Tourism of Varying Momentum

In a break from our regular weekend plans of sitting in our apartment in our pajamas for most of the weekend, Kristen and I have escaped from Dongtan for a brief stay in Busan. Busan is a breathtaking coastal city, and we spent most of today taking in as much of it as we possibly could. We started to day at ligtning speed, but as the day raced by, we found ourselves stopping more often. While we may not have seen as much as we could have, the extra pauses were certainly worthwhile.

We left our wonderful B&B early(ish) in the morning, to begin one of two bus tours that we would end up doing during the day. This first tour allowed us glimpses of a host of places, including a world-famous fish market (which we skipped), a scenic seaside overlook (which we skipped) and a pebble beach (which we stopped at only long enough to take numerous photos and probe once again how bad I am at skipping pebbles on water).

The first attraction at which we spent a significant portion of time was a place called BIFF square. To my dismay, it was not named after the infamous antagonist from the Back to the Future series. It is so named because it is the venue of the Busan International Film Festival. In my heart, however, it was still named after the most prominent member of the Tannen family. BIFF square is a sprawling mass of street market, vending everything from snacks to fashion to CCTV cameras. We spent a number of hours alternating between browsing the stalls calmly and walking in a brisk panic trying to regain our bearings. The time raced by, and soon we had to bid BIFF adieu, or risk not having enough time to complete the second tour for the day.

Despite our attempt to be timeous, we did not have time to complete the second tour, managing to stop only to walk around a UN Memorial for soldiers who died in the Korean War, which was humbling and beautiful. Following this, we decided to simply stop at the nearby sand beach. We were meeting some friends (who happened to choose this weekend to visit Busan as well) nearby, so it made sense. And it was also a good excuse to lie on the beach and do nothing but listen to music and forget about the rest of the world.

Once we had soaked in the last of the afternoon sun, we met our friends at the nearby train station. We enjoyed a meal at a superb vegan restaurant, then headed out to our main activit for the evening – the lantern festival at Samgwongsa temple. The festival honours Buddha’s birthday, which is just over a week from today. And what a festival it was.

The temple grounds were a wash of various pastel colours, lit by several thousand lanterns. The majority were simple lanterns, but there were a surprising number of large lanterns, depicting warriors, the Chinese zodiac, and an elephant,  amongst other things. We were all struck by how much care and effort had gone into transforming the temple grounds from a solemn place of worship into a space of celebration worthy of the occasion.

It was a magical evening for the most part. However, time once again slipped through the hourglass at an unbelievable rate, and it was soon time to leave the wonder of the temple behind, to return to our remarkably sweet host at the B&B, who had to wait up for us to let us in.

Today was a blur of activity. From gazing at spectacles on the bus tour to experiencing them deeply at the temple, we absorbed as much of Busan as we could possibly handle. Tomorrow may be a more relaxed day, with only a temple visit and lazing on the beach on the schedule, but it will hopefully be filled with as much wonder and affecting experience as today was.

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