Busan Map
Site Index
Contact
Random
Our Travel Books
Advertising / Press

A Day in Buk-Gu, Northern Busan

Follow us on Twitter: Busan For 91 Days

Buk-Gu, whose name translates to “Northern District”, is one of the fifteen administrative zones which make up Busan. We spent a morning wandering around the area and checking out some of its touristic sights: the Fishing Village Folk Museum, a riverside park, and the Gupowaeseong Japanese Fortress.

Busan-Fishing-Village-Folk-Museum

The Busan Fishing Village Folk Museum, our first stop in Buk-Gu, was exactly as boring as its name suggests. We went on a whim, and I would bet that we were the first and only foreign tourists to ever step foot inside. The guide was clearly stunned to see us, and stammered out a memorized welcome speech, in English. It was clearly an agonizing couple minutes for the poor guy, and I felt like congratulating him when he finished.

The exhibits weren’t really all that bad, but nothing was in English. We spent a few seconds at the dioramas of fishing scenes, put together a puzzle, and looked at fish in the first-floor aquarium. In and out in ten minutes. But the price was right (free) and if you’re already in the neighborhood or have an interest in the folk traditions of Korean river people, by all means, enjoy.

Nakdong-Bridge

Leaving the museum, we went to the nearby Hwamyeong Riverside Park: a long stretch of sports facilities and nature walks with good view of the Nakdong Bridge. We passed through fields of high grass, perfect for hiding a corpse, and a couple of fitness stations. Busan has an absolute abundance of these community workout areas and the equipment is always top-notch. Clean, fully-functional. Some even have benchpresses with actual weights. It’s a testament to the respect with which Koreans treat their community. Equipment like this wouldn’t last twelve hours in an American city.

Gupowaeseong-Fortress

Eventually we made it to Deokcheon Park, a hill near the Gupo Bridge. Searching for a way up the hill to see the Gupowaeseong Fortress, we entered a small and colorful Buddhist Temple where a monk showed us to a clandestine staircase leading into the woods behind the main altar. On the way up, we passed a few people tending to small vegetable gardens, all of whom grunted “hello” at us. The remains of the fortress weren’t wonderfully upheld, but given its origin, that’s understandable. Gupowaeseong dates from the Imjin War against Japan, but was built by the Japanese and not the Koreans.

On the other side of the hill, we found a field with a towering Buddha statue and an altar where offerings had recently been made. Our next stop, the nearby Guryongsa Temple, was buzzing with activity. Little women were darting furiously about, apparently in last-minute preparations for some sort of festival. But although we were clearly in their way, they were gracious and encouraged us to kick our shoes off so that we could enter the temple buildings. There, we admired wonderfully carved wooden walls, strange paintings from Buddha’s life, and ancient statues.

Location of the Busan Fishing Village Folk Museum
Location of Gupowaeseong Fortress
-Hotels in Busan

More Pics from the Busan Fishing Village Folk Museum
Old-Fishing-Village
Mass-Fishing-Korea
Fishing-Boats-Korea
Fishing-Village-Museum-busan
Fish Killer Number 1
Scenes From Korea
Korean Tree Burning
How To Fish in Korea
Korean Fish Trap
Korean Fish
More Pics from the Gupowaeseong Fortress and Temples
Busan Contrast
Gupowaeseong-Temple
Stone Lantern Busan
Temple-Roof-Painting
Temple Dragon Korea
Temple Paintings Busan
Hiking in Busan
Secret Garden Korea
Buddha Statue Busan
Little Stonkers
Stone Tears
Korean Stone Tower
Guryongsa%20Temple
Temple Front
Buddha Is Watching You
Buddhist Prayer Chain
Korean Instrument
Carvings Korea
Korean-Buddha-Bell
Bell Dragon
Stone Dudes
Random Pictures of Our Day in Buk-Gu
Busan Ufo
Modern Bridge Busan
Modern-Photography-Art-Korea
Buk Gu Busan
Nature Highway
Busan Highway
Photo Zone
Korean Work Out
Exploring Busan
Shopping Busan
Streed Food Busan
Yummy Stuff Busan

, , , , , , , , , ,
May 31, 2012 at 5:38 am Comment (1)

A Ferry to the Oryukdo Islands

Korean Folklore

We first spotted the Oryukdo Islands toward the end of our hike down the coast of Igidae Park. A string of rocky and uninhabited landmasses, these islands are the most notable feature along Busan’s coastline. In order to get a better look, we took an evening ferry trip which looped around them.

