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Day 8 -- Excursion to monastery, aquarium and war cemetary - Helen's journal and online home
In which an old dog attempts to learn new tricks.
Day 8 -- Excursion to monastery, aquarium and war cemetary

As usual we got a taxi to KAIST and waited for everyone to assemble and for the bus to arrive to take us on our day trip. While waiting, I discovered a book in the foyer about King Sejong the Great, The Everlasting Light of Korea. He was a remarkably enlightened monarch who ruled in the early 1400s. However, before I had time to get very far with my reading, the tour guide arrived and herded everyone onto the bus. By now it was raining, so it looked as though the typhoon had arrived in time to spoil the day, but it turned out to be just a shower and in fact the day turned sunny and I ended up pink because I'd worn a short sleeved t-shirt.

The first stop was the Haedong Yonggung Buddhist temple. Apparently Korean Buddhist temples are generally in the hills, so this one is unusual in that it is on the coast. Unfortunately, though there has been a temple here for centuries, it was destroyed by the Japanese during the occupation, so the current building is only about 60 or so years old. Even so it was interesting to see a real Buddhist temple in a country where about 25% of the population are Buddhist. Until now I have only seen Westerner's attempts to recreate Buddhist temples in the UK. Besides, the setting was beautiful, right on the coast with waves lapping over the rocks below the terrace.

Then it was back on the bus to visit the APEC meeting place. I have to say that until today I had never heard of APEC, so it was somewhat chastening to realise that all this negotiating is going on and we Europeans know nothing about it! After that, we were driven to where we were to have lunch. We had been eating canteen Korean food for the lunches at KAIST, which though edible, were obviously the equivalent of canteen food in any institution. The banquet last night was a splendiferous buffet with innumerable dishes, but this lunch, though more modest was delicious. We started with a sweet pumpkin soup, thickened with rice flour, then there was a bowl of meat and different vegetables with rice and a selection of side dishes. To drink, there was barley tea water and, to finish, a sweet rice based drink. I was slightly suprised that the meat always seems to be beef. I was expecting chicken and pork, but apart from one chicken dish at the banquet, it seems to be mostly fish with beef as the meat of choice.

The restaurant where we had lunch was within walking distance of Haeundae Beach and the Busan Aquarium. It was a very splendid aquarium. It had all the usual tropical fish, turtles and eels that you might find at any large zoo or aquarium, but the star attractions (In my view) were the sharks and the jelly fish. The sharks were in an absulutely huge tank, with the longest aquarium tunnel in the world running through it. As sharks go, they weren't very big, but they each had a school of small fish accompanying them, something I've seen often enough on TV wildlife documentaries, but never in real life. Watching the jellyfish was totally hypnotic. They were in a huge cylindrical tank that you could walk around and they seemed to be swimmming in time to the gentle music that was playing. Totally entrancing. I also found the ideal gift for the grandchildren and bought a pink and white penguin and a normal black and white one. They are light and unbreakable and I hope E and W will like them.

I have to admit that we didn't closely examine all the fish tanks, so we emerged into the daylight with enough time to walk to the end of the beach and explore the boardwalk path that had been built around the headland. At the end of the headland was a small lighthouse and offshore were the Five or Six Islands that mark the entrance to Busan Harbour. That is their name, by the way, not my guess as to how many there are. They are so called because at high tide there are six of them, but at low tide only five, because two are joined by a piece of land that is alternately above water and submerged.

From Haeundae we crossed the Diamond Bridge once more and travelled to the UN Memorial Cemetary. This is beautifully laid out and it is where thousands of UN troops, from 16 different countries, who died in the war are buried.

Because we were not all staying in the same hotel, the bus stopped at a metro station to allow anyone who wanted to travel back that way to get off. After that it would take the remainder back to KAIST, from where the only sensible way to our hotel is by taxi, so we hopped off the bus and descended the steps to the metro -- to find ourselves in an indoor shopping mall! Fortunately, we had encountered this kind of arrangement in Seoul, so we kept on walking past shop after shop after shop.[*] I then managed to maintain my record of being asked for directions, even when I'm in a place far from home. A group of young women attracted my attention and asked if I spoke English, to which I replied with a smile, "Yes, I am English." She then asked me if I knew where the metro was. I said apologetically that I didn't know, but we were looking for it ourselves. Hopefully they followed us because after just a couple more blocks of shops I spotted a yellow metro sign. G worked out which line we wanted, I made a note of the name of the station at the end of the line, then we did our double act with the ticket machine, G pressing buttons while I fed it notes and coins. Tickets safely procured, we proceeded to the platform and before long we were emerging from the subway near Busan Station. It only took a moment to get our bearings and we trotted up the hill for our final night in the Commodore Hotel -- or as Koreans pronounce it Komodo (with equal stress on all syllables).

