부산시 Busan Part I

A couple weekends ago we travelled down to Busan (sometimes spelled Pusan for us English speakers). We were particularly excited because we were taking the train and would be able to get a sense of what the Korean landscape is like.

Our day didn’t start out too smoothly. We had to take the subway to Suwon, a city close by where the train stops. We gave ourselves what we thought was a lot of time but found that the subway was taking longer than expected. Then, the train stopped and we all had to get off and wait for a different one! (Maintenance perhaps?… I don’t know.)

We were sure we were going to miss the train, but we thought we might as well try and get it. So we arrive at the Suwon stop and run for it. Sandy is the faster of us two, obviously, so we had a plan: Sandy would run ahead and figure out what direction we needed to go and then wait at any turns for Ms. Slowpants. It was busy, I mean, really busy. Sandy would later say that he felt like straight-arming the people who were blocking the way, including little old grandma. Sandy, the navigator, made a few lucky guesses at particularly confusing intersections and we found ourselves running down a set of stairs to where the train was.

We saw it on the platform. We kept running. We heard, of all things, a whistle. (Did you know that the train people still use whistles to signal the train was leaving? I thought that was just in movies!) We ran. We showed our tickets. We got on and a moment later, the train started to move. Whew! That was close! Note to self, leave A LOT of extra time when catching a train!

The ride itself was very nice. There were beautiful hills, farms and towns along the way.

We took the super slow train mainly by accident – we wanted the KTX super fast train but we didnt think to ask for it in particular and instead got the super slow train tickets instead. It took 5 hrs to go from Suwon, a city close by to Osan, to Busan. We didn’t mind the time it took. It was like a little road trip except you didn’t have to drive and could walk around more often.

The train tickets were $25 per person for one way. $100 to go from the upper left of the country down to the bottom right and back again, that seems a good deal to me!

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경복궁 Gyeongbokgung Palace

Set on seeing a little more traditional architecture a few weekends ago we set off for Gyeongbokgung Palace. In Northern Seoul, these nicely kept sites are surrounded by trees and walking paths. Very beautiful. Here are some pictures.

Im such a sucker for the painted adornment on the inside and outside of the buildings. I love that torquoise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were intrigued by the figures atop of many buildings but are still unsure of their significance.

 

Finally, there was a section of white washed buildings with no painted detailing.

In this section we saw an example of the first ondol systems.

It was great to explore the buildings. I think this trip has fulfilled my quota of taking pictures of traditional buildings, however, and I think Sandy is glad for it.

청계천 Cheonggyecheon

In downtown Seoul, there runs a large stream that was once covered in concrete but has since been revitalised into a park. It is really gorgeous and such a unique juxtaposition of city and natural settings. As you can read in Wikipedia, there was hesitancy among many inhabitants of Seoul for the project but the place has since become popular among locals and tourists. I am thankful for the project. It was really wonderful.

They had some features from Buddha’s birthday festivities still up so we were able to see those too.

On the walls there were tiles depicting an emense royal procession.

Aside from the quick downturn in the weather – it went from clear sky to dark black with rain in the matter of 30 min – it was a wonderful walk in downtown Seoul.

 

Seoul Lantern Festival

May 28th was Buddha’s birthday which was celebrated by a 3+ day festival in Seoul and many other places around the world. We were happy to go into Seoul for the lantern parade. Because of the limitations of our camera, most of my photos turned out blurry but I did get a few. Here are some snippets of our day.

Headed in on the subway around 4 and stopped for some street food.

That was some delicious Spam-like meat-ish slice with cabbage, a bbq-ish sauce and mustard sandwich. Tasty! For all you grimacing, I will tell you that Spam is quite popular here as it is in many countries who survived on it during a recent war. When in Osan you gotta try it, right?!

Next was to check out the pre-parade situation. Found lots of chairs but knew those would go fast. We had no problem with standing so we walked around looking at more street food and stopped at this little place:

Had nice frosty drinks and very friendly atmosphere.

Back to the parade route we saw a police band playing and shortly after, the parade started! It was beautiful. Many, many, MANY lanterns filled the streets. Bands performing traditional music. Big floats with images of Buddha and other religious symbols. It was very beautiful!

 

After the parade we had our first ‘soju tent’ experience. Soju tents are these tarp and stove top restaurants that line the streets selling street food. There are sometimes plastic tables and chairs, sometimes simply crates, inside the tent. A nice woman waved us in and took me by the hand up to her display of fresh seafood etc. I pointed to some squid and some skewers that looked like beef. She sent me back to our table and went to work. She brought us some food that was pretty half decent!

Can’t really complain. Though I was disappointed because the beef turned out to be some sort of (cow?) organ meat (kidney?). Organ meat is not really my thing… at all. Luckily, Sandy liked it! (as he did the beef intestine that we accidently ordered, but that’s another story).

We caught one of the last trains back to Osan but only 5 or six stops the train stopped and everyone got off. The subway was closing for the night! Instead of the trains finishing their routes, they just stop wherever they are at a certain time and kick everyone off. Okie dokie. Off to find a taxi. $50 later we are back in Osan (it was an hour trip so $50 is pretty good, I’d say!).

A great occasion!