Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Gamcheon - A Multicoloured Village in Busan

Nestled high in the cauldron-shaped hills that surround Busan is a pretty district called Gamcheon Village. Originally a shanty town built by refugees of the Korean War, it remains one of Busan's poorest neighbourhoods, but the local government has recently made steps to bring tourists and money to the area. Advertised under various exotic pseudonyms like "Santorini on the South Sea," "Korea's Machu Picchu," and "Lego Village," its vibrant buildings and array of sculptures and paintings now draw numerous tourists to the area. Angela and I explored the village ourselves during our recent trip to Busan.

Entering the village via the main road that winds through it.
There are all sorts of murals, paintings and statues on the buildings. 

A local resident looks over the touristified road.
You could spend hours exploring the alleyways of the village.

One of the things that the local government added to rejuvenate the village was this shadowy house with a black interior. It seemed completely at odds with the vibrancy of the village.
A view of Busan Tower and Yongdusan Park.
A viewing platform near the top of the village. 
A pretty view over Gamcheon, which is bathed by sunlight for most of its day due to its position.

Looks like someone forget to wear suncream that day.

Standing in front of a pretty mural.

Looking back at the viewing platform.

We found The Little Prince and his fox friend. Korea seems to love these characters; we'd recently seen them at Petite France, a French cultural village an hour outside Seoul.

A friendly dog we met.

We soon left the village and reentered a more familiar Korean streetscape.

Gamcheon is an incredibly picturesque place, and well worth your time if you're ever in Busan. You can easily get there by taking a taxi from the city (I recommend somewhere around Jagalchi or Nampo for the cheapest fares).

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan

Back in December, I visited Noryangjin Fish Market, a famous haven for Seoul's seafood enthusiasts, and though I didn't sample any of the food on offer there, I enjoyed browsing its many aisles of fish, crabs, rays, urchins and other colourful marine creatures.
More recently, Angela and I explored Busan's premier fish market, Jagalchi Fish Market. Even larger than Noryangjin, it had a cleaner and more modern feel than that establishment, though it was still just as archaic, gruesome and - if I'm honest - entertaining to explore.

The large, warehouse-like exterior of the market.
Greeting you as you enter are some cartoonish statues of fish and other apparently cheerful sea creatures.

A vendor prepares to catch and kill an eel before selling it to a customer.

In a restaurant on the market's second floor we tried out octopus sannakji, an essential eating experience for expats living in Korea. The octopus is cut into small pieces, served immediately, and eaten raw while its bodyparts are still moving. You can't tell from the photo but the whole plate was alive with wriggling tentacles!
It may seem gross, but it actually tasted pretty good.

Views over Busan's huge port.

Jagalchi also has an outdoor market nearby.
We watched this octopus escape from its tank.
Frozen, box-packed fish bits.

Heading out towards Nampo district.

Jagalchi Fish Market is definitely worth your time if you're ever visiting Busan. While I preferred Noryangjin overall, this was still a cool place to explore, and I'm glad we ticked "eating wriggling octopus tentacles" off of our bucket list.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Haedong Yonggunsa - Busan's Coastal Temple

During our recent trip to Busan, Angela and I visited Haedong Yonggunsa, a temple located just outside the city. It is one of the more unique temples we've visited in the country. Whereas most Korean temples are built in the mountains, Yonggunsa is situated on a rocky, windswept coastline, splashed by waves and accessible only via cliffside paths. As it was Buddha's Birthday, the whole complex was decorated in multicoloured lanterns, and the temple was packed with visitors, so much so that we had to line up for half an hour just to get in.

Near the temple is a marketplace where you can buy souvenirs and street food.
Statues representing the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac.
This nine-tiered pagoda was built in memory of victims of car accidents. There is a black tyre right by the pagoda, where people can pray not to have a car accident. 
The path down to the temple.

Many people left donations at statues in and around the temple grounds.
Our first view of the temple.

Underneath the lanterns.

We climbed up a staircase carved into the cliffs and found some great views of the coastline.

Exiting the temple.
Haedong Yonggunsa is definitely one of the more distinctive temples you can find in Korea. It's also pretty easy to reach from Busan. We took taxis from Haeundae, and if it hadn't been for heavy holiday traffic, it would have been a quick ten-minute ride.