Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Hey, it’s been a while since I wrote, I know. I completed my year of teaching and was busy with packing and then readjusting myself back at home. Now that I’m more available I though I should give ya’ll a post!

First off, the temple I’ll be writing about today is by far one of my favorite locations in Busan. While most temple are in foresty or mountainous areas, this one is by the sea!!! But, it can be quite a commute.

I went during this time of year- a bit before the beginning of May when all temples are preparing for Coming of Buddha Day. Admission is free so you can just waltz right in.

As soon as I reached the temple area, I saw vendors selling food and souvenirs. They’re not really worth getting since you can find them anywhere. After that, I walked a bit more to find statues lining a street, and not just any statues either. They were statues of the zodiac. Many people would leave coins placed precariously on their zodiac

Keep walking and you come to a set of stairs leading down to the main temple. The view is breathtaking. No need for words. Here are some pictures!

Many people can be seen admiring the view. Some were adventurous and went down to the rocks by the coast. The sun was starting to set though and cast the temple in shadow. It was also pretty windy since we were by the ocean.

We also explored the temple itself as well.

To get here, take the subway to Haeundae station exit 7 using Line 2. Then walk a bit to find the bus stop and take bus 181to Yonggungsa Temple Bus Stop. It took us over an hour from Deokcheon, so be prepared!!!

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Gamcheon Cultural Village

Known as the Macchu Picchu of Busan, Gamcheon Cultural Village is a popular tourist destination found in a small neighborhood of colorful houses and quaint little shops. I went there back in April and I highly recommend you go if you have the chance!

You can get there by taking the subway Line 1 to Toseong station, Exit 6. You can then either walk or take a small local bus up to the village- Saha 1-1, Seogu 2, or Seogu 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop. Walking takes maybe 20-30 minutes or so? It’s up a large hill so be prepared!

You’ll soon see the entrance to the village:

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You’ll then be greeted by a small street selling all sorts of things like refreshments, snacks, accessories, stationery, and more. Go up onto the roof area on the right to see the view!

When you’re done enjoying the view, go ahead and feel free to browse the many shops nearby! My friends and I found a little postcard shop where they sell various art of the village. You can also send a postcard to anyone in the world, and you can even decide what day you want to send it on! There are little cubbies with dates on them and you put your postcard in the cubby of the day you want to send it on. I wrote a postcard back home and decided to send it the next day.

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Some other things to see here include this colorful mural, steps painted with various literature (the variety show 1N2D was here!), and a figurine of the little prince overlooking Busan.

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photobombed by a little kid haha

When we left, we took a back road and enjoyed the green, terraced mountains.

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Overall, I’ve been to many places within Busan but Gamcheon Cultural Village is definitely a must! It’s not a place where you spend an entire day, but you can absolutely have fun here for a few hours!!!

Hydrangea Festival

I’ve been to so many flower festivals. I can’t help it. I love flowers, especially hydrangeas.

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What’s more, I love pressing flowers I collect. Especially since I lost my old collection.

Anyways, the Hydrangea Festival in Busan occurs every year around June. And it’s pretty popular from what I’ve seen.

My only complaint would be how long it takes to get there. After taking the subway to Busan Station, my friends and I tried taking a bus to Taejongdae. A whole bunch of different buses all head to the island where the Hydrangea Festival is located, but because of all the people going there, we watched as numerous buses packed to the brim skip the bus stop at Busan Station. When a bus does finally arrive with space to spare, people crowd and push until there’s no space left to breathe- but you made it onto the bus. But you’re sardined and surrounded by festival hopefuls and now you’re also stuck in, you guessed it, traffic. It takes over an hour to reach our destination. A ride that normally would take maybe 15-20 minutes.

People pour out of the bus and we did it! We’re finally at the Taejongdae area! But we also had to take another  bus, the Danubi bus (er…bus….train? bus-train?), to the actual Hydrangea Festival area within Taejongdae. We bought our tickets and waited another half hour. But eventually, our bus arrives and our numbers are called. The buses are super cute, having been adorned with hydrangea shaped decorations.

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One we reach the festival area, we branch out and- oh my goodness. Hydrangeas, EVERYWHERE. But also people taking selfies everywhere. Myself included. I should also mention that Busan summers are extremely hot and humid. It became rather foggy and super muggy as the day went by, so make sure to have some water with you.

There’s a trail that weaves between the bushes of hydrangeas. You just follow it to the end and when you’re done looking around, there are a bunch of snack stalls you can visit. To get back, take another Danubi bus. You had to pay to get on it the first time, but the return trip is free.