Busan Islands

The ferry left from the Mipo terminal at Haeundae Beach, and cost ₩19,500 ($17.55) apiece. A little expensive for the hour-long round trip, but the views of Haeundae, Gwangalli Beach and the Diamond Bridge were worth it.

For the fishermen and merchants approaching Busan from the sea, the Oryukdo Islands have always been the city’s symbol. The profile of the five (or six) islands is certainly memorable. The name “oryukdo” comes from the fact that, depending upon the tide, there appear to be either five (o) or six (yuk) islands (do). Except for the furthest in the chain, on which a lighthouse has been built, the islands are completely barren. Nothing much could be built on these craggy hills of rock.

The evening ferry runs approximately once an hour from Mipo and more frequently during the weekends. We left at 17:10, but could have delayed our journey by an hour in order to see the sun set behind the city.

The Oryukdo Islands on our Busan Map
Catch the boat from here
-For 91 Days on Facebook (please make our day and like us)

Korea Schiff
Fishing in Busan
Korean Birds
Busan Skyline
Gwangan Bridge
Police Boat Busan
High Speed Ferry Busan
Busan
Korea Korea
Oryukdo-Islands
Busan Stairs
Busan Blog
Busan Harbor
Korean Air
Sunset Busan

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
May 30, 2012 at 9:36 am Comments (0)

Samgwangsa Under a Blanket of Lanterns

Learn Korean

Set at the foot of the Baegyangsan Mountain in central Busan, Samgwangsa is a massive temple with enough room for 10,000 worshipers. And there were approximately that many present when we visited on a balmy May evening shortly before Buddha’s birthday.

Korea Blog

We had initially toured Samgwangsa a few weeks earlier, while the lanterns were still being set up. It was the first Buddhist temple we’d been to in Korea and impressed us with both its size and location. As was the case in Sri Lanka, Korean temples seem to be set in places of extreme natural beauty. Samgwangsa boasts an incredible view over Busan, and hiking trails can be found in the mountain forest behind it.

Built in 1969, Samgwangsa is not the most ancient or traditional of temples, but that doesn’t make it any less inspiring. The main prayer hall is stunning; large and intricately decorated with hundreds of small Buddha statues lining the walls. There’s a nine-story pagoda dedicated to the future reunification of Korea, and a giant bell in the courtyard. Within the complex’s various buildings, men and women were either worshiping or working. I’m not sure if this is true, but Samgwangsa seems to house a large number of senior citizens; we passed a few rooms with older women sitting cross-legged on the floor watching TV.

I’m glad we had the initial visit, because the temple was unrecognizable when we returned during the lantern festival, buried under a blanket of light. The lanterns, strung up in unbroken lines throughout the complex are each paid for by a family, who get to write their names and wishes on them. This practice dates back centuries; in Korea, lighting a lantern symbolizes a dedication to committing good deeds, and shining a light on the world’s darkness. Whatever the reasoning, the glow emitted from thousands of colorful lanterns is majestic.

Location on our Busan Map
-Cheap Flights To Korea

Samgwangsa
Korea Tradition
Buddha Box
Buddha Lottery
Virgin Temple
Buddha Sign
Dragon Art
Busan At Night
Samgwangsa-Lantern-Temple
Visit Busan
Busan 2012
Busan Travel Guide
Night Walk Busan
Red Lantern
Photographer in Korea
Busan-Korean-Photographer
Busan Blog
Dragon-Festival-Busan
Dragon Fight
For-91-Days-in-Busan
Fruit Lantern
Korea Travel Blog
Tigger Korea
Festivals in Korea
Korean Buddha Offering
Stretch Photographer
Korea-Portraits

, , , , , , , , , ,
May 29, 2012 at 6:44 am Comments (4)

Millak Raw Fish Market

Sashimi Grade Fish Fillets

Do you remember that one scene in Oldboy? The scene which, after you watched it, you never forgot and needed therapy to recover from? You know, that scene, the one where Oh Dae-Su eats a living octopus? Well, our lunch at the Millak Raw Fish Market brought me as close to the experience of being Oldboy as I ever need to get.