As usual, G is already in bed and asleep. I just have to repack the suitcases tidily, then I'll read for a bit before turning in.

When I started typing this, it looked like the monsoon had arrived with a vengeance. I could hear rain even through the double glazing and I could barely see the buildings across the street, let alone the view across the bay. But it now seems to have stopped again. Perhaps it will be worst during the night? Anyway, it shouldn't be a problem, though if it's still continuing tomorrow, we may get a bit wet walking to the station. The people who were flying out from Busan today were worried their flights might be affected, but trains and buses are absolutely OK, so travelling back to Seoul tomorrow will be fine. (Added later) The typhoon did arrive and was simultaneously spectacular and disappointing. It was a pretty big thunderstorm with vivid lightning flashes over the hills opposite. On the other hand, it was no worse than a big British thunderstorm and not a patch on our storm of 2001 which caused all the flooding.

[*] I realised later that this is the sort of thing that often happens in dreams. I'll be trying to go somewhere and I need to get on a train, but descending the stairs to the metro, there is only a bewildering array of shops. If it had been a dream, we would probably have found the platforms, only to discover that it was a small canal and we had to get in small boats to be carried around an intricate waterway network. Or something weird like that, but fortunately in Busan, it just turned out to be a perfectly normal metro station. :)

[Cross-posted from Dreamwidth by way of a backup http://heleninwales.dreamwidth.org/52570.html. If you want to leave a comment, please use whichever site you find most convenient. Comments so far: comment count unavailable.]

Current Location: Busan

9 comments or Leave a comment
la_marquise_de_ From: la_marquise_de_ Date: July 19th, 2012 12:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
It sounds astonishing.
heleninwales From: heleninwales Date: July 19th, 2012 01:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
It really is turning out to be the trip of a lifetime. I've never been anywhere in Asia before and heaven knows whether I'll be able to again. Completely unexpectedly, I have really taken to Korea and I still can't quite work out why.
khiemtran From: khiemtran Date: July 20th, 2012 01:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I think, on reflection, what I really like about Korea is Koreans. Although the food comes a close second.

Also, I love the idea of the Five or Six Islands...

Edited at 2012-07-20 07:54 am (UTC)
heleninwales From: heleninwales Date: July 20th, 2012 08:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I think it is indeed the Koreans that make the country feel less alien than it ought to, considering that it's on the other side of the world to the UK. They are polite and quietly ignore strangers (a very British thing to do). They are small and thus don't loom over me and they're quietly spoken, unlike say Americans. (Pace my American friends. I know not all Americans are loud!) In fact, for a city of its size, Seoul feels remarkably calm. Much less frantic than London.
mevennen From: mevennen Date: July 19th, 2012 02:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I went to S Korea years ago on a business trip, and the meat seemed to be mainly beef then. Waiters seemed very reluctant to write anything down and what one actually ended up getting was somewhat random, but hopefully this has improved. I liked the countryside a lot, but found Korean men difficult.
heleninwales From: heleninwales Date: July 20th, 2012 08:58 am (UTC) (Link)
As we have only eaten in the JW Marriott or at meals organised by the conference, we haven't had any problems with waiters. Rearding Korean men, the conference is international, so many nationalities were present and again other than hotel staff, I haven't had to deal with Koreans, so can't say whether they are still difficult or not.
sartorias From: sartorias Date: July 19th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
This trip sounds truly amazing.
heleninwales From: heleninwales Date: July 20th, 2012 09:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I've really enjoyed it. Sadly we fly home tomorrow, but at least I'll be able to download and post photos.
sartorias From: sartorias Date: July 20th, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
9 comments or Leave a comment