On the morning of my second (and last day) in Busan, my friend and I stood at the curb near the hostel waiting for SangCheol to drive up. I spotted him walking down the street with a shiny black car slowly rolling along, keeping pace with him. We loped over to meet SangCheol and he motioned for us to hop in the car (it was at the same no stopping area as the day before).
SangCheol settled himself on the front passenger seat—the day's self appointed guide. On the wheel this time was ByeongUk (he had arrived the night before, back from a work trip). No rest for the wicked. In this case, no rest for Mustachio's friends. (Hey, don't look at me with accusing eyes! It was their kind and hospitable souls that volunteered to show me around.)
It was a long way to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Made even longer when the self–appointed guide snoozed and missed to tell ByeongUk to get off at the right exit. My friend and I laughed and enjoyed the joyride, while ByeongUk sweated bullets trying to figure out where the next expressway exit was so we could go back, and SangCheol squirmed in his seat trying to hold back his pee. (We eventually found a stop with a toilet.)
When we finally reached Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, SangCheol switched on his guide mode: he led the way. (It was also ByeongUk's first time at the temple.) SangCheol told us that at least one of our wishes would be granted if we pray at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
Directions to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple: Take subway line 2 to Haeundae Station, exit 7. Then take Bus 181 and get off at Yonggungsa Temple (용궁사).
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is unique in that it is by the sea.
Most of Korea's temples are on the mountains.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple faces the sea
Somebody is showing his butt
Across the temple, SangCheol prodded us to go down a short set of steps into a cave and encouraged us to make one wish and drink the water from the spring. SangCheol always cracks jokes so I didn't know whether to believe him or not. But we went along anyway. While waiting in line, I tried to observe what people were doing: they lit a candle, then when it was their turn at the spring, they picked up a plastic cup and drank some water from the spring, and then paused a bit to say a prayer. We mimicked them.
SangCheol brought us to another part of the temple where he told us to make a wish and throw a coin. If the coin goes into one of the two bowls, our wish would come true. I was sure whatever I would wish for here would not be granted: I have very bad aim. But I made a wish and threw a coin anyway. Yup. Bad aim.
So far, whatever SangCheol told us, we followed. The third area he took us to was to a Buddha with a big pot belly. He told us to rub Buddha's belly....and we would be granted a son. No. Pass. None of us wanted a child as of the moment. Thank you very much.
I had a wish the night before though. When SangCheol asked what I wished to eat for dinner, I said japchae 잡채 (stir–fried glass noodle). It boggled his mind. Japchae was just side dish!!! He racked his brain and asked for help from his friends on where we could find japchae. No one could think of a place. So we ended up having bossam 보쌈 (thinly sliced pork belly boiled in broth with ginger and onion) and really spicy noodles (very spicy it made me cry) at Dongnae area.
Bossam and so many side dishes (but no japchae)
But today, that wish for japchae was granted. SangCheol remembered a restaurant near Haedong Yonggungsa Temple that had japchae as one of their side dishes. After pictures and wishes at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, we went to this busy restaurant that I didn't know the name of and ate a huge feast of duck and pork and a ton of side dishes, including japchae.
Eating like there's no tomorrow. Spot the japchae.
We ate like it was our last meal...which it kind of was for me, for we would be heading back to the hostel at Nampo with just enough time to pick up our bags and go to the airport at Gimhae to catch our flight back home.
I was looking forward to Busan: to seeing this coastal city and to bugging my three Busan friends whom I haven't seen in over a year. I didn't have any itinerary for my two days in Busan—my plan was to plan around their schedule. Kinda left it to them to take the wheel (of my itinerary).
And they took the wheel literally. Around 10AM, SangCheol drove up to the hostel, with Yong riding shotgun acting as guide. My friend and I jumped in (yes, we had to jump in; it was a no stopping zone) and we were on the way. These guys are not morning persons which clearly showed in SangCheol's half–closed eyes and in Yong's snores as we crossed a bridge and cruised along roads and highways for about 45 minutes to Taejongdae.
Take subway line 1 to Nampo Station, exit 6. Take Bus 8, 30, 66, or 88 and get off at the last stop (Taejongdae Chagoji).
