Saturday, April 24: Today, Kathy and I ventured to Busan (pronounced by Koreans as Pusan), Korea’s second largest city after Seoul (3.6 million people) and the 5th largest port city in the world.
We drove in Kathy’s Matiz directly to Haeundae Beach, where we lounged on the beach for a couple of hours, chatting and watching people and looking out at Suyeong Bay and the East Sea. It was too cool for bathing suits, so we wore jeans and sweaters. It was quite lovely there, bounded by hills at both ends that reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Amalfi Coast.
We stopped at the Fuzzy Navel, where we had drinks and chimichangas and burritos on the patio with a bunch of other Westerners. We hung out a while longer at the beach and then took a pleasant walk through Dongbaek Park at the south end of the beach. The best thing about this park was the greenery, the shade and a really cool rope bridge that made me feel like Indiana Jones!!
In the evening, we ate very spicy Indian food at an Indian restaurant (the first I’ve found in Korea!) and then went to the Paradise Casino Busan, where only foreigners are admitted. Kathy likes to play blackjack….I only stayed a short time as I get bored with such stuff. I went alone back to our very basic hotel, the Lord Beach!
Sunday, April 25: Sunday morning, we explored the GoEun Museum of Photography which featured an exhibit by Korean Photographer Kim Ki-chan. Black and white photos of Korean life in the past were primarily featured. My favorite photo was a father pulling a large safe or something on a cart; his little girl is strapped to the huge metal object. To me, it captures something of Korean life, a melding of tradition and modernity, and the strong family ties that are pervasive in Korean life.
We walked back to our hotel through the Korean market. We could see various Korean greens, bonsai, fruits such as oranges, apples & berries, fish swimming in plastic tubs and a white fluffy dog.
The thing I loved the most in Busan was Donghae Yonggung-Sa, a temple set on the rocky coast. For some reason it was totally packed, possibly some Buddhist holiday we didn’t know about; though usually crowds like that would detract from a place’s appeal, I didn’t find it offensive. I actually thought the crowd added to its pilgrimage ambience.
On our way down to the temple, we stopped in an artist’s studio to check out some paintings. We found the artist’s workspace but not an artist in sight.
The entrance is lined with large carved stone zodiac figures and the steps leading to the temple are lined with stone lanterns. It’s such a pleasant setting all around, set on a rocky coast overlooking the East Sea with a pine-covered hillside behind it. Buddha and bodhisattva statues abound and a huge pot-bellied smiling Buddha sits near the top.
As we were walking back down from the top, we saw what looked like a monk with long white hair down to his waist. he was so funky looking, we decided we had to follow him and get a picture. Kathy took my camera and ran ahead of him; she got a great shot of him with me looking over his shoulder. It’s such a funny picture because we have the same color of hair!! Later, when I showed Coffee J the picture Kathy had taken, he laughed and said he thought the guy was a “faux monk.” Leave it to Coffee J to make some off-the-wall comment!