25 May 2015

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Busan

As today is Buddha's Birthday, I thought it would perfect to post about our trip to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple on our recent trip to Busan. In honor of Buddha's Birthday, we have a national holiday. 

Although we are both now a bit tired of visiting temples and generally find that many of them are the same, we thought we had to visit Haedong Yonggungsa while we were in Busan. This temple is unusual as it is the only seaside temple in Korea. Most temples are in the mountains. This temple was first built in 1376. There is also an underground cave at the temple where you can drink fresh spring water. 

Our visit to the temple was brief but we enjoyed being near the water. We tried to go relatively early to avoid the crowds but it was really crowded when we arrived. The temple was absolutely covered with lanterns to celebrate Buddha's Birthday. I think the reason it was so crowded was because of the upcoming birthday. Despite the crowds, it was a fun visit and I enjoyed taking pictures with all the colour. 

How to get there

Take bus 181 from around the Haeundae area. There is a stop just near exit 7 of Haeundae station. 

21 May 2015

Gamcheon Culture Village

On our recent trip to Busan, one of our major highlights was the Gamcheon Culture Village. The village is also known as the Taegeuk Village. The pastel-coloured hillside village was originally home to poor refugees during the Korean war. Now it is just a place some locals call home but is rated one of the top spots to visit in Busan

There are many places around Korea where people have tried to uplift the poorer communities by painting murals and having different quirky artworks. This attracts tourists and allows the residents to sell things and start small businesses. It seems to work really well and we have seen other examples of this at the Ihwa Mural Village in Seoul and a village in Jeonju. 

When we arrived, there was a vibrant atmosphere and a few small tents set up. We didn't realize that there was a festival going on. Tents spread along the main road selling food and offering opportunities to make various Korean traditional crafts. Despite the festival, it wasn't too crowded and due to all the alleyways, there was plenty of space for everyone. 

A fun thing to do is to buy the village map at the entrance (2000won) and try collect the 9 stamps that can be found at various locations around the village. Once you get all the stamps, you get some free postcards. This kept Dean busy while I was snapping away. There are some great view points where you can look over the hill and in the distance you can see the Busan harbour. 

It was so fun taking all the colourful pictures and walking the small alleys. It's more interested to step off the main paths where you can see how people really live and how they are just going about their daily lives. You are allowed to walk anyway as long as you aren't too obtrusive. 

When you're in Busan, be sure to visit the Gamcheon Culture Village, you won't regret it. 

How to get there

Take subway like 1 (the red line) and get off at Toseong station. Take exit 6, turn right at the corner and walk to the bus stop. From there you can catch a small shuttle bus (bus 2 or 2-2), which will drop you at the Gamcheon entrance. 

18 May 2015

Busan Highlights

I can't believe it has taken us nearly a year to visit the coastal city of Busan. I kind of wish we had gone earlier as I'm sure we would have been back a few times. But I'm so glad we managed to go before we leave Korea. Busan is the second largest city in Korea but it is not very accessible from Jeonju. There is no direct train and the buses aren't that frequent. On our way home we actually had to go via Gwangju, which was such a mission, making our trip home 7 hours! But anyway, our great weekend in Busan made up for it.

When we were planning our itinerary we decided that we weren't desperate to see any of the major tourist attractions, but rather just wanted to relax and take it easy. The only 2 places that were on our list were the Gamcheon Culture Village and the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (full blog posts coming soon). 

We caught the first bus to Busan on Saturday morning and went straight to the culture village. Unexpectedly there was a festival going on around the village giving it a vibrant atmosphere. 

After wondering around for a couple of hours, we went to Gwangalli where we had lunch at Sharky's (great place) and chilled on the beach. 

We then decided to walk along the coast for a while. There are some great coastal trails that go on for kilometers. The paths followed the sea and weren't too busy. 

We didn't reach the end of the trail  but turned around about half way and headed back to Gwangalli beach and the sun was starting to set. The lights come on Gwangalli Bridge around 8pm so we waited for that. As the darkness and night chill set in, we headed to our accommodation in Haeundae and had a relaxed evening.

The following day, we were up very early for a walk along Haeundae Beach (the most famous beach in Korea). There were quite a few people running, cycling and swimming already. Although the water was rather cold, we thought we had to swim otherwise we would regret it. It was so refreshing. Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches are really something quite amazing to see. It's so weird to see the skyscrapers come right up to the beaches, definitely not something you see in Cape Town. 

We had a quick breakfast at our accommodation and caught a bus to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. This temple is famous for being the only seaside temple in Korea. It was quite crowded and adorned with colourful lanterns to celebrate Buddha's birthday next week. 

We headed back to Haeundae and had a quick lunch before beginning our long trip back to Jeonju.

I definitely think Busan is a great city. It has such a relaxed atmosphere and it's not as busy and fast-paced as Seoul. Another thing we noticed were the amount of people walking dogs (even off lead), definitely a record for Korea. 

8 May 2015

Morning Running

Since the start of the warm weather, Dean and I have made an effort to get outside more and enjoy all of our days left here. We now walk or run everyday. I've been meaning to get a bit more into running but during the long cold months, this was not going to happen. But now I have no excuse. I found this great app called "10K". It coaches you to be able to run 10km in 14 weeks (or 5 by 8 weeks). I skipped the easier beginning weeks and I have really started enjoying running with it. We live on the edge of Jeonju so we have many places to run; mountains, forests and rivers that spread out into the country.

I really like running outside of Jeonju in the "country" because it's much quieter than the city. We have seen many people walking their big dogs off lead and even though we are the only runners, it feels more normal.

It's great to get outside before it is too hot and to make the most of our mornings. I look forward to doing more running when I get home.

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