Take subway line 1 to Busan Station, exit 7. Take Bus 66, 88, or 101 and get off at the last stop (Taejongdae Chagoji).
Taejongdae is a huge park. You either walk around or shell out KRW2000 for a tram ticket. The uphill walk to the ticket booth was already too much for sleep–deprived SangCheol that he took the liberty to buy us all tram tickets.
The tram makes five stops along its route: Taewon Jagal Madang, Gumyeongsa Temple, Observatory, Yeongdo Lighthouse, and Taejongsa Temple. I have no idea what Taewon Jagal Madang is or how the temples look; we only went to Yeongdo Lighthouse and the Observatory.
Map of Taejongdae (click to enlarge)
The rock below the boardwalk near the lighthouse
Taejongdae is a refreshing park to spend the whole day hiking around, gulping in fresh air (and, if you're hiking, gulping gallons of water), taking in the views, and catching up with friends. We tramped around the boardwalk, checked out sculptures, and tinkered with a digital map of Busan's attractions that we found on one of the viewdecks. Back at the boardwalk, we took in the view of the fog and the sea (on a clear day, Japan's Tsushima Island can be seen from the Observatory) and the rock formations below. People were down on the rock fishing and some were just hanging around. There was a trail down to the rocks but I didn't subject SangCheol and Yong to a hike down—they still had a whole day of driving and guiding to do.
By noon, we drove back to Nampo for lunch, went in and out of stores around Nampo, went to Gamcheon Culture Village for more walks, and then before the day ended, SangCheol and Yong drove us to another scenic site: Oryukdo Islands.
We did not got to the islands itself, but viewed the islands from Oryukdo Skywalk.
Closed during Lunar New Year and Korean Thanksgiving Day
Directions to Oryukdo Skywalk
Take subway line 1 to Busan Station, exit 10. Take bus 27 and get off at Oryukdo SK View Humun (Backgate) Bus Stop (25 stops). Walk about 275 m to Oryukdo Skywalk.
From Gamcheon Culture Village, it took an hour and two bridge crossings to get to Oryukdo Skywalk. Once we found a parking slot some 300 meters from the skywalk, SangCheol herded us to the skywalk where we had to wear cloth covers over our shoes before stepping on its glass floor.
The skywalk is built overhanging some 35 meters above the sea on a rock cliff. It affords a view of Oryukdo Islands, a group of five (오 o in Korean) islands called such because when viewed from the east it looks like six (육 yuk in Korean) islands.
(The five or six islands of Oryukdo can also be seen up close via a cruise. The boat leaves Mipo Ferry Terminal in Haeundae every 40 minutes on weekends or every hour on weekdays, and the cruise will run for a little more than an hour. A cruise ticket would cost around KRW 22,000 or about Php 900.)
Oryukdo Islands as seen from the skywalk. Usakdo Island is the island nearest mainland Busan. The four other islands of Oryukdo are on the far left...at this angle, it looks like one island.
We shuffled over the glass skywalk, tried to count the islands (in vain; it was too foggy and I could barely see the lighthouse on the farthest island peeking over the other three islands, plus we were on the south and the four islands looked like one island from that angle), hurriedly clicked our cameras, took two lungfuls of air, and then it was over. There was a long line behind us and we had to get in and out of there in a flash. (Here's a video of the skywalk and how busy it could get.)
Near Oryukdo Skywalk is Igidae Park, where one can enjoy more views of Busan via the 5–kilometer Coastal Walk. I did not want SangCheol and Yong to blame me for making them work like a horse on their rest day, so we skipped that. Walk or no walk at Igidae Park, SangCheol still blamed me the next day when both his legs were aching from all the walking we did in Taejongdae, Nampo, and Gamcheon.
Usakdo Island (left)
After the trip, while researching about the places I visited in South Korea, I stumbled upon the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea website and learned that South Korea has seven heritage classifications, and one of them is the "scenic site." Scenic sites are "places of natural beauty with great historic, artistic or scenic values, which feature distinctive uniqueness and rarity originated from their formation processes." The country has more than a hundred "scenic sites," and only two of these are in Busan: Taejongdae (Scenic Site 17) and Oryukdo (Scenic Site 24). Whether SangCheol and Yong knew this or not, I was lucky they brought me to these places. 감사합니다 SangCheol and Yong!