|Our final few days in South Korea were spent in Busan. Busan is the second largest city in the country and is effectively a city which has grown up around the bustling port and is located at the south eastern corner of the peninsula. In fact it actually reminded us a bit of Rio due to the highrise buildings fronting onto the beaches and buildings sprawling around the huge forest clad mountains.
We arrived at the bus station only to find ourselves miles out of town! but we were soon directed to the metro station nearby and given the location of a number of 'love motels' to try. These were in the area of Dongnae near to the more historic sights of the city. After finding ourselves a room (in fact it was the cheapest yet in Korea at only $22USD and included the usual stuff plus a computer with internet access in the room - a real bargain) we headed down to the fish market. Actually we found out later that there was no hot water in the motel - so perhaps this was reflected in the price!
The main fish market is located in the downtown area of the city near the main ferry port which was a good 45 mins away from where we were staying. However being seafood lovers like we are it was well worth the trip. There were basically two parts to the market. The first was within a modern (almost department store like) building which sold all kinds of live seafood - some of which we still do not know what it was. The spider crabs were huge and there were also literally tons of live 'octopi' - apparently they like to cut it up live, cook it live and then eat it while its suckers pads latch onto your mouth! Yuk - needless to say we neglected to try this dish! Upstairs there were numerous restaurants where you could sample the various catches of the day.
The second part was an outside market where the majority of the fish were dead, prepared or already cooked. We spent a good hour or so wandering the narrow market way and ended up buying a BBQ'd fish - we are not sure what it was but we can tell you it was tasty.
The next day the sun was out so we wasted no time in heading for the beach. There are a few beaches in the city but the one the majority of locals head for is Hae-undae. This is the country's most famous beach and umbrellas mushroom across the 2km long sandy beach. The water itself is filled with truck size yellow inner tubes rented from booths on the beach. We were pleasantly surprised by the beach as it was very clean and well maintained. The only downside being that the lifeguards were very strict in keeping you the beach side of some buoys which were only 15-20m off-shore - which meant when the tide went out you had hardly any space to swim in!! All-in-all a pleasant day relaxing which was topped off by some rather pinks bits on our bodies.
The next day we woke up intending to head to the beach again but it was slightly overcast which was probably a good thing considering our sunburn, so instead we decided to head up into the mountains. Geumjeongsan mountain forms the backdrop to the city and is the location of the Guemjeong fortress and a number of temples.
We set off rather later than intended, grabbing some fried chicken and some dumplings on the way for our picnic. In order to make up time we decided to catch the cable car up the 540m climb - this provided great views of the city. Our 2 hour stroll round the mountain ended up turning into a 5 hour hike as we really got carried away with the all the sights we stumbled across. First of all we headed to the South Gate, from there we followed a steep descent to Seobulska temple, which whilst difficult to reach (perhaps flip-flops weren't the best footwear after all - we did get a few odd looks from all the locals hiking in all their designer gear!!), it really was an impressive sight. This temple is basically a hermitage carved into rock. Two massive boulders stretching 40m in height jut out from the mountainside to form a U-shaped enclave with 3 rock facings that is now a place of worship. Inside the enclave enormous Buddhist images have been etched into the stone.
From Seobulska we sort of got a bit lost but eventually found some friendly locals who pointed us in the right direction before adding that we would do well to get back before it got dark!! However we did manage to get back safely even though we were stopped at one point by a drunk Korean who insisted that we sat with him in the middle of the dirt track while he shouted at us in Korean whilst slapping us on the back!! We like the Korean form of hiking - we have found that it involves dressing up in the most designer gear you can find, strolling along well made paths at a very sedate pace, finding a restaurant (or if none having a large picnic) and drinking lots of Soju (their equivalent of vodka) then stumbling home!!
Our last night in Korea we decided to have a slap-up meal of ice cream and crisps!! (well we stuffed ourselves on fried chicken earlier in the day). Nothing like a day of crap food every now and again - especially on our last night in Korea (great tourists aren't we!)
Some South Korean summary facts for you:-
Currency: 1000 Won = $1US
Weather: Like a sauna - hot and sticky. Mainly about 30 degrees and sunny, but we did experience quite a few heavy downpours as well.
Weird things: Boiled silk worm larvae as a street food snack (no we did not try this one). Fashion here are short shorts with attached braces! T-shirts with english words that do not make sense (for example one of our personal favourites was "take on my shiny new tights")
Best Bits: Love motels (great value for spotless rooms with all the modcons including automatic toilets), food (although after three weeks of it it is getting a bit much and we crave a good spag bol).
Beer: Hite and Cass (at about for $1.20 USD for a large bottle in shops and $3-4 in restaurants and bars)
Food: The bibimbap and the pheasant shabu shabu were the best.
Overall we really liked South Korea. The people are incredibly friendly and really go out of their way to help you, the food is great, the accommodation is excellent (and reasonably priced) and it is a clean and efficient country. Now we look forward to seeing if Japan can match its nearest neighbours (and rivals!).......