So a couple weeks ago we had an awesome three-day weekend in S.Korea’s second-largest city, Busan, which is a convenient 40 minute train ride away from us! The reason for the three-day weekend was Buddha’s Birthday, which meant that the city was decked out in bright, paper lanterns for a few weeks.
Before heading to Busan, we visited the temple closest to us: Junggwangsa.
Most temples here are located in the mountains or forests, so they’re not easily accessible to people without cars or scooters, like us. Junggwangsa is located next to a main road, with apartment blocks all around it, but despite its urban location it was still strangely peaceful.
The lanterns symbolize peoples’ prayers and commitment to finding enlightenment.
I’m not sure what the significance of these chicken lanterns is, but they’re cute!
There was a big Lotus Lantern parade through Samsan-dong, Ulsan’s city center, but we were stuck in the back of a taxi when it happened! The parade featured loads of giant paper lantern floats, which must have come from different temples all over Ulsan, because we found these two parked at Junggwangsa:
This elephant was covered in what looked like cotton wool; it must have taken ages to put together!
Amazing dragon lantern! Dragons are the Asian symbol of Buddhist enlightenment, and I think elephants are the original symbols of enlightenment; there were loads of elephant floats in the parade, anyway!
We decided to stay in one of the most popular areas of Busan, Haeundae Beach:
It’s a perfect little beach city, filled with loads of good hotels, bars, and restaurants: we absolutely gorged ourselves on yummies the whole time we were here.
There are awesome hiking trails all around the coastline:
Haeundae’s heartbroken mermaid.
APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) House with Gwangan Bridge in the background.
On Buddha’s Birthday we ventured out to one of the most picturesque temples in Korea, Haedong Yonggungsa, Korea’s only seaside temple:
It was pretty impressive! It’s possible to walk to it from Haeundae, but it would definitely take over an hour; we chose the lazy option and got a taxi there, then walked halfway back before jumping in another taxi.
The temple was super busy and crowded, as we’d expected! It was kind of fun standing in line waiting to get in, sort of felt like a Buddhist amusement park!
Zodiac statues lining the path to the temple.
The temple was pretty big, with lots of different ‘attractions’, including a couple of water wells people were drinking from, a giant Buddhist Goddess of Mercy statue, and this big, gold Buddha:
A peek inside the actual temple: it was absolutely magical-looking inside, with so much incense burning, but we weren’t sure if we were allowed to take pictures inside, hence the quick, blurry snap!
Busan is pretty famous for its markets, most notably the massive Jagalchi fish market (which we didn’t go to, because the thought of loads of smelly fish on a hot day really wasn’t appealing to me). We did, however, take a walk down the much smaller Haeundae street market:
I was really dreading seeing all the fresh produce wriggling around; these markets are kind of sickening to me, because there are always big heaps of raw meat sitting out, and you have no idea when you’re going to come across dog meat here (there’s actually a dog restaurant five minutes away from our apartment, it’s pretty unsettling). Luckily, the only dog we saw in the market was this little guy:
There were some strange things in the market, including a huge box of snails:
I’ve seen loads of squid and octopi in tanks outside of restaurants, which always makes me cringe, but this was the first time I’d seen cuttlefish – they absolutely broke my heart. It’s interesting walking down markets like these, but I always end up more sad and disturbed than intrigued…and definitely not hungry.
Haeundae Beach at night.
We really enjoyed our Busan break, and definitely plan on going back again, especially since it’s so close!