Sunday, February 8, 2009

Busan Vacation Part II

The hotel vouchers Julianne won by doing a survey for her recruiter online also included free breakfast . . .

I've never had sweet potatoes mashed up and then (I think) baked . . . and won't have them ever again either. This breakfast was called "American Breakfast"--a rather bad misnomer. A salad is NOT served with a traditional American breakfast. Eggs, bacon, and sausage--okay, but try to get better quality sausage . . . and bacon too, sigh. A slice of apple . . . for some people, yes. Overall, not all that satisfying and I think we would have been better off just getting the Korean breakfast instead--although I still, after four years of living here, don't think of most Korean foods as 'breakfast' foods though Omurice does have some appeal now.

To keep travel costs down we traveled a lot on the Busan subway. I've never seen a drug awareness and prevention poster--not that I've been actively searching for them. When I saw this little ad I was surprised . . . I guess drugs must be an issue in Busan.

At the Busan subway station there are several cafes, etc. I thought the title here was funny.

Julianne and I took the subway up to Geumgjong station. We planned to hike up to Beomeosa Temple, and from there go to see Geumjeongsanseong (literally Geungjeong Mountain Fortress or Geumjeong Fortress) which is the largest mountain fortress in the Republic of Korea today.

When we walked out of the subway station a Korean tried to get us to get into a taxi and I ignored him because we planned to walk. After a few minutes of walking though we decided to get a taxi because we didn't want to get lost.

The taxi driver charged us 4,000won. During the ride the guy chatted us up, and then propositioned us. He offered to drive us around Busan for the day. We looked at each other, and silently said 'nope,' so I told the guy no thanks. After that he didn't have much to say . . . nice guy, but I didn't want to spend the day talking about why kimchi is so healthy for me, and all of the other standard Korean English conversation topics when all Julianne and I wanted to do was have a nice day of taking pictures with our cameras and enjoying each others' company sans Korean chaperone.

Arriving at Beomeosa temple we saw a haraboji (grandfather) with a snack stand. At first, I ignored him as we walked by because he was saying, "Hey! Hey!", which in English is totally rude, and when combined with a tourist location I usually don't give the person the time of day.

After we walked around a little to figure out where we wanted to go we ended up walking by the haraboji again. This time we noticed that he had quite the little gig going. He was selling bottles of water, and snacks. His gimmick was that he would get you to come over and give you a handful of bird seed. The birds in the area know the deal and fly over and land on your hand and eat the seeds . . . Julianne was commandeered--literally, he grabbed her hand and maneuvered her to the 'spot'--and I got some nice shots.

There was a catch, of course, to the 'free' bird seed: you had to buy something from his little snack stand. We got some bottles of water and then moved on.

I got out my tripod and began snapping shots of the temple gates.

Juliane began taking pics too . . .

I really like the tree to the right of this picture. It was really hard to get a good shot of it because the sky was very bright and overcast.

There were a lot of interesting paintings on the temple structures.

I've figured out how to alter the power on my flash so I think I got some nice shots of these statues inside one of the gate structures. Usually a flash will make the colors garish and overpowering--I think these turned out pretty nice.

Wow--the proto-Gollum! Who knew?

The dragon in this guy's hand was very cool.

This . . . I don't know what it is . . . was hanging from the guy's belt--lol, yeah, go figure.

These other 3 guys were all inside the same prayer gate (at least I think that's what it was, a lot of buddhists were stopping and bowing and praying inside the structure).

I wish the sky had been more clear and blue . . . oh well.

Inside another gate I got this cool silhouette shot . . .

I was surprised to see bamboo here . . . it looked really nice.

Now THIS is what an old temple is supposed to look like! Finally I get to see some authentic historical temples in Korea. I know that with the destruction caused by the Japanese during the colonial period, and the ensuing Korean War, that a lot of temples and historical buildings were destroyed . . . and that that is the reason for all the NEW-looking temples, etc, but it's still really nice to see something that looks as old as it's supposed to.

Another awesome tree . . .

I'm finally getting the hang of using the shutter priority setting on my Canon to control the amount of light that gets into the exposure . . . again, the absent blue sky really diminishes how beautiful the area is.

A little bit of blue made an appearance--but not for long.

The temple grounds looked pretty good, and the surrounding area added beauty to it. But I think it's probably better to make a trip to this temple in the spring, or mid-fall.

Stone lantern . . .

The temple is built over several rising plateaus . . . and then at the top there's a path that goes by several more structures.

The stone and building here were awesome. Again, I actually felt like I was seeing real Korean history.

The faded colors of the artwork, and the wood, were really nice.

Inside this room a man was meditating/praying--I wanted to use a flash but didn't out of respect.