On entering the world’s largest sashimi hall, I was strangely giddy, but also nervous. Jürgen and I had eaten sushi, but never full plates of sashimi, which is just sliced-up raw fish. Luckily, we had a trump card up our sleeves: our friend Young-mi was visiting from Germany. She runs Kimchi Princess, the most popular Korean restaurant in Berlin, and with her at our side, we could eat anything! (Not only would she reassure us with her knowledge, but shame us with her mockery. Like all good friends, Young-mi has no problem letting us know when we’re being wimps).

The bottom floor of the building is a live fish market, with twenty stands run by scheming, curly-haired ladies, who are honed and merciless hawkers. As soon as we entered, the three nearest the door sunk their claws into us, yelling and selling, refusing to recognize negative responses. There seemed to be no difference between the various vendors — the prices were about the same, as was the selection. We resisted the first two fiery fishmongers, but succumbed to the third, who laughed victoriously at her enemies while completing the sale.

Our Raw Fish Meal

We chose a flounder (do-da-li) and a mullet (sung-eo), with an octopus, and a bunch of sea pineapples (meong-ge) thrown in for free. This all cost ₩30,000 ($27) — which, for that much fish, is unbelievable. She laid the mullet on her table and hacked into his head with a huge knife, then told us to go up to the second floor to await our meal. The building has ten stories and, from the upper levels, the view of Gwangalli Beach is unbeatable. But what floor you’re sent to depends entirely upon the vendor from whom you buy your fish — we didn’t know that until after completing our purchase.

Once upstairs, we didn’t have to wait long for our meal. Which makes sense, considering that nothing is being cooked. The flounder and mullet were cut into thin slices and piled onto plates. The sea pineapple was chopped up and served in a bowl of its own juice. It looked horrendous — just alien and awful. The octopus had been hacked into pieces, and set into a dish full of sauce. Its nerves were still firing like crazy and, despite being completely dismembered, the tentacles were crawling around on top of each other, searching for escape.

Eating-Raw-Fish-Korea

I downed a shot of soju, grabbed onto a thrashing tentacle with my chopsticks and threw it into my mouth, viciously chomping and chewing so that it couldn’t suction onto the side of my throat as I swallowed. And then another shot of soju. And now, I could think about what had just happened. It was frightening, but once you get past the creature’s frantic motion, its slippery texture and its being raw, the octopus actually tasted rather good.

The whole meal was like that. As had been the case with the octopus, my first bites of flounder and mullet were terrifying and quickly accomplished, without allowing time to think or second-guess. The following mouthfuls were more considered. I had to concede that, against all odds, sashimi is delicious. The taste and smell of the thin slices weren’t fishy in the slightest. They tasted good. Strange. Like nothing, but then again like something cold and healthy and alive. We wrapped the sashimi up in leaves, or just dunked it into soy sauce with wasabi and ate it straight.

/Sea-Pine-Apple

Sigh, yes, I see you over there Mr. Sea Pineapple, waving your ugly little red nubs, impatiently awaiting your turn for my approval. Well, you won’t get it. You, my friend, are an abomination. Just the thought of you, your texture and flavor, is making me sick. Ammonia mixed with horse puke. That’s what you taste like. Go to hell where you belong.

In all, it was an exciting meal, and not entirely as scary as I had been anticipating. The hardest part was bargaining with the fish ladies on the bottom floor, and getting over the waves of disgust when that slithering octopus tentacle first touches your tongue. But we were in Busan. Eating sashimi is one of the quintessential experiences in this city. If you have the chance, it’s not to be missed.

