Day 4 – Tuesday
We got up pretty early to get packed and ready to go to Busan, cause we had a train to catch at 8 am. We took a taxi from the guesthouse to the train station and just barely made it! I think we had less than 5 minutes to spare before the train took off! It was a little stressful... I promised not to do that to my parents again, hehe. We got to Busan and made it to our hotel before check-in time, so we stashed our bags and went out looking for lunch. We ate at a delicious little restaurant in Haeundae. One of the things I love most about Korean restaurants is the service. Sides are always included with your meal and you have unlimited refills on them! They’re also mostly veggies, so you can be healthy while you much, instead of filling up on rolls (darn you, Texas Roadhouse and your cinnamon butter) or tortilla chips. Anyway, in addition to the 5 yummy sides (kimchi, bean sprouts, fish cake, radish, and another that I can’t remember) and miso soup, we had kimchi jigae (stew) with tuna, and (more) stewed kimchi with pork ribs in a sizzling pan on a grill at the table. We also got an “egg roll,” which isn’t the delicious egg roll that comes with Chinese take-out at home. It’s more like an omelet that has been rolled onto a plate. Egg. Roll. Egg roll. Voila! The meal was top-notch and restored my parents’ faith in Korean food after the Fat on a Leaf incident.
After lunch, we walked a few blocks over to Haeundae Beach to check out the famous Busan Aquarium. It’s beautiful! If you ever get a chance to go, the tunnel through the shark tank is enough of a reason to visit. I rented a cool little audio guide gadget that interacted with the paper map in your hand or the plaques telling about the sea creatures. As we were leaving, some guys from Uzbekistan wanted to take a photo with my parents! A little weird, but I tell you, they were so popular the whole trip!
It was really hot on Tuesday and there wasn’t even a breeze blowing in off the ocean, so we cooled off in the hotel for a while after we checked in. I think we watched the same archery match again, you remember the one where South Korea beat Mexico, right? What? You mean it wasn’t showing on repeat in your country? Cause it was a popular match over here! After watching some Olympics, we went to Café Bene again to have a coffee.
We headed out late in the afternoon to see Yonggungsa Temple, which is a spectacular temple built into the cliffs, the epitome of tranquility. It was incredible. To me, in general, a temple looks like a temple, so once you’ve seen one or two, it’s not necessary to see more (unless you’re a big fan of temples). This one, though, is worth a special trip because it is just so unique! The views of the temple itself and the views from the temple out to the water were equally beautiful.
We caught a cab outside the temple and it was one of my favorite kinds of cabs, the ones that look like a disco on the inside. This cab had swanky colors and lights embedded in the ceiling and the driver played us K-Pop and told us about the pictures on his dashboard. He also took risky turns at a very fast speed, freaking out my mom, which seemed to entertain him. Since our driver spoke pretty good English, we asked him if he knew of a good place to eat seafood. I’d heard that that’s one of the best things to get in Busan... little did I know... He took us to a restaurant that he said had the best seafood in Busan. Once we were inside and seated at a floor table (which are still very common in Korea, though many restaurants have tables and chairs), the server pointed out two “specials,” one for 250,000 won (around $220!) and one for 150,000 ($130!) As we were trying to get more information about other choices, a very nice lady from another table came over to help us interpret and clarify the menu. It turned out that everything was way too expensive and would probably still have eyes! We were hoping for something around maybe 20,000 won per person that did not involve a whole fish on a plate. Seriously, how hard is it to just filet it before you cook it?? Or just some shrimp? We decided not to have seafood after all for dinner. As we left, the lady who owned/managed the restaurant was visibly mad, and probably rightly so. Bless her heart. We had no idea that those prices were reasonable for seafood in Busan. The big oil guys that usually expense their dinners to their company account probably have no problem paying around $200 for a big fish dinner, but we’re not that kind of family. We went out to find another cab and the same driver was still there, surprised we were leaving! He tried to negotiate with several ladies from the restaurant and it didn’t get any better. They were pissed that we didn’t order anything and we weren’t about to pay what they wanted for food we likely wouldn’t enjoy anyway. He took us back to the hotel. I think he was disappointed, cause he was very quiet the whole way.
We decided to have chicken instead. It’s a safe choice when you don’t want eyes on your plate! There are about a billion good chicken restaurants around, so we picked one from the many and it turned out great! We were seated up on the roof and we had the whole place to ourselves. It was great! We ordered three different varieties of boneless wings and drank some Cass with our dinner. The server forgot to bring a bottle opener for the beer, but Dad used his Aggie ring to get them open. The server was pretty surprised when he came back with the bottle opener and we were already set. Gig’em ;)
To top it off, a few yards up the street, the road was blocked off for a K-Pop concert. We’re sitting on a roof just up the road from the beach, having a great dinner with live K-Pop and a good view. Does it get better than that? After dinner, we walked down to see the last few minutes of the concert. Mom got pictures with a mascot pelican and then we found mascot alcohol too! Who would think to have a mascot Mr. Soju and mascot Ms. Makkoli? It was hilarious! (Soju is the famous Korean liquor that I’ve mentioned before and makkoli is a Korean rice wine/beer that I think tastes worse than ...anything. I’ve heard it’s an acquired taste. Bleh.)
We wrapped up the evening with some more Olympic viewing back in the room. I think we watched Swimming and Fencing that night. If you’ll remember, Park Taewon was disqualified in a heat, but he appealed it and went on to win the silver in the final. We saw both that heat and his silver race replayed a few times. South Korea is really proud of him! And so ends a very long, busy day!
|We're accidentally matchy-matchy in maroon. This happens pretty often in an Aggie family.|
|Yonggungsa Temple - grumpy monk statues|
|LOL! Oh foreign countries!|
End of Day 4! I just went to Busan again this weekend and it was fun to walk around the same area that I did all this with my parents. Some friends and I lounged on Haeundae Beach all weekend, right in front of the aquarium. It was amazing and I'm a wee bit sunburned now... or "tan" for a redhead!