This was an area tourists are not allowed to go. The view through the doors was amazing.

When we got to the other side of the temple area we came to the start of the path that leads up to the mountain fortress. I really like this pic I took. It has a kind of other world quality to the lighting and colors.

I haven't done a lot of hiking over the last year and a half, and was really stupid about not getting water and snacks to take with us up the mountain. I usually bring plenty of supplies because if it's the first time climbing somewhere you have no idea how long it will take you, or how hard it will be.

If you're like Julianne and I, don't exercise a lot, and don't go hiking on the mountains in Korea regularly, you'll find this mountain a challenge. It took us about 2 hours to get to the top, and then 70 minutes or so to get back down. I'd estimate an experienced hiker in Korea who is in good shape could probably get to the top in less than an hour (unless the rocks and paths are muddy and wet). The rocks and paths were muddy and wet so our speed was also slowed by this, and the fact that it was Julianne's first major mountain hiking expedition in Korea.

Anyways, we just started to hike up the mountain path without any supplies other than two small bottles of water--not a good idea. I also didn't consider what time of day it was, and hadn't asked anyone how long a climb it was to the top and then back down again--NOT A GOOD IDEA. I should have known these things considering it was almost 3:30pm and the sun sets earlier in Korea (no daylight savings time). In 2005, when I lived on Ganghwa Island next to Mani mountain I would climb down late in the afternoon or even at night because I climbed that mountain at least once a week for exercise--Julianne and I were climbing a mountain we didn't know and starting it late in the afternoon. Needless to say later on we ended up walking down the last kilometer in near darkness.

At the start of the path there was a stream that a lot of Koreans who had already finished their climb were cleaning off their muddy boots and hiking poles . . .

This is about where Julianne began to realize how much work we had ahead of us--and I began to worry that she might not make it to the top (which I am very proud to say I was wrong, and she was strong!)

Happy faces should NOT be put on maps that are about how far you have to hike/climb! It's like the little face is taunting you . . . the little beady eyes staring . . . evil happy face!

Right about here is probably a good spot for a video . . .

One of Julianne's friends back in the US doesn't like the word "moist"--hence the use of it twice in the video. And while the guy racing down the mountain at the end of the video isn't actually 30 years older than me I HAVE had the experience before of grandfather and grandmother-aged Koreans going past me like I was standing still when hiking up and down mountains . . . I was just having a moment of 'yeesh, I need to work out more' . . .

After all of the pain, sweat, and effort this is the North Gate of the mountain fortress and the reason for climbing.

There's also the really cool stone wall that apparently runs for kilometers around the entire fortress area. It had to be rebuilt because of damage done by Japanese invasions and battles. If it hadn't been so late in the afternoon we would have explored the area more and walked along the wall and up and over some more of the mountain-hills.

Here's some info about the mountain fortress.

To the right of the north gate Julianne and I saw a path leading to an even higher elevation. Julianne surprised me by suggesting we climb up to see if the view was better--I agreed.

The view was definitely worth the extra climbing time . . . looking at the other mountain-hill tops that surround this area I really wished we had gotten to this spot around 12pm so that we could have eaten, rehydrated, taken a rest, and then explored the area more.

I can't wait till I get a panoramic power zoom with stabilizer--the shots I could have gotten up here would have been even better . . . I'm still happy with what I did get, though.

I feel like calling this the "Little Wall of Korea"--lol, don't tell any of the hardcore nationalists here, they'll freak out.

And of course, we had to do an obligatory 'couplehood' shot.

Heading back down the mountain paths of rocks and mud with jelly for muscles was not much fun. In some ways going down is worse than getting up.

This map is in Korean but it gives you a good idea of how big the mountain fortress actually is, and the large area of mountains it covers. If you look closely at the map, on the right side you'll see a bright red dot. We only walked around the immediate area of the red dot. To walk the whole mountain fortress area would likely take at least a full day--if not two days.

I don't even know if it's possible to actually walk the entire stone wall path and see each of the four gates of the mountain fortress. I suspect that it would take at least 2 or 3 days to do it all, and you'd have to be in pretty good shape too.

Well, that was Day 2 of our trip to Busan. More stories and pics to come . . .



Mark Eaton said...

Jason, great stories and photographs. Even for the experienced and conditioned hiker, a downhill trek is not easy compared to the uphill hike. I look forward to the next post.

Jason said...

Thanks for the comment. The trip to Busan, and actually pretty much the last month or so, has made me realize that I really really need to get back into a healthier lifestyle.

I think I'll be hiking a lot more over the next year. So I hope I can get that panoramic lens and share the pics with everyone.

Take care,