Location on our Busan Map
-Our Busan Food Journals

Sung-eo-RAW
Millak-Raw-Fish-Market
Octopus-Toddler
Raw Octopus
Live Squid
Sea-Pine-Apple-Mussles
Raw-Fish-Restaurant-Busan

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
May 28, 2012 at 9:38 am Comments (4)

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

For 91 Days Travel Books

Haedong Yonggungsa (해동용궁사) is unique among Busan’s Buddhist temples in that it lies not in the mountains, but on the seafront. It was founded in 1376, during the Goryeo Dynasty, and completely destroyed during the Japanese invasions. Though the current construction only dates from the 1970s, the temple is a beautiful and much-beloved center of worship. In fact, I can’t imagine it being any more popular.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Of course, we were visiting on the day before Buddha’s birthday, when legions of the faithful had shown up. This was definitely the only time in my life I’ve waited in a 45-minute line to enter a temple or church. But it was a sunny morning, and the queue gave us time to take in the beauty of the temple from afar. Haedong Yonggungsa looks out over the sea, with tall dagobas erected on the rock above, and has as its centerpiece a three-story pagoda protected by four lions. Inside the pagoda are bone relics brought to Korea by a Sri Lankan monk… a neat connection to our previous home.

According to the temple’s website, its motto is “At least one of your wishes will be answered here through your heartful prayers.” That’s hopeful, and at least more optimistic than the Christian slogans I grew up with like, “Repent, ye sinner”. The Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, thought to reside in the sea, is the main deity at Haedong Yonggungsa. Apparently, she’s appeared to people here, and saying her name over and over will result in good fortune.

It was a little hard to appreciate all the details of the temple, due to the celebrations underway. Lanterns were strung up everywhere, hiding from view anything higher than a couple meters, including a statue of the mercy goddess. And man, do Koreans love taking photographs. You couldn’t move an inch without accidentally intruding in someone else’s frame. It was a little amusing to hear Jürgen — who never stops taking pictures — complain about other people doing the same.

Location on our Busan Map
-Travel Insurance Worldwide

Fear Korea
Korean Monkey
Year-of-the-in-Korea
Elephant Boy Korea
Dragon Street Light
Buddha Tower
Lantern Base
Busan Temple Work
Gate Temple
Visit Busan
Busan 2012
Korea Dagobas
Picture Manicas
Photo Shooting in Korea
Korean Couple
Trapped Dragon
Lantern Festival in Busan
Luck Turtle
Holy Turtle
Lantern Reflection
Lucky Pigs
Blue Shirt Lantern
Buddhist Monk Hangout
Hidden Buddha
FAT BUDDHA
Golden Buddha
Wrapped Buddha
Super Cute Buddha
Buddha Tower
Buddha Babies
Buddha Baby Tree
Buddha Garden
Rich Buddha
Stone Lantern Korea
Buddha Well
Korea
Korean Festival
Korean Contrast
Busan Festivals
Temple Roof
Lotus Lantern
FFFUUUUUUUUUUU
Busan Blog
Flights To Korea Deal
, , , , , , , , , , , ,
May 28, 2012 at 5:47 am Comment (1)

Busan Food Journal, Part Three

Korean Ramen

Dumplings, soju, grilled ribs, stews, chicken and lots of kimchi were on the table this week. It took us a few weeks to start to get the hang of Korean food, discover what we love, and what we don’t. For Part Three of our food journal, we mostly concentrated on restaurants around our neighborhood, Suyeong and Gwangalli Beach, but these dishes can be found on just about every corner of Busan.

Food Journal: Part One | Part Two | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

Kimchi Dumplings (김치 만두)
Kimchi Dumplings

Kimchi is the national dish of Korea, and people here eat it constantly. Generally, the spicy fermented cabbage is consumed straight out of bowls, but it can be prepared in a variety of ways. For a quick dinner one night, we stopped at a tiny restaurant along the Gwangalli Beach and ordered ten kimchi dumplings. After devouring them in ten bites, we almost convinced ourselves to go for another round. [More Pics]

Galbi (갈비)
Galbi

For an early Saturday dinner in Nampo-Dong, we sat down at a restaurant called Busan Sutbul Galbi (부산숮불갈
비) after having seen the commotion inside. The specialty here, and the most expensive thing on the menu at $22 per person, was So-Galbi: beef short ribs marinated in soy sauce and grilled at the table, and served with approximately six thousand side dishes. We’re starting to get comfortable enough with grilling that we don’t require assistance from the waitress — tonight, I only dropped a couple pieces of the meat onto the coals, which constitutes a success, in my book. [More Pics]

