And so, spring is here once again. The temperatures have risen to the point that plum blossoms, the heralds of spring, are blooming en masse. Rather than flocking to spring flowers like everyone else, why not take this time to head to the quiet alleyways of Busan? Today, we invite you to the Millak-dong Cafe Street, which is quite close to the Gwangalli Beach.
Cafe Sightseeing in Alleyways
From Gwangalli Beach, go past the Millak-dong Raw Fish Street to find the apartment complex to the right-hand side, and the alleyways leading into the residential districts to the left-hand side. Gwangalli Beach is one of the most recognizable tourist sites in Busan, but old residential districts such as these still remain near the beach. Millions of visitors visit the beach every year, but not many know that these alleyways, often hidden from their view, hide the interesting stories.
Any visit to Millak-dong's alleyways must include the quirky cafes hidden throughout the neighborhood. More than 10 cafes have moved into this otherwise quiet residential district, creating an interesting clash between the hip cafes with old alleyways.
"Casual Book Shop", whose retro-chic sensibilities are apparent from its apricot-tiled exterior, is a comfortable cafe furnished with wood tones that go exceedingly well with the calm alley outside. The view of avid readers reading their book under the drowsy afternoon sun, a cup of coffee in hand, invites one into the comfortable interior regardless of one's love for books. "Cafe Voisin" stands next to the old Okcheontang Public Bath, its sharp roof and window walls recognizable from afar. Its signboard cheekily proclaims "we serve coffee" on a signboard with the familiar pictogram of heat rising from a bath. "Schwarzwald" is a cafe that was furnished from one of the many single-story houses in the neighborhood. Trees with sharp silhouettes and the design choices hearken back to its namesake in Central Europe.
One more block ahead is the "Cafe Imanti", a cafe known for its chic interior and delectable dessert; "rad. Coffee Stand", whose exposed concrete interior design treads on the fine edge of modern sensibilities; "LOWNGRIN", a pretty cafe with a warm atmosphere brought by the harmony between white and wood tones; and "iNNYGO Espresso Bar", offering espresso against the backdrop of a grey-green tone interior.
Don't miss the other treasures of Millak-dong, like "Yoikuma", which took the area by storm with its mouthwatering bowl of tendon (tempura rice bowl) with seasonal ingredients, and "Meerock Super", a virtuoso serving creative Korean dishes made with seasonal ingredients.
Falling in color
Color is often the first thing that one notices when walking in Millak-dong. Whether they were always there or were repainted recently is unclear. What is clear is that these sensual colors are in no way a mainstay of Korean houses. Indeed, the atmosphere veers toward the Equator, perhaps a city in the Indian subcontinent, perhaps in Latin America. Finding these explosive colors in the most random places is yet another fun to be had in alleyways of Millak-dong.
One house is decked in bright yellow, another in the recently-popular mint. Green, blue, pink, and orange mix together in a celebration of colors. Who could have imagined that one would see such a colorful scenery in an alleyway in Busan? It feels as if the place is just below the radar for Instagrammers, only to blow up through word-of-mouth in near future.
A trip down the retro memory lane
Some alleyways seem to lead to a bygone time. Fans of the TV show Reply 1988 will immediately recognize the two-story houses like those in the show, while others will see the transition in the retro stores that call back to the 80s and the 90s.Faded signboards testify to the days gone by in small laundromats, public baths feel like they stepped out from one's childhood visits with one's parents, and one seems to hear the laughter of the children in the twilight-drenched alleys. It feels as if the entire neighborhood was a one big filming site for a retro coming-of-age film.
Is that fence only about chest-high? The low fence gives one a full view of the plum blossoms, camellia, and spring flowers. I stop in my tracks and pick up my camera once again. Even though the sound of children's laughter seemed to only come from my memories, I nevertheless could not help but feel a pang of nostalgia. From food to dessert, leisurely walks, and photography spots, could Millak-dong as a tourist site be as hot as Gwangalli Beach?