It’s been over a month now since my last trip to Korea but I wanted to share a few photos from Busan (부산) which I visited for the second time since the first in 2008. Busan (or Pusan) is the second largest city in South Korea, located on the southeasternmost tip of the Korean peninsula.
Having been running around Korea like a crazed manic the previous week I decided to take Sunday a little slower (at least that was the original plan). Late morning I headed to Chungnyeol Shrine, “where the spirits of the patriotic martyrs in Busan region, who have bravely fought against the Japanese troops in the battles under the Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592 and died heroic deaths, are enshrined.” You probably get the picture, just a hint of anti-Japanese fervour here!
…along with some massive fish but surprisingly few people. One of the benefits of travelling in Korea is that you generally don’t seem to find massive hordes of foreign tourists at the big sites (even less at the small ones) which can make for a much more enjoyable experience. The only downside is that, as an Englishman, you’ll probably be mistaken for being American due to their large military presence in the country! Putting this right is an obvious priority, but I digress… 😉
The shrine is set into the side of a hill on tiered levels with various halls, monuments, displays, and well-manicured gardens. If you fancy a traditional Korean wedding ceremony they’ll also lay one on (for a measly 100,000 won/£50). Being visibly surrounded by the city, the shrine almost feels like the last place of sanctuary from the ever encroaching urban jungle – the polarised differences couldn’t be more striking and perhaps places like these are good for finding a sense of reality outside the controlled chaos…
One of the highlights of my trip to Busan was visiting Jagalchi Market; Korea’s biggest seafood market right next to the port where all the produce comes from. On display were the most amazing array of strange creatures from common mackerel to huge squid, and even whale meat being sold by old women (‘Jagalchi Ajumma’) on small stalls along the road. Whilst I’m not much of a seafood fan the market was a great place for photography and I think I got some nice results…
I’m not sure how anyone could put up with the smell of raw fish and guts all day long but I guess they get used to it! Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that eating live squid/octopus is considered a delicacy (as seen in Old Boy) – how anyone could manage to eat something which has writhing tentacles covered in suckers is beyond me! In case you think I’m making this up, here’s the proof:
Warning: not suitable for those with weak stomachs!
Looks lovely but this is one experience I decided to pass on 😉
After heading back into the centre of Busan it was time for lunch. Stopping somewhere near Pusan National University we found a restaurant where we ordered iced-noodles (Milmyeon – a local speciality) with fried rice and chicken (Dakgalbi Bokumbab). Eating noodles in ice was certainly a new experience for me but to be honest I wouldn’t call it my favourite dish although everything else was delicious.
In the afternoon I got my first proper look at the coastline in Busan, which is after all a port city! Surrounded by tall buildings Kwanganri beach was somewhat surreal but even more extraordinary was the huge double-decker suspension bridge they had built straight across the bay on the horizon. My pictures don’t really do it justice so I suggesting checking it out on Google Maps, how this thing was ever built is amazing!
Whilst it wasn’t a particularly hot day there were still plenty of people having fun in the water and even a few swimming. Apparently in the hight of summer the beaches are teaming but since most Koreans don’t like getting a suntan they bring thousands of umbrellas – just take a look here!
Nestling on the side of Mt. Geumjeongsan overlooking Busan is Beomeosa Buddhist temple. Surrounded by lush forest and bamboo groves, along with the fact that this is an active temple with monks still in residence, this is definitely not one to miss. It’s not the easiest place to find, being near the end of the subway line and bus journey up the mountain (take the No. 90), however it’s dirt cheap to get in so you can’t complain!
One of the Heavenly Kings standing guard (above) in a gate house through which all visitors must pass to enter. Whilst the original 678 temple complex was burnt down by the Japanese in 1952, along with seemingly everything else in Korea, the 1613 reconstruction is certainly showing it’s age and some parts look badly in need on repair. Hopefully any restoration work will be sympathetic and not loose its rustic look as has happened with the ancient sites in Beijing.
If you fancy finding your own piece of enlightenment Beomeosa runs a “temple stay” program where you can go and live like a monk for a few days – you can certainly see the appeal of sitting around this sort of place meditating with none of the distractions of modern life.
Above the temple is a hiking path along side a small stream which leads to the summit. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time that day to get to the top but on a hot day the cover of the trees and the are an ideal place to get out of the sun.