Approx. location on our Busan Map

Budae Jjigae (부대찌개)
Budae-Jjigae

Budae Jjigae, also known as “Army Base Stew”, is an inadvertent relic of the Korean War. During the fighting, when Koreans were able to grow very little food of their own, resourceful chefs used the surplus found around US Army bases to create a rich stew filled with American staples like hot dogs and spam. Budae Jjigae has remained a popular meal ever since, and is now served in a variety of ways. Ours came with ramen noodles, rice balls and a ton of veggies. Delicious. [More Pics]

Dancing Bonito Flakes

“Service” is rapidly gaining ground on my list of favorite words. In Korean restaurants, it refers to the freebies which are occasionally set down at your table, and often include some great dishes you might not ordinarily try. At the popular Japanese restaurant Takedaya (다케다야 – location) the cook came out to say hi and offered us a couple free plates, one of which was flakes of dried bonito, curling and dancing around on top of a hunk of fried tofu. They looked alive, but were actually just cut so thin that the steam made them move. Our main dishes of Kake-udon and Bugake-udon were fantastic as well. [More Pics]

Location on our Busan Map

Duck Bulgogi in Rice Paper
Rice Paper Roll

We sat down on the floor at Tagguba (다꾸바) and, while working on a bottle of soju, watched our waitress set up the grill, carry three full plates of food (duck, veggies, mushrooms) to our table and then cooked them to perfection, taking care to continuously drain the fat. The hard part done, all that was left for us to do was dunk rice paper in water and create delicious mini grilled-duck rolls with the sauces and condiments spread across our table. Did we love it? So much so, that we went back with friends the very next week. [More Pics]

Chicken BBQ
BBQ Chicken

This meal at chain restaurant Mubwatna (무봤나 – location) had the benefit of being familiar to our western palates. BBQ garlic chicken, served with rice and chicken? That’s nothing to fear, in comparison to say, spicy octopus bibimbap. Which is perhaps why we chowed it down in about fifteen seconds flat. Mubwatna concentrates exclusively on chicken and the franchise near Gwangalli beach is almost always crowded. I occasionally enjoy challenging my culinary comfort level — but let’s not forget the importance of that word occasionally.

-Cheap Hostels in Busan

More Kimchi Dumpling Pics
Dumpling Man
Steam Pots Korea
Late Night Snack
More Pics from the Galbi Grill
Galbi Busan
Korea Grill
Galbi Restaurant
Korean Galbi
More Pics of Buddae Jjigae
Budae-Jjigae-Korea
Budae-Jjigae-Busan
More Pics from the Japanese Ramen Place
Japanese-Restaurant-Gwangalli-Beach
Japanese Ramens
Japanese Noodles
More Pics of Duck Bulgogi
Korean Cook
Korean Mushrooms
Making a Roll

, , , , , , , , , , , ,
May 27, 2012 at 10:45 am Comments (8)

The Lotus Lantern Parade

Order Korean Food From Amazon

Though Christianity has recently become the dominant religion in South Korea, the country had been a primarily Buddhist land for nearly all of its history. Buddha’s Birthday, which fell on May 28th in 2012, is a major celebration across the peninsula. And the week-long Lotus Lantern Festival which precedes it is an engaging reaffirmation of the country’s traditional faith.

Neon Dragon

The festival kicked off with a host of events in Yongdusan Park, in Nampo-Dong. A collection of floats were on display — automated dragons, Buddhas, fire-breathing peacocks — and the park was packed with both monks and people out looking for a bit of fun. This wasn’t the most somber or conservative of religious festivals; one of the events was a B-Boy break-dancing competition.

A group of tents in the park constituted the Arts & Crafts center and, walking past, we were immediately targeted for participation by an overly-enthusiastic volunteer. She sat us down next to kids, where we created toy lanterns. Then she grabbed our arms and led us the “ink stamping” section, where we pounded out Buddhist designs. Then she pushed us over to the “wishing ribbon” section, where we wrote down our names and our dreams for the future. “My name is Mike, and I wish for a world free from the scourge of Arts & Crafts!”

