We hadn't expected to have such a great day out in the northern neighborhood of Oncheon-dong. After discovering a popular open-air foot spa, we walked back toward the subway through a boisterous food and goods market. Maybe it's the collegial atmosphere generated by the closeness of the stands, but people working in these markets always seem to be happier than their counterparts behind the cash register of a grocery store.
Walking around the Oncheon neighborhood toward the north of Busan, we happened upon a curious little pond where a bunch of Koreans were soaking their feet. A dragon's head was mounted on the wall of this open-air foot spa, like the prize of some mythical hunter.
We first spotted Snow Castle while doing a little aerial reconnaissance of our neighborhood on Google Maps. A big, curvy building on the end of Hwangryungsan mountain? Interesting... and what's that shape on the ground? [zoom] Is that a... [zoom]... yes that's definitely a giant skier in front of the hall.
On the northern side of Yongdusan Park is the Busan Modern History Museum, which takes visitors on a stroll through the recent past of the city. It might as well call itself the Busan Museum of Japanese Aggression, because that's basically the focus of every exhibit.
On our first visit to the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan, we had ascended in a cable car and hiked from the South to East Gate. It was an all-day excursion, but we were only able to see a fraction of the gigantic mountain fortress which extends across the summit, and so vowed to return. Our second trip would start at the Northern Gate, bring us to Godangbong Peak and end with a well-deserved feast in the village of Sanseong.
Established in the year 678, Beomeosa is probably the most important Buddhist temple in Busan. And with its location in the foothills of Mt. Geumjeongsan, it's certainly among the most beautiful. Entering the complex is like stepping into another world, one more sacred and peaceful.
Perhaps it's not surprising that we've had our most adventurous Korean meals when accompanied by Koreans. I think that locals enjoy pushing our boundaries -- whether it's to introduce us to new foods, or just because they like watching us squirm. So far, we've only said "no" once -- and that was when an overly enthusiastic Korean invited us to a restaurant serving dog. Silk worm larvae or twitching octopus? Fine. But dog meat is a step too far!
The beginning of the summer has hit Busan, and the city seems to be celebrating with a raft of festivals. There's the International Car Show, a River Sports Festival, an International Dance Festival, a Port Festival, and a Traditional Folk Festival... and this all in the first week of June! We felt a little guilty skipping out on all of them, so decided to check out the Sand Festival at Haeundae Beach.
Among the best experiences we've had in Busan have been our visits to Sajik Stadium to watch the Giants. Any American baseball fan who's ever complained about their team's high ticket prices, expensive food and drink, or paltry attendance, should definitely pencil in a day at the park while in Busan. This is the stadium experience perfected.
Our first month in Busan has flown by, and we're a little upset that one-third of our time here is over! We've seen and done a lot, eaten strange and wonderful things, gone on a bunch of beautiful hikes, and met some great people, but I have the feeling we haven't even scratched the surface yet. Here are our impressions, after one month in Busan.