Just like baseball and pop music, there's another aspect of American culture which Korea has adopted, and then taken to the next level: in-your-face Christianity. I can't get through a single day without encountering another proselytizing Protestant, whether in the street or the subway. They invite me to their church, push "Jesus Loves You" fliers into my hand, and pray aloud for my eternal soul. They lure me in with free orange juice, and only then reveal their true intentions.
A narrow section of streets in the central neighborhood of Daeyeon separates Kyungsung University from Pukyong University. Perhaps it's unsurprising that this neighborhood, packed full of students and the establishments which cater to them, is among the most exciting in the city.
We visited the Busan Museum of Art the day after our bizarre excursion to the Snow Castle indoor ski hall. And here, again, was a cavernous building of steel, completely devoid of people. But whereas the Snow Castle has shuttered its doors forever, the art museum was open for business. Just... there was no business.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...