Busan III

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April 2nd 2016
Published: April 19th 2016
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2nd April: We travelled overnight and arrived at Busan in the early morning. I hadn't slept on the bus, so was in a terrible mood. Most people got off the bus to watch the sunrise, but I couldn't be bothered. I got up a little while later and found a coffee shop that was open. It was more of a hole in the wall joint than an actual coffee shop, but it was open at 7 am, which is lovely, you never find that in Seoul. Armed with my coffee, I took a wander along the beach and was surprised at how busy it was. There were people out running, biking, and walking. In the sea there were people swimming and surfing. We were at Songjeong Beach, which I thought I had been to years ago on my first trip to Busan a few months after I moved to Korea, but looking around I don't think this was the beach I visited.

Around 8 am, we headed over to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. The path up to the temple was lined with cherry blossoms and they looked beautiful. I walked past the statues of all the zodiac animals. Since I have been to the temple before I didn't bother to take any photos of them. I entered the temple and walked down the stairs, I stopped briefly at the viewpoint to take some photos of the temple. Haedong Yonggungsa is pretty unique in that the temple is located right on the coast. I think the only other coastal temple I have been to is Naksan near Sokcho. Most temples are located in the hills or mountains, away from society. The nice thing about getting to the temple so early, was that it was relatively quiet. I wandered around the temple. It is a nice temple but I wasn't too wowed as I had been before. I do love the tiny Buddha statues that are all over the temple. They are in every nook and cranny. There is also a nice view out over the coast and I could see a lot of construction work going on. This part of Busan is getting modernised. I was starving so on the way back to the bus, I bought a snack from one of the food vendors. I got a hoddeok, which is a small sweet pancake filled with sweet stuff, this one also had some seeds in it. It was delicious.

We drove to our motel. We drove along the Dalmachi Gil street. The road was lined with cherry blossoms and looked totally gorgeous! I wish I'd had time to go back and walk through it. Cherry blossoms are just so pretty. After freshening up at the hotel, I headed out. I really wanted to visit the Gamcheon Culture Village. It is quite far from Haeundae. I spent about an hour on the subway and then 10 minutes on the bus to reach the start of the village. At fist the street didn't look too steep, so I thought the people I had spotted walking up didn't have too much of a hard job. However the bus turned the corner and there was a huge hill in front of us. I wondered how this packed little bus would make it up. We did though!

I had read online that you could do a stamp tour of the village, so I headed over to the tourist information office to buy the map that you stamp. It cost 2,000 won and at two of the stamping stations you get postcards of the village. I wandered around the village, it was busy with tourists. I must be a bit thick as I found it hard to find the buildings that had the stamps in, but I wasn't really looking and wandered past most of them a few times. I finally found the first couple. One was high up some steps and there was a nice view out of the village, all the way down to the coast. I walked around going into the places that were open. There were some small galleries and art installations and lots of shops. The shops all seemed to be pretty cheap.

I wandered up the hill and came across some food places. I just wanted a snack so I got a fish cake croquette. It was really yummy, I could have eaten two of them. I think spring is a good time to visit as all the cherry blossoms were out on the hills surrounding the village, making it look even prettier. I wandered around the village collecting the rest of my stamps and having a nose around the buildings. The village is very old looking. I wandered some of the backstreets off the tourist trail. Some streets, especially at the start of the village, have signs telling the tourists to keep out, but deeper in the village you are free to wander more. I was surprised at how quiet it was.

Gamcheon is a moon village that has undergone regeneration. It is like a much bigger Gaemi Maeul, which I have visited in Seoul. After the Korean War, this neighbourhood sprouted up amid poor conditions. The houses are small and there are a lot of steps in the village to wander up and down. A number of businesses have been set up in the village to make money for the village and its people. The businesses provide employment and the profits are put straight back into the village to help its development.

When I finished at the village, I decided to walk down the hill as I didn't think it would take too long. I was right the walk only took about ten or fifteen minutes. I saw a sign for another smaller cultural village, but I was feeling too tired and hungry to go and check it out. As I walked down the hill, I passed lots of old looking buildings and shops. I had spotted a Kimbap Cheonguk opposite the bus stop earlier, so I headed there for some food. Bless the guy working there, asking me if I could speak Korean, I bet if I said no he would have either explained the dishes or given me an English menu. Even though it was a pretty warm day, I really wanted some jjigae (stew), I felt like I hadn't had a proper meal in ages. I order chamchi jjigae (tuna stew). It came out bubbling away in its little black pot. I waited for it too cool down and then dug in. It was bloody delicious. I wandered back to the subway station. I spotted this tiny, grotty looking place that looked closed. It was advertising patbingsu on the outside. I glimpsed in expecting it to be empty, but it was full of old men laughing and chatting. I picutured them all tucking into some patbingsu.

3rd April: The good thing about sleeping in a room with no windows meant it was pitch black. Perfect! I had a really good night's sleep. I got up around 9 and took my time getting ready as we didn't have to check out until 10. However, we did end up leaving our stuff in the room. I headed down to the beach stopping for a coffee on the way. I love Busan, there is some seriously cheap coffee here. There is a little coffee stand on the main street leafing down to the beach, which was extremely cheap. I was worried that I would be cold as I had shorts and a t-shirt on, but it wasn't too bad. The sky was looking very overcast and I hoped it wouldn't rain.

The reason for this trip to Busan was to celebrate Holi Hai. It is the Hindu festival to celebrate the coming of spring. It is celebrated by throwing coloured powder at each other. I think that the organisers said that this was the sixth year that the festival had taken place in Korea. Korea's Indian expat community is definitely growing. It cost 10,000 won to participate in the festival and for the price, you were given a wristband, a cap, delicious samosas, and a packet of Holi powder. We found a spot on the steps by the beach to dump our stuff, good job Koreans are so honest, nobody nicked our stuff. Then headed to the festival area. It was in between two rows of tents, which sold stuff like water, food, and extra powder. There was also a baggage storage facility.

The festival kicked off properly around 11 am. They had the organisers up on stage explaining what the festival was about and who had helped and sponsored them. They also said that Holi Hai was a very inclusive festival and everyone was welcome to celebrate. After a countdown, it was time to release our bags of powder. There was such a great atmosphere, everyone was happy, happy, happy! The Bollywood tunes were blasting! We spent a few hours dancing and throwing coloured powder over each. I had worried that it would be a big booze fest, but it wasn't some people were drinking and some weren't. Everyone was chill. There were a few countdowns to release more powder, three or four times. You could buy extra bags of powder at one of the stalls. It was 5,000 won for three bags. Some people went for a swim in the sea to wash the paint off, but it was too cold for me to even contemplate it. The festival finished up around 3 pm, but we left a bit earlier as I wanted to get cleaned up at our motel before the tortuously long bus ride back.

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Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

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