Overall, the festival itself was lovely. I picked a few flowers for my collection and took a lot of pictures. But i HIGHLY recommend going as early as you can to avoid the rush that my group unfortunately encountered. I should have known better, but eh, oh well.

Deokcheon Area and Gupo Traditional Market!!!

I’ve had this post in my drafts since last March lol…

Oh, my goodness. I meant to write about my neighborhood a lot sooner. So, I live near Deokcheon station in Busan and it’s just about filled with anything you might need: a young life area with restaurants, clothing stores, and more, an underground shopping mall, and a traditional market.

I don’t really know what to call the young life area. I go there most of the time since the street has a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and dessert stores. It also has a food mart and clothing stores I like. There’s also an Artbox (my fav!!) which is a stationary store, and Daiso, which is like a dollar store. There’s even a cat cafe! But the highlight for me was the Sim Sim Doorim Cafe. It’s a comic book cafe!

You go in and pay for how many hours you want to stay- about 2000 won for the first hour. You take off your slippers and you can browse all sorts of comic books (all in Korean, of course). They even have Japanese manga, but in Korean. The store also has these little secluded reading areas that I adore. You can just go in and lie down and do whatever, so I usually came here to use the wifi in the quiet, secluded setting before I got internet in my apartment. You can also buy coffee, snacks, ice cream, or ramen!

Moving on, this young life area also has a mall: Newcore Mall. It’s not too small and has a good selection of clothes, though pricey in my opinion. It’s worth checking it out when they have sales. Next to the mall, however, is a used bookstore! MY FAVORITE. It’s called Aladdin Used Books. It’s rather easy to find except for the fact that the signs for the store are entirely in Korean. Here’s what it looks like from the outside:

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They have a wide selection of books in Korean, English, and even Japanese! I was surprised at how many English books there were, to be honest. I’d been to bigger bookstores in department stores and was disappointed when I found that they didn’t sell books in English. Aladdin Used Books is therefore a great, and even better, alternative. The books are relatively cheap and are in good condition. The inside is pretty quiet and has areas for people to sit down and read. You can sign up for a membership without using your ARC so it’s pretty handy!

Deokcheon also has an underground shopping area. It’s pretty large! One reason why I like it better than Seomyeon’s is because it’s linear. Seomyeon is very broad and has stores literally placed every which way, which makes it easy to get lost because it’s very confusing. Deokcheon is just a long, straight line with stores on either side- and that simplicity makes me like it more. It’s nowhere near as big as Seomyeon but it still has a wide collection of clothing items.

Last is the Gupo Traditional Market. I rely on this area for the majority of my groceries.  I go there multiple times a week but I still get lost whenever I go…because I suck at finding my way around lol. Anyways, as soon as you enter the area there are some ajummas selling seafood in the middle of the street. If you go past them and down the stairs, you reach the seafood/fresh market area. They sell almost everything here. Fish, octopus, vegetables, rice, traditional crackers, meat- just name anything Korean and you’ll find it here. I have to make sure I go there on a full stomach because otherwise I’m just tempted to buy everything! The people here are generally friendly and often give me extra when I buy from them. I honestly prefer buying from the traditional market so I can help support local farmers and businesses. Plus, the ingredients feel more…fresh?

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Overall, my area has anything I’d need within arm’s reach. Although my apartment is small, I’m thankful that everything else is so close. The location is also good because I’m near lines 2 and 3 and can get to most areas of Busan fairly easily. It’s been a wonderful experience wandering around and I will admittedly miss it when I leave.

Canola Flower Festival

I’m currently desk warming and have nothing to do, so why not update this with my past adventures? Back in April, I went to a flower festival near where I live- the Canola Flower Festival (also known as the rapeflower).

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Located near Gangseo-gu subway station, which is two stops away from me, the Canola flower field can be seen from far away for a rather breathtaking view. A yellow field filled with flowers- and people- draws many people per year. Upon getting off the subway, I was surprised by just how many people there were. It was so crowded I almost felt like going back home!! The field is pretty easy to find if you just follow the massive crowd of Koreans along the streets filled with food vendors. They sell everything from corndogs to boiled silkworm cocoons (which I loved and craved as a child but abhor as an adult). I would have taken a picture of the silkworms but the smell made me feel nauseated….so no. One pleasant surprise, for me at least, was that the vendors were also selling flower crowns! I wanted one but I was too embarrassed to get one. I liked seeing people wearing them, even the men!

Once arriving at the field, I found my friends and we looked around the vendors under the Gupo bridge for a while. I discovered another kebab vendor, which sold lamb this time, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. We took some pictures in the field and people watched for a bit. I made sure to pick some flowers to add to my pressed flower collection (which I no longer have bc I’m stupid and lost all my flowers).  The flowers also smelled really nice! But, the pollen was getting everywhere- my friend’s leggings were covered in a light, yellow layer. Overall, the view was amazing….too bad I forgot my selfie stick this time around though 😛

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Around 3 PM it became so crowded I felt a little overwhelmed. We decided to call it a day and I went back home after that.