The festival-closing parade on Sunday night was a colorful event. We were surprised how few onlookers were lined up on Daechung Road to watch it pass, but then… most of the city was in the parade. Group after massive group of waving, lantern-carriers passed by, along with neon-colored float and the occasional marching band. We followed the final group up to Yongdusan Park, where there was a fireworks show followed by a concert of traditional drumming.

-The Temple of the Tooth

Lantern Festival
Korea Nature Dance
Dragon Lantern
Bunny Lantern
Tree Lantern
Lotus Making
Buddha Stamp
LOL Dragon
Korean ButterFly
Busan Blog
Lotus Lantern Busan
Drummer Lotus
Lantern Fest
Buddhist Monk Busan
Angry White Tiger
Dragon Parade Busan
Lotus Army
Steaming Buddha
Lantern Street
Busan Guide
Lonely Dragon
Fire Peacock
Busan Dragon
Busan Laser
Extasy Busan
, , , , , , , , ,
May 26, 2012 at 3:05 am Comments (0)

Born in the USA… Perfected in Korea?

Our 91 Day Stay in Savannah, Georgia

Since the end of World War II and the liberation of Korea from the Japanese occupation, the USA has maintained a steady presence in the southern half of the peninsula. Perhaps it comes as no surprise, then, that South Korea has inherited many aspects of American culture, from the world of pop music to its dynamic sporting scene. During our short time here, I’ve found myself amazed by the similarities between my homeland and our temporary host. And to be brutally honest, a lot of the greatest things about America seem to even better in South Korea…

USA and Korae
The Stadium Experience

I love baseball. Honestly, I didn’t know how much I loved baseball until I had lived in Europe for a few years. Sure, football is America’s biggest sport, and basketball might be the most popular export, but for some reason it was baseball that I found myself missing. Nothing beats going to a jam-packed stadium with a bunch of friends and watching the Red Sox demolish the Yankees.

But, it turns out there is something better: going to a stadium in Korea. We’ve written in depth about our experience at Busan’s Lotte Giants, but suffice to say that attending a baseball game in Korea is awesome. Tickets are cheap. Beer is cheap. The stands are packed. Everyone’s watching the game, when they’re not shoveling pizza into their mouths or doing a slow-motion wave. You can bring food and beer into the stadium with you. We had a blast. Have you ever seen a slow-motion wave? It’s amazing. Red Sox fans would never be capable of that!

Giants Busan
Pop Music

I grew up with the music of bands like N*Sync and The Backstreet Boys tainting the musical landscape with their bland pop and squeaky-clean visages. But while “boy bands” have fairly faded back home, they’ve only gained in popularity in Korea. The airwaves here are dominated by a parade of boy- and girl-groups, who… and this is the truly amazing thing… don’t completely suck! The music is catchy, the outfits are ridiculous, the dances are tight, and the kids are genuinely talented. Just try and watch BIGBANG’s Fantastic Baby without bopping your head… or developing a crush on one of them (but stay away from Seungri, he’s mine).

We have the Black Eyed Peas, Korea has Girls Generation. Advantage: Korea.

Girls Generation
Girls Generation: A lot sexier than LMFAO, and they know it
Coffee Culture

It’s totally wrong, and possibly sacrilegious, to claim that “coffee culture” was “born in the USA”. And it’s not what I mean. Obviously, Italy (for one) has a much more authentic and agreeable sort of café cult. Americans don’t do espresso and, when we try, we dependably screw it up. But we have Starbucks — and that’s the kind of manufactured scene I’m talking about, with its cozy furniture, delicious muffins and light jazz-pop. We invented that and we like it, so screw you know-it-all coffee purists.

But Korea has improved on our formula, yet again. Here, you’ll find Starbucks, but also plenty of other cafes that are basically clones but even more cozy, playing cooler jazz-pop and serving yummier muffins. You can’t go half a block without seeing an Angelinus Coffee, a BeansBins, a Mr. Coffee, a Doctor Coffee, a Coffee Duomo, and on and on and on. For those of us who depend on coffee shops as erstwhile offices, the selection is exhilarating.

