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Friday, 29 May 2015

Buddha’s Birthday in Busan: Day 1

So last weekend brought the return of Buddha’s Birthday, which this year fell on Monday 25th May. In Korea this can only mean one thing - a national holiday for all! SCORE! Well actually not for all...I’m pretty sure the same rules apply here as they do back home when it comes to the retail and food industry, but for teachers like myself it meant a lovely little day off. I decided to make the most of this long weekend by taking a trip down to Busan, the second largest city in Korea. It is approximately 6 hours away from Seoul by Bus, or about 3 hours by bullet train, so we did what most expats would do, and took the Bus!

We left Seoul at around 11pm on the Friday night and were hoping to arrive in Busan for about 5am the next morning. The trip was organised by a company called Wink Travel who I would definitely recommend. During the trip, they provided us with a wealth of knowledge and information and genuinely made sure that we were all having a great time. We spent the days with them, and in the evenings they offered to take us all out to explore the local night life, which I of course didn’t turn down. It’s great if you’re interested in seeing that side of Busan too. The group runs regular weekend and day trips all over the country, so if you’re looking for a good reputable tour company then check out their Facebook page by clicking HERE


Diamond Bridge and Gwaangalli Beach at 5am

As planned we arrived in Busan at 5am on the Saturday morning, to the magnificent site of the Diamond Bridge. Our Motel was about 30 seconds away from Gwangalli beach, meaning that everything was super close and convenient. I didn’t really sleep much on the bus but at this time in the morning, I was no longer tired so I decided to seize the day and go for a casual stroll along the boardwalk. It was slightly overcast but this certainly didn’t dampen our spirits. We found a nice little cafe, and just watched the world go by with an iced latte and toasted sandwich in hand. Bliss.

The morning flew by and after a quick bite to eat at a cool little joint called Sharkeys on the seafront, we met the others at around 1pm and headed off on our mini adventure to our first destination; The United Nations Memorial Cemetery (UNMCK). This is the burial site for over 2,300 UN souls that perished during the Korean war, and is the only one of its kind in the world. It was beautifully laid out with the different monuments, water fountains and flags that represent the UN countries, and the serenity of the whole place made it totally perfect for taking a moment of reflection, and also for paying your respects. 


 UNMCK 

 
FLAGS! 'UN' flag at the end in light blue

Flag raising ceremony
 
After a couple of hours here we then headed off to our next location: Busan Citizens Park. A former Imperial Japanesse Army base and United States Army camp. This is the perfect spot to chill out in the sun. It was nice to have this down time during the first day as I was pretty exhausted from the overnight bus trip. The park itself has several interesting spots such as some really gorgeous gardens, a historical art gallery and also a pretty awesome maze. It also has a lot of diverse sculptures dotted around the grounds, all of which have their own story, so its worth checking out if you’re ever in the area.

 Busan Citizens Park

 
Standard sign post in the park 

Our final stop of the day was the glorious Samkwang Temple. This is one of the largest temples in Busan, and is covered (at this time of the year) by what seemed like millions of illuminated lanterns. The two fire breathing dragons at the main gates to the temple did not disappoint, and the 12 different animal signs of the zodiac were all present and in full attire. It was extremely impressive both inside and out so if you’re thinking of making a trip be sure to explore all of the buildings in-depth. As night fell, the entire vibe of the place seemed to alter and a different experience altogether emerged. The lanterns lit up the sky with every single colour imaginable, and there were even some traditional performances accompanied by live music, which made the whole event feel like a breath of fresh air.
 
 Samkwang Temple

 Lanterns EVERYWHERE!

One of the 12 animals in the Zodiac!

In the evening we went to a delicious Korean Barbecue place and then headed over to the university district to check out the local bars. After meeting many new people, and generally having a lovely ole time just saying YES to life, I couldn’t wait for the next day’s events to unfold. A fantastic end to a jam-packed first day in Busan, South Korea.

 Samkwang Temple and surrounding area

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