So, if you’re ever in Busan in the springtime, definitely go check this festival out! I do recommend going early though, like around noon, to avoid the rush people swarming to see the flowers.

Flower Viewing! Or Not….Our Day Trip to Gyeongju!

So, I went to Gyeongju a few weekends ago with some friends and I had a blast! Also, I know I should be updating a lot sooner but I’ve been…preoccupied >_>

I bought bus tickets for us all online at kobus.co.kr and it’s easy to use if you know Korean. This site is helpful for those who don’t. You can see the site in English and find bus times, but you can only reserve tickets through the Korean site. Tickets to Gyeongju only cost 4800 won!

The bus terminal is in Nopo, which is the last stop on the orange line. After picking up tickets, we went downstairs and helped ourselves to a common Korean street food: Oden skewers. Delish! Later, we found that one of us would be late and would very likely not make it in time. And she was. She bought the tickets for the next bus though and we were soon on our way. FYI: There are more bus times than what is listed on the site. The site give you times for express buses, which are nicer. We took a not-as-nice bus but we were OK with it since it was relatively empty. We talked the whole ride there and shared snacks. Also, buses in Korea leave exactly on time so make sure you get there at least 15 minutes early!

Once we reached Gyeongju Station, we got off and saw a bunch of tents in the distance. We decided to check it out and apparently there was some kind of street food festival because of the cherry blossoms! We walked around and saw all sorts of street food: oden, spicy rice cakes, kebabs (I LOVED IT, it’d been so long since I’d had anything not Korean), silk worms (ewww), octopus skewers (so tasty mmmm), and more. At one point, one lady offered us samples of Korean blood sausage/soondae. She then offered us samples of her waffles, one huge waffle too, for free! We all shared it and felt bad so we bought another one from her. She was so grateful and so were we. Overall, it was a bit of an awkward but enriching experience.

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Food stands at Gyeongju

Afterwards, we walked to royal tombs of Korean kings and queens and paid 2000 won to get in. The flowers were only partly in bloom, which was a shame, but the pink shade from the buds in the trees was still pleasant to see. It was a nice change after living in the city for over a month! There were also many girls walking around in hanboks/traditional Korean clothing. There’s a hanbok rental store nearby and I really wanted to try it but I decided to do it later when I wasn’t as tired or shabby looking hahahha.

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We also went to Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond, or what’s left of the palace, I mean. It’s where the crown prince of Shilla used to reside and now all that’s left are a few pavillions. It was beautiful. I had been told by my parents that Gyeongju is known for being one of the most historical sites in Korea and they were right. We walked to this area after the royal tombs and also had to pay another 2000 won to enter this area.

Afterwards, we went to Bulguksa temple, Korea’s oldest standing temple. It’s been around for over a thousand years! It was a bit of a climb and cost us 5000 won, but it was well worth it. You can reach this area from the bus stop at Donggung Palace by taking bus 12. So, because Buddha’s birthday is coming up in May, the temple was beginning its preparations with a vivid, colorful array of paper lanterns. They’re strewn about in various locations and it was so cool! But, the temple made me feel quite nostalgic as well. It reminded me of when I lived in Seoul when I was really little- about 3 or 4 years old. My grandmother would take me up the mountain to a remote temple in the woods. I remembered the steep, stone stairs I climbed using my entire body, the trickle of water from the communal water fountain, and the large prayer room in which a profound fragrance of incense pervaded the quiet, distilled air. I remembered people lined up in columns silently kneeling and praying on the floor on top of pillows as the head priest chanted in rhythmic tones. The whole temple just kept reminding me of my grandmother and I could feel myself tear up in her memory. It made me want to visit her grave even more so I could apologize. On a lighter note, I could see the temple as a very peaceful place to visit if it wasn’t filled with tourists. I wouldn’t mind staying there for a few days to just relax and unwind.

After that we took the 700 (I think?) bus back to Gyeongju Station and another bus back to Busan. It had started pouring so we all decided to part ways and go home.

I think I walked a total of 20k+ steps (quite a large feat for someone who’s a regular couch potato!) and I was in such a great mood that I didn’t feel my fatigue at all and even went grocery shopping afterwards! Overall, Gyeongju is an excellent place to visit if you want a more cultural experience in Korea. But, I recommend making sure to research that the flowers are in bloom! XD

Fun in Nampo-dong! And Korea Jjimjimbangs!

