We've heard people claim that Seokbulsa is not just the best Buddhist temple in Busan, but the most lovely in all South Korea. Although we're in no position to judge, Jürgen and I are in agreement that Seokbulsa is the most amazing temple we've seen during our three months here.
I doubt there's a reflective surface anywhere in South Korea that hasn't, at some point in its life, served as a makeshift mirror for somebody checking makeup, fixing hair, or fretting about wrinkles. We've never seen people so obsessed with outward appearance as Koreans. It borders on the obsessive and is so widespread, so constant, that it's begun to worry us.
Every once in awhile, we'll choose a city excursion that's a little off-the-wall, like an unknown neighborhood that doesn't ever see tourists, picked almost at random. Often, these end up being among our favorite spots: Barracas in Buenos Aires comes to mind, as does Pampahasi in Bolivia. Other times... well other times, we end up in a place like Munhyeon-dong.
It was about ten minutes after our entrance into Busan's Grand Children's Park before we realized something was amiss. The park was crowded with senior citizens playing go-stop and full-grown adults hiking or playing badminton. But one thing was conspicuously missing from the Children's Park: children.
Busan is always at work on itself, more so than any other place we've lived, erecting new buildings, improving on its image and expanding its cultural offerings. We visited one of the city's latest achievements just days after it opened: the National Maritime Museum.
Of all the technological marvels we've seen in ultra-modern South Korea, only one has completely wedged its way into our hearts: the Yogi-Yo button. Found on tables in many of Busan's restaurants, it is utter, blissful genius. Press it, and your waiter appears like magic. Leave it unpressed, and you're left alone.
Along with soju, makgeolli (막걸리) is one of the most popular beverages in Busan. The milky-white drink is made of rice and wheat, and only slightly more alcoholic than beer. We visited a factory in the mountain village of Geumseong-dong to learn first-hand how it's made.
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.
Opened in 1978 at the western end of the U.N. Park in Daeyeon, the Busan Museum takes visitors on a journey through the history of the city and its region, from paleolithic times to the modern day. We visited recently and found it to be the perfect rainy-day activity.
After having such a great time in Gyeongju, we immediately planned out our second day trip from Busan -- Geoje Island. Unfortunately, this excursion was doomed to failure, thanks to the torrential rains of South Korea's summer monsoon season.