Friday, January 31, 2014

Busan Miscellany

I always end our adventures with a few miscellaneous pictures of things we have come across. Here is an assortment from our weekend in Busan, South Korea.

Perler Creations
My FAVORITE anime.

Underground shopping with a sloping floor - Battle School!

Always room for more marketing
Usually called African Penguins, although this works too.
On a skyscraper in Haeundae.
Many cars had pads on their doors.
Some were stylized
Korean Restaurant in Korea. Wouldn't that just be a restaurant?


On our last day in Busan we explored the mountain fortress Geumjeongsanseong. Go ahead, say that three times fast. Our "few hours" of hiking turned into an all-day event. It is Korea's largest mountain fortress and was built on ground that previously held walls, if not a formal congruent fortress. In 1703, after the Japanese invasion of 1592 and the Manchu invasions in 1627 and 1637, the presiding King focused his attention on securing the waterfront areas. The wall is 10.5 miles long and is a popular hiking area.

We took the subway outside the city and walked a few miles from station to the bottom of the mountain. Along the way we passed ornate gates that would have been additional defenses during an attack from the sea.

We decided to take the ropeway up part of the mountain to save us some hiking time. We had planned on hiking from the South Gate to the North Gate and knew that was going to be enough miles.

The trails around the South Gate were not well marked. This side of the mountain is dominated by pine tree so the underbrush was non-existent. Best advice? Just keep going up and try not to slip on icy pine needles.

Wow, never seen that type of tree before.
At the summit we came across the first part of the wall. Still with no trail present we decided to always keep the wall to our left. That resulted in a little bit of bushwhacking until we came to a well-kept trail.

Rebuilt lookout tower

For most of the trail we were on an exposed ridge. The wind was ferocious. When the clouds cleared the view was beautiful. There was snow patches every so often.

We kept hiking until we reached the North Gate. The clouds had moved in and there was a little bit of rain. We decided to start our descent and spent more time hiking down through the mountains than we spent hiking Geumjeongsanseong. A large Buddhist temple, small restaurants, a few villages and then finally we reached a subway station. The mountain area is beautiful. It is easy to see how just a few feet of wall can aid in national defense. I wouldn't dare be exposed on the ridge trying to make my way into Korea!

Haedong Yonggung

On our second day in Busan we explored Haedong Yonggung, a Buddhist temple on the eastern coast of South Korea. The temple is a short walk along the coastline and sits on cliff overlooking the Sea of Japan. We took a thirty minute bus to the area.

Because the temple is outside the normal tourist areas we were the only Westerners.

The motto for this seaside temple is "At least one of your wishes will be answered here through your heartful prayers."

There was very little English translation. Below is a tower for prayers for safe car travel.

Not sure why people would rub Buddha's Nose as prayer for wanting a boy.

I always find walking through Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines very interesting. I wonder if people who follow these beliefs think walking through a Methodist Church in Kentucky is equally as interesting. Somehow I think not.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dongbaek Island

After walking along the beach and visiting the Busan Aquarium, we hiked around an inlet called Dongbaek Island. Originally separated (hence the name), this inlet is a popular hiking spot with beautiful views of Busan. It is also home to a historic lighthouse and a large statue of a mermaid. On clear days many say they can see a Japanese island in the distance, but experts think that it is a mirage and trick of the eye. Either way, the park has some well-kept trails and was a welcome respite from the concrete city.

The island is named for the trees that grow in the area. Dongbaek translates to camellia. Excellent small park.

Haeundae Beach

One of Korea's most famous beaches, Haeundae, was a quick stop before we hiked around a nearby inlet. It is also home of the Busan Aquarium. We visited, but I write so often about aquariums that I have decided not to share. It is a beautiful aquarium and we watched them feeding sharks!

Afterwards we walked along the beach. Although open year-round for festivals, it is currently being restored so only small pockets were open. It was a great place to turn around and see the south east side of Busan.

To the left...

...and to the right.


A slide into the sand!

A beautiful beach and a neat view of the Busan skyline.


There was a whole list of foods we wanted to try while in South Korea. Top of the list was chicken. Yes, chicken. I don't know what magical spice combination is used, but I have read multiple stellar reviews. I must experience this for myself. There are many "chicken and beer" joints around. We walked through many streets until we found Outdark.

Outdark is a popular chain in South Korea and serves up a limited, but delicious, menu. The restaurant is pretty small, and I've heard that the wait for a table can be a bit long. We were quite lucky to walk right up and feast!

Eating is communal. First we shared a small salad with fruity dressing along with some pickled raddish. We had four sauce options to dip spicy chicken and French fries. One was a spicy mustard, and the rest were just spicy!

Next came the super delicious tower of spicy chicken, french fries, and tteokboki. Those little white sticks on top are soft rice cake that are fried. They have the same texture and consistency of a marshmallow. The secret to their delivious (and not a bit greasy) chicken? Fry it twice. Seasoning before, during, and after.

It was great to relax with our spicy meal for a couple hours. The casual vibe in this small restaurant was contagious and provided a perfect ending to an adventuring day.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Busan from Lotte Department Store

After BIFF we meandered through the shopping area until we saw a sign for North Face. Dustin has been in need of a new winter coat for a few years. With another winter trip scheduled soon I wanted to find something suitable and durable. The reverse sticker-shock of purchasing in Korea was a double bonus. We spent some time wandering up the thirteen floors to the roof.

On top of the Lotte Department Store is a zoo, viewing boardwalk, and delicious coffee shop.
We love variety.

Park where you want...

No real dock organization...


And with that, I'll end it right here.

Metro in Busan

Getting around in Busan is extremely easy. The metro is cheap and convenient (1,300 won per ride ~ $0.95). They also offer a day pass for 4,500 won so you don't have to worry about crossing into another "section" and be charged more. I picked a hotel at the meeting of two of the main lines so 100 meters outside our door gave us access to the entire city.

Trains just sound like trains. We've gotten accustomed to the repetitive sounds after using public transportation so often in Japan. However, these trains had Dustin and I looking at each other in wide-eyed geeky delight.

Take a listen....


Sorry the video is of the (very clean) floor. We felt it rude to video our accompanying passengers.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


I love street food. When we travel we tend to stray from the three-meal-a-day rule. It's more like coffee, breakfast, street food, convenience store snacks, street food, drinks, dessert street food.

Korea was no different. After exploring Jagalchi Market (and looking at some tasty and not-so-tasty fishies), we were feeling a bit peckish. A few blocks away is BIFF - the Busan International Film Festival. Although the actual festival was not currently in swing, the area was still bustling with hundreds of street vendors. The area is home to many stores, restaurants, live theaters, and movie theaters.

First up, hotteok! The crowd around this stall was three deep. The line wrapped around the back, but moved quickly. First, you take a yeast dough and allow is to rise for a few hours. Pull off a small hand full and form it into a ball around a cinnamon-brown sugar-honey mixture.

Fry - pushing down with a small stainless steel circle.

Quickly cut open and stuff with dry sunflower seeds.

FEAST! (and get back in line for more)

Om nom nom nom!
Just the right amount of doughy, crispy, sugary, salty, warmth. Fan-tasty-tastic!
Next was fruit. Huge grapes and strawberries on sticks? Alrighty.

Upon closer inspection they are coated in hard sugar! Candy-coated strawberries and grapes.

Already took a bite of the other side. Wait wait! Picture first! oops.

Our street food filled our peckish tummies for a bit so we walked around the huge shopping area. Don't have a stall/store space? Just pull up your truck! SOCKS!