Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Feel the air up above, a pool of blue sky

...See the waves on distant shores awaiting your arrival
Dream the dreams of other men, you'll be no ones rival...
A distant time, a distant place that's where we're living
A distant time, a distant space, so what are you giving?

Pearl Jam, Unthought Known

Few things go together as well as Pearl Jam and nature.

Last weekend I went to Busan, which in the space of 48 hours became one of the best cities I have visited. And that's saying a lot after my first day.

I left Daejeon as early as possible on Saturday since I wanted to have as much time in Busan as I could. I arrived around 10:15 AM (it's about an hour and a half from Daejeon on the KTX, making Busan totally do-able as a day trip. And I think it shall be one quite often in the future). Unfortunately, when I got to Busan the rain that had kept me awake during Friday night had followed the train south. But no problem, a little rain can't deter this Seattle girl - plus, I had the trusty umbrella that I bought in Seoul two months ago (the first umbrella that I have ever owned, believe it or not). Despite the rain I still decided to stick to my original plan to go to the ocean - oh, how I have missed the ocean. 45 minutes later when I got out of the subway in Haundae, the most famous of the beaches in Busan, the rain had let up a little bit but was still coming down pretty hard. I walked around a bit, and then decided to get some lunch at a cute little sandwich place called Breezeburns and then go to the aquarium in hopes that the rain might ease a little.

Ease, it did not. When I came out of the aquarium it was so windy that the rain was pouring down sideways. And then my umbrella broke. There I was standing on a sidewalk in Haundae with my broken umbrella, a backpack on my back, and clothes that were getting increasingly more soaked every minute. I saw 2 choices in that moment: find my hostel and call it a day, or buy some new, dry, warm clothes and hope for the best. I chose the second option, and that is how I ended up at the world's largest department store spending 90,000 won on a pair of corduroys, some socks and a sweater that has, in a matter of only a few days, become my favorite item of clothing.

From that point on, the day got much better. By the time I left the department store the rain had all but stopped and I was dry and warm and even had a new pink (the only color they had) umbrella. By now it was about 4:00 so I decided to go find my hostel and drop off my backpack before the fireworks show at 8:00. When I was looking for a place to stay in Busan, I grudgingly decided to go the hostel route - I am not much of a fan of hostels, especially after a bad experience at one in
Dublin. But it turns out that Busan is a pretty expensive city and while I am willing to pay a little bit more for a motel there were none available in the areas in which I wanted to stay. Luckily, the Busan Hostel proved to be one of the best parts of my trip. They had emailed me very helpful directions, which involved taking the subway and then a bus. The bus ride from the subway station was about 20 minutes and all uphill. We passed the UN cemetary and a couple of parks, and then I saw my holy grail: the ocean. I got off at the very last bus stop, as the email directed me to, and walked up to what looked like an apartment complex. I found the hostel, met the owner who was really nice, spoke good English and confirmed that yes, indeed, the fireworks would still take place that evening regardless of the rain.

The view beside the hostel was absolutely breath-taking. Normally I'm not one for nature, but there is just something about being in this part of the world that every once in a while makes me feel so alive. Maybe it's because I still can't quite believe that I'm livng in Asia, maybe it's because I'm in awe dreaming of all the places I want to travel to, or maybe it's because it's so much easier to live in the moment when you're taking a year out of your life to really live and don't have the weight of a million responsibilities on your shoulder.

After checking in and leaving some of my things at the hostel, I headed back out on the bus to the beach where the fireworks would be. I'm always so proud of myself when I successfully navigate public transportation in this country. Truly, the journey is usually more important than the destination sometimes. After a dinner of fried chicken and beer, I made my way to the giant inflatable soju bottle set up on the edge of Gwangalli Beach for a night of fireworks competition between countries. Despite the fact that the beach was crowded, that I was shoved several times by Koreans that don't have the same personal space boundaries as Americans, I LOVED the fireworks. In general, I have loved the festivals I have gone to in Korea. Rarely do I feel more at ease than in a crowd. I love being in a sea of people, and as counter-intuitive as it may sound, it is comforting at times to be surrounded by people speaking another language. I think that's probably why I love Seoul and Busan so much - crowded they are, but they are also full of experiences, independence, and life.
After the fireworks ended, I walked around for a little while, enjoying the peacefulness of the ocean contrasted with all the neon of a Korean city.

The next day, I got up early and headed to Yonggunsa Temple. It was incredibly beautiful and none of my pictures seem to do it justice, so just go to the link if you want to see it. I spent two hours exploring the temple, pouring water on the statue of Buddha that was underground (!!), and sitting on the rocks by the ocean, enjoying the peacefulness of listening to the waves.

When I left the temple, I decided to head back to Haundae Beach and walk around for awhile. The ocean waves surprised me by being bigger than I anticipated and soaking my pants, but I loved it! In fact, walking along the beach reminded me a little of walking along Coronado Beach in San Diego last July, and I felt a little homesick. In a good way!

Before going back to the train station, I decided to take a side-trip to try to find a temple in Haundae that my Lonely Planet guidebook recommended but said most people don't bother visiting. I'm not sure why - it was within walking distance from the beach and unlike most places in Korea, the directions the guide book gave to find it were very easy to understand. After turning down a side alley, walking by people's houses and laundry and climbing a hill, I came to the temple which was very peaceful and had a gorgeous view of Busan. I sat there for a while, on a bench in front of Buddha and his students enjoying just being in the moment.

Too soon it was time to head back to Daejeon. More adventures to come! I feel restless, and as someone pointed out at dinner tonight, we now have nine months left of the year. I don't want to leave Korea with any regrets about not traveling enough, so onward and upward!


peggy kravchuk said...

i love reading about Busan. The temple is gorgeous.

Sis said...

Love your travelogues, Megan! Thanks