From Korea with Love – part ii

Hey everybody,

Sorry to leave you hanging, but there was so much to put in and download, I needed extra space and time.

I got back to my hotel room on Saturday night and crashed around midnight.

my room at ibis
my lovely room at the ibis

I planned on sleeping in and attempting to get to a couple of places of interest, Beomeosa Temple and Gamcheon Culture Village. Due to arriving late on Saturday, I would only have Sunday to travel around and explore, then I would be back on the plane on Monday morning. I knew I had to figure out the train schedule and how to get around since the temple was a considerable distance away.

busan by train
This picture strikes me as very 1950s for some reason. I shot this on the train to Beomeosa Temple.

I went down to the information desk and a very slim young man in a perfectly tailored suit was more than  happy to help me find my way around. I had taken a map the previous evening from the lobby to plan out my day. You know, digital and gps are fine, but there are times and places (like Korea) where I do not have phone service and therefore, no capabilities. A map is something you can fold up, stick in your pocket and be on your way. So this young man wrote down specific instructions and then gave me the bus number. I said, can I walk from the Metro to Beomeosa? He said, that is fine by me. It’s about a five minute walk. I thought, oh that’s nice, he’s giving me permission!

So back down to the Metro I went. I walked past all the vendors and fruit sellers (I bought some lovely persimmons the night before) and onto the train station to buy a day pass. Okay, I don’t know if you know this about me, but I don’t read Korean. I figured there would be an English button like there is at my sushi restaurant at home. There was, but I had to stand back and let several people (who stopped and stared and smiled at me) go ahead while I tried to see what they were doing. I thought I bought a round trip ticket to Beomeosa because that’s what it said in English. I attempted several times to get a day pass and the machine was not having it. I said to heck with it, I’ll just go buy a round trip ticket and buy another one later on.

I got on the train and in the right direction, yay! another small victory. I sat down between two elderly gentlemen who proceeded to stare at me until they got off the train a few minutes later. I have to say, I’m impressed with the public transportation system in both Korea and Taiwan, it was not difficult to get around. So I got off at Beomeosa and put my ticket in the machine and the buzzer starts going off…people are all turning around to look and I just started laughing. Several people attempted to help me and tell me I needed more money. One guy hit the Metro officials button and then explained that I needed help. He has me follow him into his office and looked rather perturbed, I thought, well I guess my charms are wearing thin at this point! Some other guy was in the office and they were having this heated discussion while I was left standing there. Finally the official told me I needed more money. I pulled out a handful of coins and he took what he needed. So I was attempting to ask him about the day pass and he said, ‘you can go now’. I said, ‘oh ,well I had a question about a day pass’, he and the other guy looked at me and he repeated, ‘you can go now!’ so I thought well  damn, I’m going to have to figure this out. I finally did figure it out and got a day pass and headed out for the temple.

My wanderings on the way to the temple.

Now this temple is supposed to be a big deal in the Busan area, but you wouldn’t know that by the markings, by which I mean, there were none. No signs, no directions, no little pictures of temples, nothing… off I went in search of divinity! I was helped out by two or three people who looked at my map and pointed…I tried my best thank you in Korean and everytime, they helped me finish saying it. People are awesome, I have to say I have not traveled that much outside of Okinawa, but everywhere I went in Taiwan and Korea, there were people willing to help. Humans are quite a helpful bunch. So are birds…

I know the name of this bird, I just can’t seem to think of it! He hung out so I could get several shots.
little bird in the trees
very pretty little bird

So I started the climb…it was a climb, up and up and there were plenty of things to see, little houses, gardens, birds, people…A little old man was keeping pace with me as I stopped to take pictures he was pleasantly wishing me a good morning. I walked up ahead, stopped, took more photos, he would come up alongside and say good morning again..this went on for about a mile and a half!

So after walking a good few miles I arrived at the Beomeosa Temple complex.  I stopped in the visitor’s center because I figured I could pick up an English map to explain. There was an older couple there that was giving information. I heard ‘des ka’ at one point and asked Nihonjin? Japanese? They smiled and said they were and I felt like I was at home! I told them I was from Okinawa and they immediately gave me all kinds of information and put some wonderful English maps in my hands. The gentleman told me that there was one temple that I should not miss, it was about a five minute walk. (I was a little dubious about these five minute walks).

This is from the website: (Korean, English)

“Beomeosa Temple is located at the edge of Mt. Geumjeongsan, a famous mountain in Busan. About 1,300 years ago it was constructed by monk Ui Sang in the 18th year (678) of King Munmu (reign 661~681) of the Silla Kingdom (the kingdom mainly occupied the Gyeongsang-do Province region in 678A.D.). In the geography book ‘Donggukyeojiseungram’ the origin of Beomeosa Temple is written as follows:
“There is a well on the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan and the water of that well is gold. The golden fish in the well rode the colorful clouds and came down from the sky. This is why the mountain is named Geumsaem (gold well) and the temple is named ‘fish from heaven’.”

This place was extraordinary! I only meant to spend an hour or two but I just could not leave. There was an energy there that just drew me and kept me.

temple guards

I will return to South Korea and to this temple again.  I did wander over to the other temple that the nice Japanese man mentioned, and I was so glad I did.  I was taking photos of buildings and artwork and I looked behind me up a staircase and there was a stunning golden Buddha, at least twenty feet high, surrounded by beautiful statuary. There were guardians there as well. Incredible!!

gods and buddha
The pictures do no justice and cannot encompass the size.

I did end up taking about a million and twelve pictures, and I always have had this conflict. Do I want to carry around all this camera equipment, it’s such a pain in the neck. And then I get home and look at what I’ve gotten and I think, yes, it’s definitely worth the effort.

So I decided I had spent a longer time than I had anticipated and it was time to head out. Before leaving however, I noticed a side trail that quite a few people were taking. I decided to investigate. I had seen several elderly people and quite a few children going in this direction. I have to tell you, I packed my Merrell hiking boots and wore them in hopes of finding a trail or two to hit. So here it was! Holy Cow! This trail felt like a vertical climb on one of those mountains in the American West. I stopped once or twice to breathe and I’m in pretty good shape these days.  I finally got to the top and realized it was indeed worth the trip. I can’t believe how hardy these Koreans are!!

top of the world
I was rewarded with this view after my climb.

So after heading back down and walking back toward the train station, I realized I had not had anything to eat since the morning and I was beginning to get hungry. I was going to stop at this restaurant, but decided not to….

only food for koreans

By the time I got back in my neighborhood it was too late to check out Gamcheon Culture Village. That will be my next trip, because there will be a next trip.

I had a nice dinner, walked around the markets a little more and went to bed. I had to check in at the airport by 6 am and my cab would arrive at 5 am.

We arrived at the airport on Feb. 15! Happy Birthday big sister Judy  and buddy Amanda. I did not get out of the cab because there were no lights on. I said to the driver, is it open? He said, yes and kept motioning me in. I went in and we all sat there in the dark until 6 am when the lights magically came on. It felt like something out of “Lost”.

But I was safe and soon on the plane and heading back to Okinawa. What a great experience!

My next adventures look to be on Mainland! It’s time to discover all the wonders of Japan, learn the mysteries and intrigues.  Thanks everyone for reading and for the complimentary feedback, it’s nice to share my life with a select group of appreciative folks!

keep out!
can you read the sign that says “keep out. Meditation in progress”?
my buddy!
His smile made me a little nervous!