Last weekend, I met up with some friends from orientation at Nampo. We met in front of the Krispy Kreme inside the Gwangbok Lotte Department Store. We looked around, but didn’t buy much since you know…department stores in Korea are uber pricey. We did eat chicken and shop at the Uniqlo where I bought 2 cute bell-sleeved shirts, which would be great for work! We looked around the underground shopping area next and I bought a long sweater for like 5000 won. It’s awesome XD

We went to the Jagalchi Fish Market next. It’s Korea’s largest fish market! And, it literally had everything. Octopus, shellfish, fish- anything and everything. The first floor generally has a lot of live seafood on sale and the second floor has dried foods and restaurants. I bought some squid legs to munch on at home and then we all sat down so I could order some live octopus! Well, it’s dead now, but the legs are still moving after it’s served. This was the #1 dish I wanted to try in Korea and finally…the time had come.

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It tasted about how I thought it would. A bit slimy but crunchy, tastes like the sea and like octopus. The lady was super nice and gave us a lot at a discount! Only 20,000 won instead of the usual 30,000. She also gave us a few fish stew after my friend ordered some makkeoli and raw fish. We also got a few side dishes too. One of my friends was a bit terrified of the live octopus but she gathered up enough courage to try a small piece that stopped moving.

After that, we walked around a bit to digest before heading to the jjimjilbang, or the Korean sauna! We went to Songdo Haesoopia, which is pretty close to Nampo. You can get there by bus but we carpooled a taxi there instead.

As with any Korean spa, you take off you shoes and store them in a locker. To stay overnight we paid 12,000 won, which is a great price compared to $40 at the Spa World for 12 hours in the US. You get a uniform for the sauna and can change in the locker room. Don’t forget to take your respective elevators! Men and women have different elevators. The women’s elevators don’t stop at the men’s locker rooms an vice versa. Once you the locker room, BAM! Naked people. Everywhere. Now, if you’re Korean-American like me, you’re (well, at least me) used to this. I’ve been to a common Korean bath area before, and when I go to the gym, it’s the same. Although, I admit that at the gym it’s usually only the Asians who walk around buck naked. White people, I’ve noticed, change in the bathroom.

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Anyways, we changed into our spa outfits and I made everyone sheep ears, which is a must-do at the Korean sauna. We ordered a few drinks and snacks before trying out some of the rooms. There are a variety of rooms, such as the salt room, oxygen room, black rock room (I don’t know the actual name of this room. It was just full of small, black rocks), and more. The black rock room was my favorite. It was a nice, hot temperature and I could stay in there for a while! After trying out some rooms, we ordered jjimjilbang eggs and some shikhye (rice punch). So tasty!

After that, we tried the baths. My non-Korean friends were extremely hesitant to start, but eventually we all, well…we all got to know each other a little better if you know what i mean 😉

The baths were all saltwater baths with some herbs mixed in. You have to shower before entering, so we did. I reaaalllyy needed a nice, hot soak after a long week and this gave me exactly what I needed. There is an area that’s like a jet propulsion out of the wall, and it felt like a nice shoulder massage to me while to others it was just painful!

Forewarning: If you go to Songdo Haesoopia, take an extra towel and all of your toiletries. They do not offer free shampoo/conditioner/body wash. You also only get 2 towels. Men get unlimited which is unfair. I paid a total of 1,900 won for shampoo/conditioner/body wash. After washing up, I bought some milk before we all headed back upstairs to get some sleep.

Another forewarning: Save a spot. It’s hard to find a spot to sleep in. Luckily, we found the women’s sleeping area and grabbed a few blankets before settling down.

Last forewarning: It’s hot. Well, duh, yeah, it’s a sauna. But the sleeping area and general area are all very warm, much warmer than room temperature, and on top of that the floor is heated. I felt so hot I couldn’t get proper sleep. I think I woke up nearly every 15 minutes because I was so uncomfortably hot, not to mention that hard floors aren’t exactly luxurious sleeping material. Also, people are still talking, children still running around, and as a bonus: people snore. Loudly. So if you decide to sleep at Haesoopia, be prepared for this. At the Spa World in America, I slept like a baby. They have mats on top of the hard floors and the general area is at room temperature. Songdo Haesoopia was a disturbing realization that I liked Spa World better to sleep in even if it was pricier. The sauna and baths were better at Haesoopia though.

Overall, Songdo Haesoopia: Loved the sauna and baths, but would never sleep there again!

When we woke up the next morning, we explored the Seomyun area. We went underground and looked around after we had some street food. For lunch we had chicken again and watched Logan at the theater before parting ways.

Overall, I had a great weekend. This weekend we plan on hitting Gwangali beach, so please look forward to my next post!