Hideous Working Hours

During the three years that I was living in Germany and working remotely for a US software firm, my friends delighted in mocking me. “Only two weeks of vacation?” they’d scoff. “We get six! Starting!” It’s true. We Americans work a lot more than Europeans — and especially more so than Germans. But it was an odd point of pride for me. “Yeah, it’s cause I’m tougher”.

But we don’t hold a candle to the Koreans. These guys work like maniacs. The average South Korean puts in more hours than anyone else on the planet. It’s a sickening productivity that has brought the country from a war-torn backwater to one of the most dynamic economies in the world. For the poor, sleep-deprived corporate cog, I don’t know if you can really classify this as an “improvement” on the American standard, but it’s just one more thing which we can do, but they can do better.

 

I’m sure there are a lot of other aspects of American culture which have been perfected in Korea. Near our apartment, there was a bowling alley. I was almost nervous to step inside. Surely, it wouldn’t be like back home, where the pin-clearing device always gets stuck, the dirty shoes never fit, and the stupid automatic scoring system ignores your strikes. No, I’m certain that I would have been suitably embarrassed and impressed by the futuristic Ultimate Bowling Experience of Korea.

Damn these guys!

-Korea Travel Insurance


, , , , , , , , , ,
May 22, 2012 at 12:49 am Comments (8)

Hiking through Igidae Park

Hiking Gear

The mountains and hills of Busan are easily its best feature, both helping to confine the city’s sprawl and offering parks and natural refuges for residents to escape the stress of everyday life. Among Busan’s wide range of nature walks, the one spanning Igidae Park is among the most popular. We hiked along its 5.2 kilometer coastal trail on a sunny afternoon.

Igidae-Hike

Jangsanbong Mountain occupies the stretch of coastline just south of Gwangalli Beach, and had been under military control until 1993. The whole mountain is now open to the public, though nearly all visitors stick to the popular coastal walk, which takes about two-and-a-half hours. It’s a perfect hike, with magnificent views over the ocean and city, and only slightly strenuous.

Possibly even more than the beautiful nature, the path’s flawless infrastructure most impressed us. Steps and handrails in perfect condition, plentiful information posted in a variety of languages, modern suspension bridges, benches wherever the view is especially good, and even toilets are found along the trail. Busan has clearly invested a lot into Igidae Park, and it’s heartening to see a city so concerned with improving the quality of life of its citizens.

The name “Igidae” comes from a legend set during the Japanese occupation of Busan. Shortly after conquering the city, the Japanese had a victory celebration at the fortress on Jangsanbong Mountain. A few Korean “entertaining women”, or Gisaengs, were brought along to dance for their new lords. Two of them, possessed by nationalistic furor, grabbed one of the drunken Japanese officers and jumped off a cliff, sacrificing themselves for a small taste of Korean revenge (which I bet tastes like kimchi). The name “Igidae” refers to the “two Gisaengs”.

The hike went by in a flash. The park was decently crowded for a weekday afternoon, mostly older people out for a bit of exercise, but we also spotted a lot of fishermen along the coast. Though clearly marked, the path allows for digressions up into the hills, or down to the water. On one of these, we found an expanse of rock marked by the footprints of an Ultrasaurus — an awesomely-named dinosaur native to Korea. Further on, there was a curious rock formation, said to look like Buddha carrying a baby. To me, it looked like an old Korean woman with a bundle on her head. You judge:

Stone Tower Busan

As we approached the southern end of the hike, the Oryukdo Islands came into view. These five rocky islands are just offshore, and uninhabited. They can be circled by ferry — an adventure we would soon embark on.

Igidae is an excellent, stress-free hike, easily accessible from the city. If its popularity on a Thursday afternoon is any indication, I’m guessing the narrow paths can get claustrophobic on a sunny summer weekend. But regardless of the number of other hikers, an enjoyable day out is almost guaranteed.

The Location of the Hike’s Start on our Map
-Have you read any of our travel books? If so please leave a review and make our day.

