tourist town, so it doesn't have the stores or places, say, Busan may have, but there's enough stuff here for some people, depends on your needs, I guess..
I think the kind of people who will do well here are the self-starters, one who can find their own entertainment, you know?
Masan people are nice, but kind of tough, the kids dont stare as much as in other places, which is amusing. It helps if you are kind of tough, too. Anyway, there ARE alot of buses going and coming at all hours. You'll notice, alot of teens and then older people, not so many 20s or 30s, (they tend to head north). Thats true of most smaller cities anywhere. I guess Im saying it may take a bit more to find the more "cultural" aspects and people here. The 3/15 Art Hall is nice, I saw a great modern dance recital there, and there were alot of people so you know there are alot of people here who like that stuff, try to find out where they meet if you dig that kind of thing. Im guessing either Joyces and All That Jazz would be a good place to start.
Alot of people come here from the more outlying areas to work. There's not only foreign migrant workers, but also Korean migrants from the countryside, working in construction. Ive read theres about 2000 foriegn residents in Masan, alot of them are Chinese-Koreans, Im sure, but you'll see Russians, Phillipinos, Indonesians, Pakistanis, a few Japanese, and of course, the English Teachers. Engineers, teachers, and factory workers.
The Bus system here is great and very busy. It seems like Masan is the satellite city of Changwon (like Gyunggi-Do and Seoul). Buses here can be just as crowded as a Seoul bus and regularly are, very bustling! Ive met people from Changwon, Jinhae, and even Busan who work here and they go home at night. The only thing is the information is almost in Korean, so if you cant read Korean, Id suggest a crash course (with Jenna at KLIFF at PNU(look her up on facebook), you can take the bus there easily on saturday to study). All the bus stops have digital terminals with the bus times and arrivals (that is easy to get), so just find out what bus goes where, youre golden.
There are two department stores to speak of, Daewoo and Shinsegae. I personally have been once to Daewoo and thats enough. Its kind of old and set up for Ajumma. Not anything special in the supermarket area, really. Though, they do have a Foot Locker. Why is it there, I dont know.
Shinsegae is not as elaborate as the ones in Seoul, but it does have a few things and StarBucks, for your Latte fix. Hours are 10:30-8:00.
In HapSeong-Dong, its kind of the downtown. Not many western places: MacDonalds (one of 2 in Masan), Lotteria (tons of them here), Pizza Hut, Mr Pizza, Dunkin Donuts, Ti-Amos (Korean chain, great gelato). Theres a few coffee places. I heard Red Beans coffeeshop is really good, but havent tried it yet. Theres a Wa-Bar and some other western-style bars there, too. Theres 4 movie theatres in town and 2 of them are here, CGV and Masan Theatre (which is like CGV for some reason)
In Hapseong, theres an underground mall, but nothing really down there except clothes and makeup.
There are 3 bus stations. The ShiWae Bus Terminal has buses to all over the place, esp two places in Busan. It takes 40 mintues on a no-traffic day and lets you off at DongRae (near PNU) or SaSang (near Nampo-Dong). Its under 5000 won one way and easy peasy. Last bus returning to Masan from Busan is like 1am everyday. Its always busy. SO EASY to jaunt over to Busan even at night for a little something you may need, whatever that may be
There's the Kosok Bus Terminal, near Shinsegae (7 mintues from Hapseong Dong), it has buses from 6am to 1 am going to Seoul (4 hours 10 mintues) every 20 minutes. They also go to Daegu, Daejeon, and some other places.
I heard theres a NamBu Terminal, but i havent been there.
There is Masan Station they will start running the KTX from early 2010. There are 5 trains a day to downtown Busan, and you can go to Miryang and transfer to the KTX to go to Seoul if you need to be. For Busan, the ShiWae bus is the ticket, though. I found the Masan trains to run less frequently than alot of other stations and for some reason, it seems alot of young people ride the buses and the older people take the trains. Dont ask me. Anyway, buses.
I was thinking this place was a cutoff country town. It IS a country town, there are really nice people here, thats the
first thing I felt when I got here, and I still think so. BUT youre not cutoff at all. People go and come constantly. Its a vibrant
as Seoul in some aspects, which is a nice surprise. It lacks in western chains, but has access to alot of cool places if you need those fixes.
Ok, theres an Emart (havent been) and a TESCO/HomePlus. Tesco has a decent selection indeed and I think alot of
foreigners will be happy there (shredded wheat cereal!!!). Lotte Shopping Center in Changwon gets a mentions as well (but thats not Masan, is it?)
Theres alot more western chains and stuff in Changwon which is easily accessible from here.
BIG BIG BIG NOTE!!!!:
There is a BEAUTIFUL LOVELY GORGEOUS shopping complex called CITY SEVEN that went up in June of 2008. From Shinsegae it can take from 25-40 mintues depending on the bus. (bus NO. 102/109/703 all go there and Im sure others do too). Its like a mini-COEX it has:
QUIZNOS!!!!, (recently they told me customers are way down, go people or itll close!)
