The seas were a bit rough last night and as we pulled into port in Busan this morning (Thursday), they calmed down. However, the weather was less cooperative. Drizzle rain: you know, the stuff that is just enough to be really annoying, get your camera wet and mess up your hair. On the plus side it wasn’t cold.
Our tour today is a private one arranged through an acquaintance on Cruise Critic. There were 15 of us piled into a 20-seater van. Seats not made for carnivorous North Americans, but at least soft on the bum. Off we go to our first stop, Haedong Yonggungsa Buddhist Temple.
The trip into and through downtown Busan gives quite the eyeful as to what a determined people can do. In the 60-some years since the Korean War that had left this city totally devastated, there has been a massive resurgence in construction. There is a visible and notable skyline in just about any direction one can look (the obvious exception being the open port cuz it’s hard to build skyscrapers on water).
In addition to the towers of glass, concrete and steel, there exist numerous bridges that cross water, greenspace and traffic. Elaborate and multi-tiered, they help move this population of 3.6 million quickly regardless of method be it foot, bicycle, car, truck or bus. And at night at least one of them does it very colorfully.
On our way to the temple, the dreaded question is asked. “Does anyone have a problem with stairs?” Japan and area are doing their best to kill me. Fortunately there are somewhat fewer than before but given all that have been traversed in the recent past, these prove to be their own trial. Negotiated and survived however, they reveal a fantastic view of the coast and the shrine that waits at the base. It was worth the journey.
Having left the temple the tour takes us to the UN Memorial Cemetery. Established in 1951 by the United Nations, it covers 35 acres. Had it been a more weather-conducive day the views would have been even more beautiful. Somber and sobering it presents a quiet reminder to the millions men and women that fought and died in the Korean War. There are 2,300 graves representing 22 countries laid out in almost military precision. A most fitting display indeed.
The bus now takes us to the Ja-Gal-Ch’i Fish Market. Originally established by women peddlers, over time it has become more commonly referred to as ‘Aunt’s Market’. Everything is alive here and all the containers are constantly fed with fresh sea water. Sashimi is the defacto method of eating just about everything you can see and, if your stomach is up to it, you can watch its entire preparation. As much as I like raw seafood, I’m not quite that much of a purist. Yet.
We leave one delectable sight to visit another, equally engaging in its own way. The Busan Tower is 120 meters (about 393 feet) tall and provides some rather spectacular views of the city below. Again, the weather is not the best for viewing, but surprisingly enough, it is still fairly clear.
The last stop is one geared towards weight reduction by way of money removal. We arrive at Gukje International Market with about an hour to spend wandering the streets finding new ways to change money into items of sometimes questionable pertinence. Experience and many dust-collecting items already owned, lead us through the myriad of goodies that present themselves.
The bus greets us once more and the night lights of the city help guide us back to our ship. The balcony view that we enjoy now affords us view of a city that we don’t often get. More often than not we leave while we are at dinner or our view is one of the ocean rather than downtown, or we leave during the daylight hours. This time we see the city and the bay we are docked in, at night. Not that far away is Gwangandaegyo Bridge. It stretches almost 7.5 km and is the longest bi-level bridge, over ocean, in Korea. At night it is lit by over 16,000 LED lights that rotate through a delightful color pattern. Our city fathers could take a page out of this book, to be sure. We have a bridge, that has lights…on rare occasions…
Tomorrow, unlucky Friday the 13th gives us a day to get lost in Sakaiminato.