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Hiking at Taejongdae

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At the southern extreme of Yeongdo Island, a thick forest suddenly gives way to soaring seaside cliffs. This is Taejongdae Park, one of the most emblematic spots in Busan, and a popular place for a walk or, if you’d rather, a scenic ride in a tourist train.

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We arrived at Taejongdae after a lengthy hike along the southern coast of the island. Our day started at a collection of tents set up along the water, selling and preparing clams, mollusks and sea pineapples. We didn’t have any appetite and after our experience at the Millak Raw Fish Market, the sight of a sea pineapple makes me nauseous, but this was a cool area. Sometimes, the waves would crash so high that they’d drench the plates of seafood. I suppose a little sea water on your clams isn’t all that bad.

Our path now went straight uphill, and continued through the woods for a few kilometers. Every once in awhile, we’d get incredible views over the sea, and there were very few other hikers around to spoil the tranquility.

Foggy Hike

The solitude, though, came to an abrupt when we reached the entrance to Taejongdae Park. Even though it was a regular workday, there were a ton of people here. Mostly young couples wearing matching t-shirts. This “Partner Look” is a phenomenon which has amused us since our arrival — often, it’s not just the same shirts, but whole outfits arranged in a complementary fashion. A guy wearing a shirt in the same light-blue color of his girlfriend’s skirt, and both wearing the same baby-blue sneakers. (I shouldn’t smirk too much. Jürgen and I tend to dress alike, too: dirty t-shirts and ratty jeans.)

Most of the people didn’t join us on our walk through Taejongdae, instead waiting for the “tourist train” which circles the park and hits the various sights. There was a lot to see — sculptures, temples, flower gardens. The highlight, though, is the lighthouse and observatory at the far end of the island. With unbeatable views of the nearby Oryukdo Islands to the north and rocky cliffs to the south, this is an amazing area. We climbed out onto the rocks, and took a break before heading back to the park entrance.

Location of the Taejongdae Observatory on our Map
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July 21, 2012 at 6:00 am Comments (3)

The APEC House and Dongbaek Park

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The Nurimaru House was built for the 2005 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit, which brought together the leaders of its twenty-one member nations. With a striking location in Dongbaekseom Park overlooking Haeundae Beach, the house now serves as a memorial to the meeting.

Apec Building Busan>

Dongbaekseom used to be an island, before a natural accumulation of earth and sand attached it to the mainland. The suffix -seom means island, and the dongbaek is a kind of tree. Today, the park is a beautifully wooded nature preserve, offering a number of trails and unbeatable views of Haeundae Beach. A popular coastal path connects the beach to the APEC House, which is found among amid camellia and pine trees.

Along the coastal trail, the large statue of a forlorn mermaid is unmissable. According to legend, this is the Princess of Topaz from the Kingdom of Naranda, found far beyond the sea. She was married off to the King of Mungungnara, and now sits immobile, crying for her lost country. Her name comes from the topaz bead given to her by her grandmother, which she grips during her endless lamentations for home. It would be hard to imagine that this story isn’t an allegory for the Koreans who left home during the struggles of the Japanese occupation and Korean War.

The Nurimaru APEC House was built for one solitary purpose and, like the Mermaid, now sits frozen in time. During the 2005 APEC Summit, leaders from the countries of the Pacific Rim discussed a number of topics of common interest, such as Copyright Protection and Aviary Flu defenses. Possibly its most notable achievement was to get George W. Bush into a Korean Hanbok. I don’t like the guy, but this isn’t actually a bad look for him.

Touring the APEC House was kind of strange. We got to see the round table at which the various heads of state sat, and were able to admire one of their meals. There was some information about what was discussed, and about each member state. But that was about it. By now, this incredible house, which showcases Korean architecture in a pristine location, should have found new life — it’s not as though the 2005 APEC Summit was a meeting of such historic importance that it needs to be forever memorialized. Put a plaque up or something, and move on!

Location of the APEC House on our Map
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July 16, 2012 at 7:57 am Comments (3)
Hiking at Taejongdae At the southern extreme of Yeongdo Island, a thick forest suddenly gives way to soaring seaside cliffs. This is Taejongdae Park, one of the most emblematic spots in Busan, and a popular place for a walk or, if you'd rather, a scenic ride in a tourist train.
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