This weekend we went for the southeast of Korea and had a glimpse of Gyeongju and Busan for a day. Gyeongju as one of the city with the most cultural sightseeing spots and Busan as the buzzing harbor/beach city. Both was great and both cities are worth a stay for more days.
Arriving in Gyeongju we headed for the Bulkuksa (Temple) first to stay flexible for the sightseeing spots in the city center. We took the KTX (fast train – you should book in advance) to Singyeongju and out of luck got the 700 bus which passed the city center and went directly to the Bulkuksa. Fortunately we met a Korean mom with her daughter that wanted to go to the temple as well.
The temple was great with all the beautiful magnolia trees blossoming and the old but colorful buildings creating a relaxing atmosphere. Infront of the temple there was a well for everyone with healthy water and inside several Buddhas for prayer or contemplation. There was a place for stone piling and a writing on roof bricks to make a wish as well.
We skipped the Seokguram Grotto, as the bus only runs every hour (at XX:40) from the temple to the Grotto. It is definitely an option to discover some parts of Korea by car (like the coastline and Gyeongju with the other historical cities) or you could rent a motor scooter for the long distance spots like the temple and the grotto. But as we are not that adept in going with the motor scooter, we sticked to the bus.
Being back in the city we rented a bicycle for just 7.000 Won. As we started for some tombs a little outside of the center we had to discover that the “most bicycle friendly” in Korea did not anticipate Germans. After around two kilometers we met a huge street without any possibility to pass alive and therefore headed back to the center and for the most important spots: the Daereungwon tombs, the Cheomseongdae Observatory and the Anapji Pond.
The tombs reminded me of small chocolate hills. Around the park there were over 20 little peaks and one tomb you could actually visit with the Silla Kings Crown and a replica of the contents of a tomb. It was great that the magnolia trees started blossoming that gave the park a truly romantic view – and the Koreans know how to enjoy romantic views. Ending our tour we saw a huge commotion of photographers and even more to come. There has to be great sunset picture spot there, but we could not find out why it was that special on that day :) But thinking about where they were standing, it could be this one.
Passing the street from Daereungwon to the Cheomseongdae Observatory families enjoyed picknick, kite flying and cycling in the park. The Cheomseongdae itself was smaller as expected but invited us for pictures like with the pending tower in Pisa (which was semi successful :D).
The Anapji Pond was just over the street and beautiful in the low sunshine of late afternoon. I can imagine how the kings enjoyed the view and atmosphere there. For us it was time to say Goodbye to Gyeongju and Hello to Busan. We brought back our bikes and boarded the bus to Busan (absolutely just in time). It is really great that you can use your recharchable public transportation card in every city even if every city has her own layout for the card – and you can pay for every transportation not just the subway, but the bus and even the cabs. So we just jumped on the subway in Busan which brought us from the Express Bus Terminal to heart of Nampo and our hotel (and if we would have known the Bus from Gyeongju to Busan would have accepted our card, too).
As the Busan Tower was just five minutes away from our hotel, we checked it out for the night view. The view was much clearer than in Seoul the last days and so the bridges glowed in different lights and the much lower houses were glistening. The park infront of the tower was a little nicer but of course the entertainment program and the love tokens were a bit better in Seoul.
Now we just needed a balanced Korean dinner for a good sleep. We decided on kind of omelet (rotti) with cheese, bbq sticks, sweet Korean pancakes and soft ice for dessert.
Sunday started with a walk to the famous Jagalchi fish market. Of course we were too late for the real bargaining but there were still enough stalls open and almost convincing me in sashimi. But as I would have to get one whole fish at least and for me alone, that was too much for breakfast. I doubt we found the official way up, but the view from the top of the market building over the harbor was amazing again.
With little time on our watch we headed for the city tour bus again (be sure you bring your KTX ticket from the day – we missed 20% discount as we left it in the backpack at the hotel). The bus took as along the coastline and gave as a good overview, but unfortunately there were no headphones like in Seoul and the whole explanations were in Korean. From the open top, we savored the arriving spring time, the sun, the blossoming trees and blue sky.
Following a recommendation from a friend we got off at Haeundae Beach, strolled a long the sand, got some strawberry cake and drink and headed for Dalmaji Road. For another time the Koreans showed their fondness for romantic. A wooden banister and blossoming cherry trees fringed the walkway up the hill. Half way up we took the side road through a pine forest and a nice view of the coastline (be sure you have some time for the detour).
It was late afternoon but we thought we could have a quick visit to Taejongdae for the sunset. As we arrived we had to realize that you can not see any of the coastline from the entrance of the park. As we walked some time already, we decided to take the small tour bus. After struggling with the ticket lady, we found out that it takes around 25 minutes – ok definitely too far to walk with our little time we had left before our KTX back to Seoul. What she did not tell, was that we were not the first in lines, we had to wait for another 20 minutes until our turn. But ok, still in time, if we just hop of the bus, take some pictures and take the next one back. Starting with the tour we passed the first scenic spot after one curve (we could have walked that!), you could see the orange sun prettily setting over the white cliffs. That was a beautiful glance, but we wanted to go to the famous perspective of the lighthouse. Getting there after another 10-15 minutes, the lighthouse was several meters beyond and the view was just to the open sea… The clock was ticking so we decided to take the next bus. I am still a little sad about the view, the idea was perfect, but the timing and setting was not so ideal ;-) If you have little time, it is ok to go there, but just walk down to the first view point – you can not miss it. The best is to save up 2 hours so you can walk around the different view points and down to the lighthouse. If you decide to see the sunrise, which is said to be spectacular, be sure you have I would say at least 30 minutes for a strong walk to the lighthouse and start your course the other way around. It was a blessing in disguise that I have not decided to wake up for the sunrise, I would have probably missed it.