BANDI AND LUNIS bookstore (with English books, and theyll order anything for you),
SEVEN SPRINGS (steak place),
IL MARE (Korean Italian chain, kind of pricey, but decent)
.... and a bunch of other western things. I almost cried when I found it my first day here. I thought Id have to go to Busan. But its easy enough to go to, last bus back to Masan is 11:00. Its built with the luxury Xi apartment complex and is connected to a PULLMAN (UK chain) Hotel that actually is really busy (all the shipping companies here have alot of foreigners coming to and fro) and its next to CECO (Changwon convention center, which is nice to look around as well)
Its designed by California-based Jerde and you can see pictures. Click Here.
You can tell its foreign-designed instantly. Very different from its surroundings, for sure.
Anyway, Changwon has a great vibe as well, different from Masan, but thats for another time. Ill add more later.
I like Chang-Dong, its quiet and small, a charming little Korean street. Its got HIKARU (Japanese Curry place, down from Mexico, yummy), and er, MEXICO. I talked to the owner and his wife, who is MEXICAN! (probably the only Mexican person in GyungNam) and they make everything in the place down to their chips (and they really are delicious). This probably is some of the best Mexican food Ive ever had in Asia. TeaHeim is a nice little coffee shop with those nice Malaysian mocha buns, the LesMore shoe place had some sales on some cool kicks, but theres not much else there. People tell me that 10 years ago it was busy, but most people just go to Hap-Seong Dong now. Even Dunkin Donuts closed down, so you know thats bad . Its just got a slower vibe to it. Its small. Ive heard theres a couple of good coffee places there that roast their own stuff, but I havent checked it out. A few steak places, too, are mixed in if you want to try 'em. There's a cool little market behind it and some cool clothes places. Just take a taxi to Chang-Dong KOH-AH.
note: After writing this, I went to Chang-Dong for some curry, I never noticed JOYCE'S BAR is right there. Its one of the foreigner-friendly bars. The owner was standing in front and gave me a big "Hello!," seemed friendly enough. There are a few more western style bars around there (one named THE GANGSTERS), but Im guessing they dont speak Korean, so take a friend. Across the street, 2nd alley up on the right (maybe its the 1st, hmm.)
Take any bus to GyungNam university to find the other bar, ALL THAT JAZZ, the "other" bar.
Across the street from Chang-Dong theres a street going down the way, the alleyway to the left of that is called OH DONG DONG TONG SOOL GOL MOK. Its a cool little alley of odeng bars, Korean speakeasys, hostess bars, Karaoke bars. The walls are painted all down the way, very cool artsy vibe. I went on Sunday, but Im guessing its rockin' on Friday and Saturday. Take your friend.
In case you want some music instrument stuffs, there are a few music stores in town, the best one Ive found is across from ShinSeGae depato:) and up the street about 10 minutes walk. Its called YOUNGJIN AKGI, and its run by all women! They almost always wear black. I think they are some kind of band, maybe a club act. Anyway, they dont really have any high end guitar stuff, but odd enough, they have a nice selection of Korean and Chinese guitars, some amps, some pedals, and some high end guitar cables and straps (GetEmGetEm, made in the US, my favorite brand! 20% of proceeds go to animal rescue). Why they are there I dont know, but theyll order anything they can get for you. They also have Ludiwg drums, etc. Pricey stuff and assembly-line stuff. They also have practice rooms, with drums, amps, etc. The owner quoted me 80000 a month, an hour a day, but Im sure you could get extra time easily. Nice little place. Maybe a tad pricey, but anyway..
If you need jeans, you can go to DAEWOO department store and hit the 2nd floor, right off the escalator on the right. American Jeans, which is a Korean chain that have Levis, etc., in a decent variety and belts as well, they go up to 38 and they always have a sale bin, about 20000-50000. I like the one in Daegu so I went got some stuff to DAEWOO last week. I still say ShinSegye is better, but a Foot Locker and this American Jeans makes it worth a little trip if you need some clothes. (12/28 edit: they opened a Cafe Pascucci on the 1st floor with a outdoor deck. May be nice in the summer).
LOTTE in Changwon has a UNIQLO on the 4th floor if you need some cool cheap Japanese-designed clothes. In case you dont know, Uniqlo started in Japan in 1997 as a Gap alternative for stuff with a bit more Asian flavor. In the summer, their t-shirts are huge with the Hipster crowd in the U.S. if you can get 'em. They also have chinos and the like and theyre decent and wont break the bank.
CHANGWON, ok then, Ill do it.
OK, Ill admit I go to Changwon a bit because its easy to go from my house.. If you take the 109 bus and get off at JOONG-ANG Dong, you can find O'Briens in the middle of those buildings. Its a foreigner-friendly bar, and has some decent food if you want some western style and it wont break the bank. You have to ride the bus which turns behind the E-Mart and I think its the next stop. In front of O'Briens, theres a coffee place that makes its own chocolate and its great, forget the name. I havent been to the I.P. bar, but its the "other" place to go.
