While lost outside of Pusan…
While we were lost in what Koreans call ‘the countryside’ north of Busan, we had to walk back towards the city once we realised we would never see the fortress we wanted to go to. In the area, after we saw the goats, I left Robert on the road and walked up a path through some trees to see what was up there. It was so amazing! It was a small Buddhist temple. No one was there, or at least I never saw anyone. There was a nice vegetable garden on the grounds. It was so peaceful. Beside the wooded path that I followed, there was a pond full of lillypads with a granite pagoda in the middle.
I remember looking at the huge tree in the picture above and thinking the trees in Asia really do look a bit different than in Canada. The huge trees above looked kind of squashed, but are still so big. I was so happy to be seeing trees like that and knew I couldn’t see them at home. I still remember standing there thinking about how the trees really do look like they do in the Chinese paintings and ink drawings.
A very special thing was there. It was a small stone building with a thatched roof, or a grass roof. This is what houses were made like through the years and in the 1970’s the government under famous revolutionary President Park made everyone take these roofs away and put tiles on roofs instead. I do not agree with all buildings having to change and look modern constantly, as many times they are ugly when they are changed. They do this restructuring all the time. I wish Korea would leave many areas alone, for tourism purposes and aesthetic reasons too. The government should realise they are taking away the character of most areas and that the flavour of alleys and old buildings are lost forever from what they’re needlessly doing. Not everything has to be shiny and repainted. Unfortunately the government thinks that everything does have to be.
Back to Busan….
Once I had gone back to the road and met up with Robert, I noticed a young guy waiting for the bus at a stop. I couldn’t believe a bus stop was out there, and wondered where the bus would be going if we got on? I tried to find out what the bus cost, or anything about it from the young Korean guy but he wasn’t helpful or friendly. I scaped up some change and we got on the bus that came and got off close to the downtown. I must have had to ask the bus driver ‘OlMaYo?’ to find out how much to pay when we got on and I must have had the right amount on hand. I was so relieved. It had been scary to me to be that lost. Funny you can do things in Korea quite easily without knowing their language. It is very safe since they are very well-behaved and they must obey all the social rules and the country’s laws all the time. I realise it was a great honour and privilege to be allowed to live there and to visit in 1999 later.
We were hungry for lunch and went in a ‘chicken house’. Korean ‘smoke chicken’ was very well-done and delicious. You ordered a plate of smoked chicken pieces and have a huge glass of draught with it. They serve a bunch of pickled radish with it, called ‘dan mu gi’, which means sweet radish. The Japanese version of this has yellow-coloured pickled radish but the Korean version is a much lighter colour and is crispy and fresher. We really would have loved something like rice or preferably french fries with our chicken but when we tried to ask, they looked at us like we were from outer space! Nowadays these places have mostly been replaced by ‘spicy chicken’ and fried chicken restaurants which are very good too, but those chicken houses were very unique at the time.
BeoMoSa in October 1999…
I am so glad I chose to go to the temple in the mountains North of Busan that was called Pomosa at the time and now called/spelled Beomosa. I had to follow instructions in my Lonely Planet guide and get us to take the subway to very near the temple. It would have been a dollar or a few dollars to get in. It was thrilling and I loved the statues and looking up at the mountains while we were there. Trees and wooded mountains were surrounding us instead of the city, which was different from the 2 temples I had been to in Seoul.
Sometimes people go in the woods beside the buildings of BeoMoSa now and it is a tourist attraction to be in these trees because of many little piles of stones scattered on the ground throughout one section. Old Buddhist tradition says to make a piles of stones to represent a pagoda in areas around temples. We went in these trees back then but it wasn’t thought of as a sensation at the time. There was shade from branches above and there were a few streams trickling down the mountainside. The woods in Korea are not wild like in North America, as people have been all through them for hundreds of years, I figure. They had tigers in these forests years ago and there is talk sometimes of reintroducing them to the forests in Korea. I always imagined soldiers being in the mountains during the Korean war when I was in any woods while in Korea. I never saw any underbrush ever.
While we were near here an older Korean lady handed me a small treat. She had given one to a Korean girl too. They must do this at temples, I think. I can’t remember what it was, but it fit in my hand.
This will be the end of my description of our October 1999 vacation in Korea. When I look up information about Busan now I see that the population is not higher now than it was 20 years ago. I think it’s because the population of Seoul and surrounding area has increased so much, meaning many people move to the Seoul area now from other places in Korea. Many changes have occurred in Pusan, also, and there are many new buildings and bridges; some are elaborate. One day when we were looking for a meal near the Royal Hotel in the downtown core we found a Pizza Hut and ate there but it was small and cramped and crowded because there was a noticeable lack of restaurants in general, especially western ones. And there was a lack of space. In Pusan, there were and still are many mountains, and they keep mountains unpopulated, so this meant the buildings in the small valleys were more dense. We were very suited to have gone there and seen what it was like.