Armed with a map of Busan's best walks, a bottle of water and bellies full of doughnut-power, we set off on a long hike through the peninsular neighborhood of Amnan-Dong, southwest of Nampo. The seven-kilometer route would bring us over the Namhang Bridge to Songdo Beach, and down the coast to Amnan Park.
Golden dragons, Lady Gaga knockoffs and... Mike getting eaten by a shark?! A walk around Busan is nothing if not consistently entertaining. Besides bizarre city scenes, this photo set includes a lot of shots which highlight Busan's connection with the sea.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...