If you take the 703 bus and get off after Lotte Department Store, walk down past the Starbucks and turn at the SamSung Digital Plaza, its a left and go about 3 minutes, they built a KRAZE BURGER (upscale sandwich place, good, but a bit pricey) and a HAKOYA Japanese ramen place, which is a newer chain here. As a "expert" in Japanese ramen:) Its good, very nice when you need a fix. Good, I said, nice Gyoza. Behind the Lotte about a 3 minute walk, there's a SUBWAY, too. Not too bad, but not as up to date as the places in Seoul (no sandwich toaster, menu is kind of 5 years ago). I suggest cold-cut sandwiches, and the owner speaks great English. Funny guy.
If you get off at CHANGWON-SHEE-CHUNG (city hall, before E-Mart) and cross the street, I just saw theyre opening a Burger King (thank God, there are too many Lotterias here) the fourth of December, thats a good thing, its a change. Theyre re-doing the downtown, and rebuidling the streets and corners, looks better for sure. MAYA Indian Food is really nice and not too bad (behind the Burger King), look up because its on the third floor on the right). Next to O'Briens, there's BomBay Indian restaurant but I havent been there. I do like the Maya chickpea masala curry. There's also a HIKARU curry place like Masan. Oh, if you walked to the street near the lake, theres a Vietnamese place there, but Ive never gone. The lake is nice and there's the Art-Hall.
When you get off the bus at City Hall, if you go behind the buildings (not across the street, same side), there is a little
grocery store that sell foodstuff for the migrant workers, foods and drinks from Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Phillipines. I had some nice snacks there and the Ajumma owner is very nice. Theres a Italian restauarant there (theres another in Chang-Dong), but I dont recommend it. Maybe you'd like it.
Starbucks near the Lotte seems to be the place to go and hang out. Alot of people (20s/30s) go there and they have a smoking room, which is the first smoking area Ive seen in a Starbucks (I thought they were all no smoking). Ive seen people meeting friends there, teaching, studying, and I've been talked to a couple times. Im thinking its a kind of hook-up place in Changwon, maybe not. Alot of English-speaking girls go there, though.
For some reason, the CITY-7/Pullman Ambassador doesnt seem to have as many English teachers hanging there as I thought it would. Maybe its too far from the town center for them. It IS kind of down towards Masan. It DOES have alot of int'l businessmen walking around. Its a nice series of buildings, design-wise. The Changwon bus center is nice, clean and has alot of buses out of it. Theres another little department store next to the bus center and behind the Tesco/HomePlus, but its not much and the movies are the same as most other places. Skip it.
There is a LOTTE mart in the basement of the CITY7, but Ill say just go to Tesco/HomePlus. Its cheaper and has a better selection. I sitll havent been to E-Mart. The supermarket in the basement of the LOTTE department store has some goodies.
OK, then. I think thats enough for now. If I find more stuff I think will be useful Ill let you know.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
ONE THING I don't think I've mentioned, and this may be favorite part of Masan and Changwon, is the fresh fruit and veggies everywhere. I've lived in other parts of Korea, but for some reason, I feel like there's more here. Not only in the markets, but on so many street corners. I went for some Japanese ramen, finished with a STARBUCKS, and then looped around to a little street corner where the ajumma showered me with mini-mandarins for 3000 won. Always smile and speak as much Korean as you can. Also, sometimes the first customer of the day gets special treatment, remember that.
Well, anyway, COLD STONE CREAMERY just opened up behind where the BURGER KING is in Changwon. It is nice to have a sweet little change like that. They also cleaned up the streets in that area. Pretty nice. When the weather is nice, have an ice cream and take it to the lake behind the area.
Now, back to Chang-Dong in Masan, I did want to mention MIDO DONKASS (sign is written in Korea), nice little
place and food is decent. Korean style TonKatsu and their Hamburg Steak is also nice, too. It's on the main road, across from Chang-Dong COA, down the road a bit, kind of in a basement. Walk up the hill from MIDO, and there's a ROTTIBUN if you like that. There's a few here in town, in Hap-Seong Dong, too.
I found a couple of cool coffee places. Go to Chang-Dong to the middle of the area (past the alley with MEXICO and HIKARU curry), turn left and walk down (past the old MEGABOX theatre (now gone)), cross the road and look for the BENY BENY sign on the right. BENY BENY roast their own beans, and its quite delicious. I had a Vienna coffee with Brazillian coffee, soooo nice. They even roast the almonds that they put on the cream. Fantastic. (Near the Burger King in Changwon, there's a BENY BENY coffee academy. It may be the same group). Anyway, great coffee, nice selection, as well. In Masan! Who knew?!?
Pass BENY BENY and go to the corner and look right. You'll see a sign for COFFEE AND BEAN coffee school and cafe, as well as a jazz bar called GIANT STEP (yes, no "s"), which are both located in this little alley on the left, in the same building. I went but they were closed. Maybe they'd be worth checking out. I'm quite happy with a meal at MEXICO and some coffee at BENY BENY. It had quite a few customers when I was there, so it appears coffee lovers here know about it.