This time last year I was watching a ballet in an Ancient Greek theatre, two years before that was digesting a key lime pie at the top of the Empire State Building, the year before that I was saying “I do” to the man scurrying around the hotel. I can’t quite believe that this is my fourth wedding anniversary and I get to spend it here in extremely sunny Busan.
The day began with a bit of a whimper as we went to our local Lotte Mart in Seomyeon expecting a garden with a view as brilliant as the one near Nampo. It was always going to be an impossible feat to match it, but the high walls and the extended out walls didn’t help. The garden was also not as nice as the other branch so this, with the pretty blah breakfast pastries we grabbed, didn’t make for the best start.
Time for a scene change. So far on this holiday I’ve seen a lot of nature, eaten a lot of food and romped around a lot of the city. What I needed was a piece of peace in a lovely temple overlooking the ocean. Good thing Busan has one of those just a metro, bus and 10 minute walk away.
Before reaching the temple itself, however, there are a bunch of other things to see and snap. For one, a complete set of Chinese zodiac statues with the head of the animals and the body of a human (this chicken just looked confused to be honest), then there’s a model pagoda, a small Buddha by the sea and all manner of beautiful views of the temple that you are about to enter.
This is the Haedong Yonggung Temple and although its origins lay in the 14th century, the actual construction is from the 1930s. That doesn’t detract from it though, the temple is in a stunning setting and offers the peace that one would hope from a Buddhist Temple. The actual places of worship are a pretty small compared to some of the others I have seen, but they are beautifully decorated on the inside with golden Buddhas and carved swooping dragons coming down from the ceiling.
Outside of the worship spaces themselves, the two big highlights for me were the big statues. Firstly the Golden Buddha where, having been asked by a group of three sweet older Korean women, I learned that the Korean word used to take photographs is “kimchi”. I love these people. The other statue I loved was up a bunch of stone steps (which I leapt up thanks to my legs now being broadly back to normal) and depicts the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. She was beautiful and so is the view she gets from up there.
After purchasing a very nutty hotteok, we were back on the bus and heading back into the city in order to reach Haeundae. First on the list was to have a walk through Haeundae Market where I began to realise that whilst my brain wants me to eat all the new things, my body is beginning to wonder when this food lust is going to take a break. So we shared a small kimchi pancake and a shrimp pancake thing on a stick and didn’t indulge in any tteokbokki, fish cakes, kimbap or even see what sundae (Korean blood sausage) tastes like. Still, I’m here for another week so I’m sure I’ll get some at some point.
At the end of the market it’s a few minutes to reach the thing that everyone comes to Haeundae for – Haeundae Beach. This is the big beach in Korea and boy is it photogenic, especially on a day like today where there were no clouds in the sky. Being Busan, this isn’t just a beach, but there are pieces of artwork all around, including a pair in the water. I’m not a beach person really, but I did have the urge to dip my toes into the sea.
So we walked along the beach just basking in the sunlight and then dashing into shade because sunblock only goes so far. Then we reached the end of the beach, which leads into the beginning of the walkway for Dongbaek Island.
For the most part, this walk along Dongbaek Island, is done on wooden walkways above the rocks and sea below. There’s plenty of benches and viewing platforms so you can look out or back on where you’ve come. There’s also a statue of a mermaid and a rock featuring a 14th century carving that is pretty much still in tact.
As you head north you reach the two features that were built as a result of Busan holding the APEC leaders meeting in 2005. The first we reached was a lighthouse, which was sweet, but then there’s the Nurimaru APEC House which is very impressive to see jutting out like something from the Jetsons. We went for a look through the interior where we got an idea of why this was of such importance to the city of Busan as a way to raise their profile.
From here we clambered up to the peak of the island to have a look at the statue of Choi Chi-Won and then wandered over to the nearest metro station to head to Centum City in order to fulfil a big dream of mine
I still cannot believe that we did this by chance, but I am so glad we did. The film itself was utterly bizarre and ultimately flawed and with a poorly shot decapitation scene. Still though, I was part of the Busan International Film Festival for those two hours and I really want to get those tickets framed because I’m not sure if this sort of thing is ever going to happen again.
Before the film though, we went for dinner at one of the restaurants in the Centum City Mall. I had misread the name on the floor plan as being something a bit daft so had my heart set on this being the place we’d eat at. Sadly the restaurant wasn’t called Gooseful Hambak as I’d hoped (it was Gooseul), but they did do some really nice food. A Hambak is the Korean take on the Salisbury Steak and this plate was exactly what I needed in terms of food. Yet another tick in the long list of excellent Korean dishes I’ve had whilst here.
So, it’s been an eventful day and another great wedding anniversary, making three out of four being in a foreign country. I don’t know if it’ll happen again next year, but that’s a long time away. Better to focus on tomorrow where we will be journeying out of Busan for the day to see the old capital of Gyeonju.