Left with only half a day in Busan, I still hadn’t checked out the famous Busan fish cake shop called Samjin Amook (삼진어묵) that my Korean friend had highly recommended! :O As I found out that its flagship store is in Yeongdo-gu & near to Yeongdo Bridge (영도대교) , I decided to head there on my last morning in Busan.
I took the subway & alighted at Nampo Station (남포역, Busan Subway Line 1), Exit 8, the closest exit to the bridge. This exit is directly linked to the towering Lotte Mart Gwangbok Store (롯데마트 광복점). A pity I didn’t have enough time to shop in this mega mart… Anyway, once you leave the building, just go straight ahead & Yeongdo Bridge is right in front.
Built in November 1934, Yeongdo Bridge is the first bridge in Busan to connect the 2 islands in the city, Jung-gu on the mainland & Yeongdo-gu in the south. Symbolizing the sorrows of Koreans during the Korean War, many came to the temporary capital of Korea & wait to be reunited with their families in front of the bridge. It is also the only single-leaf bascule bridge in Korea, which lifts up on 1 side to make way for large vessels crossing the bridge. Because of the massive traffic jams it created, it was shut down for 47 years. Only in 2013, it was reconstructed & reopened for use.
The bridge lift, raised up to a 75 degree angle, happens daily from 2 to 2.15 pm, so all traffic will have to stop & wait in front of the bridge during the 15-min bridge lift. Too bad I had already bought my KTX ticket to Suwon departing at 12.40 pm so couldn’t witness the lift. Prior to the trip, I read online that the bridge lift happens at 12 pm daily. Alas, according to the tourist information staff I talked to in Nampo-dong, it was changed recently due to feedback that the bridge lift at 12pm had brought much inconvenience given it is the peak lunch hour. If I had realised this change earlier, I could have made my way here right after visiting Gamcheon Cultural Village before proceeding to other attractions in Jung-gu the day before. 😦
Yeongdo bridge measures just 14.6 m long & 25.3 m wide, with 6 driving lanes now compared to just 4 lanes in the past. Along the pedestrian path, you can stop to admire the lovely scenery at the port. I also found some monuments & information board at the other end of the bridge (Yeongdo-gu side), where visitors can read more about the history of this 82-year-old reconstructed Yeongdo Bridge, which plays a significant role in the memories of the older Koreans.
As I crossed the bridge to get to Yeongdo-gu’s Taejong-ro, I started searching for directions on Google map to get to Samjin Amook flagship store, since it’s supposed to be within walking distance. Gosh, no matter how I try to tilt my mobile, the suggested directions kept saying it’s more than 20 min walk, with some telling me to take a bus there instead. 😦 As it wasn’t the 1st time I experienced an unreliable Google map in Korea, I tried to ask a few locals for walking directions instead, but none of them could give me concrete directions. ;( I got a bit panicky with the clock ticking, as I still had to return to hotel for my luggage then head to Busan Station to catch the KTX ride. Out of desperation, I went into the police station to seek help as they seemed to be my only hope then. 😛 To my pleasant surprise, instead of merely giving me precise directions to Samjin, the police offered to drive me to the shop! 😉
Maybe I should say, I was more shocked than surprised when they offered to drive me to the shop. What a memorable 1st ride in a police car hehe… I was a bit worried at 1st that I may not find my way back to Nampo Station later since they actually decided to give me a free ride instead of telling me the walking directions. But the 2 policemen who drove me there were really friendly & nice, they assured me it’s not far, just walk back in the direction of the famous bridge & I should be fine. 🙂
Upon arrival at the shop, I looked in awe at the large space Samjin occupies. Next to the retail store (top pic in collage above) is its small Samjin Amook Museum (삼진어묵 박물관), wow! If I had the time, I would have gone into the museum to check out the history of this reputable brand that has been established since 1953, maybe can even have some fun trying to make tasty fish cakes! Opposite the retail store is the seating area (bottom pic in collage above) for customers who wish to tuck into the yummy fish cakes right away.
The successful business is currently run by the third generation. They have 7 outlets just in Busan alone, as well as a few other outlets in the provinces of Seoul, Gyeonggi and Chungnam. I took quite a while to decide which fish cakes to buy, because the selection is just too much! Looking at the crowd in the shop, made me think that their fish cakes must be really good, because it was barely 11 am & there were still quite a handful of customers.
In the end, I bought 4 types to try: crab meat fish cake (꼬마맛살, KRW500 / S$0.60), mushroom flavour fish cake (버섯어묵, KRW500 / S$0.60), spicy flvour fish cake (홍단, KRW500 / S$0.60), & cheese croquette (고로케, KRW1,200 / S$1.40). Opposite the retail store was the seating area with 2 microwave ovens, disposable cutlery, drinking water as well as the rest room for customers. Fortunately I’m alone, else I might not be able to get a seat here.
My favourite item was the cheese croquette followed by the spicy flavour fish cake, because both were more flavourful compared to the other 2. After eating all 4 items, I feel the reason why Samjin Amook wins over the other fish cakes in Busan is because of the good quality fish meat that they use. Compared to the fish cake (오뎅) you can find in Seoul, Busan fish cake is thicker with a stronger fish taste. That’s probably due to the advantage of Busan being the largest seaport of Korea I guess. 😉 I thought of buying more of the delicious snack to bring to my next leg of the trip, but wasn’t confident that I would be able to find an oven to heat them up. So I had to abandon the idea & left the shop.
[Update: October 2017]
On 20 September 21017, Samjin Amook has opened its first & only international outlet in Singapore at Ion Orchard, a popular shopping mall directly connected to Orchard MRT station. Woohoo!~ & I’ve already satisfied my cravings for the top Korean fishcake brand twice. 😉
The size of its Ion Orchard outlet is nowhere compared to its Busan flagship store, but I guess it’s a good start. There is also not as wide a variety of fish cake products as compared to the one in Busan, but with 50 different types to choose from, it’s still awesome isn’t it? 😉 Taste wise, it’s similar to what I got in Korea too. Of course, the price is higher in Singapore compared to in Korea, but at least I wouldn’t need to fly all the way to Kimchi-land for an authentic taste of Korean fish cake now. 😛
For more details of its Singapore outlet, you may check their Facebook page for updates.
Although Samjin flagship store seems quite a distance from Yeongdo Bridge, the police’s advice helped me in my navigation. Upon leaving the seating area, I turned left to where I was dropped off & could spot the bridge on the far right. Phew! So using the bridge as the landmark, within 10 min, I was back on the pedestrian path of the bridge! I’m not sure exactly how to guide you if you want to walk to Samjin Amook from the bridge, but I shall end this post with a pic taken from the bridge, & you can see the area where this reputable fish cake store is. Hope it helps! 🙂
Post-trip thoughts: If only I had known about the European-like Oedo Island about 1 hour 30 min away from Busan before the trip. I would have joined the day tour from Trazy.com for a fuss-free scenic tour to experience the unique blend of Korean-European sights on the beautiful island! Click here for more details of the convenient day trip. 🙂