Gwangali Bridge
Hang Bridge Korea
Power Hiker
Korea Bridge
Busan Wandern
Busan Nature
Igidae-Park
Lonely in Korea
Korean Stoner
Peace Out Korea
Fresh Algies
Little Stonkers
Ultrasaurus-Foot-Prints
Korean Monster
Hiking in Busan
Coastal Hike Busan
Hiking Rest
Sound of Music Korea
Wired Korea
Busan Islands
Pirate Ship Busan
Weird Nature Korea
End Of A Hike
, , , , , , , ,
May 21, 2012 at 7:54 am Comment (1)

Korean Dance and Drumming at the Gugak Center

More Korean Folklore

The Busan National Gugak Center opened in 2008 with the mission of bringing Korea’s culture to the masses. We went to an incredible Tuesday night performance which introduced us to some of the peninsula’s traditional music, dance and drumming.

Folklore-Busan

We weren’t sure what to expect on taking our seats in the Gugak Center’s comfortable Yegi-dang (small hall). At just ₩6000 ($5.40) apiece, the tickets were cheap and the hall was packed full with Koreans of all ages. We were the only foreign faces in the crowd of around 300, despite the fact that foreign residents get a discount. The show got underway at 7:30pm and, over the course of its 90 minutes, brought the house down.

Folklore-Korea
Act One: Percussion

As the lights came up, a group of seven drummers were seated in front of traditional percussion instruments. Five barrel drums, a gong, and two horrid things I’ll call “metal clang pots”. This act lasted at least forty minutes and I don’t really know how to describe it. Imagine the sound of 50 sugar-fueled five-year-olds equipped with metal spoons and their parents’ best pots and pans, just banging like crazy, non-stop for forty minutes. Except they’re very talented and keep an amazing rhythm. The drumming got softer and louder, building up into exhilarating crescendos or descending into asynchronous cacophony, but it never stopped.

It was awesome, but the drummers in charge of the ridiculous “metal clang pots” prevented us from truly enjoying the music. And we were way toward the back of the theater! I have no idea how the old women seated in the front rows weren’t covering their ears and screaming in pain, but they weren’t. They were clapping, squealing, dancing in their seats and generally behaving like Mötley Crüe groupies. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a bra thrown on the stage.

Pihyang
Act Two: Pihyang

Things quieted down considerably for the second act, a graceful court dance featuring a solitary performer. Dressed in a flowing red robe with overly long sleeves, the woman glided around the stage to the sounds of drums and flutes. I’m not sure whether this dance is actually called “Pi-hyang”… it’s listed in the program as 비향, but we couldn’t find any information about it online. Regardless, it was a pleasant intermission between the riotous first and third acts.

Pangut
Act Three: Pangut

Pangut is a traditional rural dance of South Korea, featuring a troupe of drummers wearing hats with long white ribbons affixed to them. As they drum and dance around the stage, they rotate their head or twist it from side to side, causing the ribbon to spiral above and behind them. The skill which needed for this, I can hardly imagine. Not just the complicated drumming, but an intricate dance and — on top of that — knowing when and how to twist your head to induce the correct ribbon swirl. Amazing.

Pangut
Act Four: Geumho Drum Dance

For the fourth act, an additional pair of dancing drummers joined the stage. These two were wearing bizarre giant feathery hats which made them look like human ice cream cones. One all in white, and the other in a mix of red and green. It was about the last thing we’d expected and, while they danced around in their poof-hats, I wasn’t sure whether to take it seriously or die laughing. And then six other featherheads joined them on stage, and I couldn’t help myself. This was hilarious.

But my mirth wasn’t out of place; this was clearly a joyful dance and, as it concluded, the troupe pranced out into the audience and encouraged us all to follow them outside. For fifteen minutes, performers and spectators danced and drummed in the Gugak’s courtyard.

Quite a night. We hadn’t been expecting to have anywhere near that much fun, and began to plan our next trip to the Gugak Center during the subway ride back home. What a great way to experience traditional Korean culture.

Busan National Gugak Center – Website (English)
Location on our Busan Map
-Busan Hotels

Gugak-Center

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
May 19, 2012 at 6:54 am Comments (0)

« Older Posts