Busy Busan

In Busan, South Korea, Beomeosa temple climbed up a steep hillside. Legend says that at the temple’s mountain peak, there is a golden well which never dries up, home to a mythical golden fish. Hence the name of the temple, Beomeosa, means “Heavenly Fish.” The temple is home to so many Buddhas—big and small, gold ones, Buddhas painted on walls, tiny Buddhas in niches with lights, Buddhas of stone, of plastic, of wood, of metal.

Beomeosa temple

At night, in the park by Busan tower, traditional drummers and dancers performed.

Night view from Busan tower

At Jagalchi Fish Market, Korea’s largest, a myriad of seafood splashed in tubs. I left it to my Japanese friend to choose. I went along with her choices except for one, baby octopus. Although I had tasted it before, I didn’t want to eat octopus, an intelligent species; the little creatures were devising ways to escape from their tub as we spoke. We ordered a round flat fish, a conch-like shellfish, and some large prawns. The first two were nicely sliced but the prawns were still alive; one kept jumping right off the plate! My friend tried to cut the feisty one, but it kept flipping; we looked at each other horrified. Finally, she asked the server to cut them up and they returned in thirds, although some of the heads were still moving.

Jagalchi Fish Market
Placing our choices in a basket
Minimal preparation for our meal

And as in Seoul, busy street markets were everywhere.

My friend orders gimbap, like a sushi roll with different fillings (bap means rice)

Socially, Koreans seemed more direct, different from the unfailingly courteous Japanese. Sometimes people stared at me, a foreigner, and a few ignored us when asked politely for directions. In Busan, a volunteer at the subway ticket machines offered his assistance, but kept pushing the wrong buttons for my destination; a giver of advice, not a listener. He did help direct me to the gate for Nampodong as opposed to Nopodong, in the opposite direction. This assertive personality seemed to be a trait of the area; we encountered it several times with overly helpful people.

Modern Busan

Gukji market

Other posts in South Korea: The soul of Seoul, Icheon pottery, ancient GyeongJu.

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

37 thoughts on “Busy Busan

  1. Now then…when it comes to food, and trying different things in different cultures, we like to think we are quite daring and quite experimental, but we’ve always said that one thing we’d find very difficult is being asked to eat something which is still alive! Not surprised you sent it back! By the way though – octopus is delicious…

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  2. I wouldn’t be able to eat a baby octopus either, there is already a wealth of research that suggests octopuses are one of the most complex and intelligent animals in the ocean. They can recognise individual human faces, solve problems (and remember the answers for months). South Korean temples are so beautiful and I love how always there’s a legend or two surrounding one. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

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  3. Interesting read and I love seeing the pictures. The husband won’t eat octopus for the same reason, and I’m happy not to, either. Have you seen My Octopus Teacher (on Netflix, I think)? FAAAABULOUS. I hate to call it a documentary because that sounds dry. It’s more like one man’s memoire of his time with an octopus friend. Get ready to cry. And if you did eat octopus, you’d stop after seeing this beautiful movie.

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  4. I’ve heard about Busan, especially made famous from the film “Train to Busan.” Cultural-wise, it astounds me that, despite being geographically-close to one another, that Chinese-Japanese-Korean cultures can all be so different, especially with its language having derived from Chinese back in the day. All the same, it is fascinating, and it looks to be your time in Busan was a fruitful one. 🙂

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    1. I’m not a fan of horror films, so haven’t seen that one. Look at how different all the European cultures are… it’s no surprise that the same is true in Asia (and Africa and South America, to some extent). Those cultures are all so ancient and have been isolated much of the time. Interesting observation though! Thanks for your comment, Rebecca.

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  5. We’re not afraid to taste new flavours in other countries … but you won’t catch me eating anything that’s still alive … your description of the prawns’ heads still moving, had me swallowing twice! I will eat seafood (well, not all seafood, but most), and then it must be grilled/fried 👀.
    Beautiful images – those first couple of pictures are so colourful and there’s so much detail … really lovely!

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    1. I do love sushi and sashimi (but not still alive!). It’s a fine line saying no in a foreign country at times. Friends in Japan offered me raw horse and I gasped, then they looked insulted so I took a small piece. I usually don’t even eat meat. Thanks for your visit and comment!

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  6. Enjoyed this piece Ruth, which brought back many memories for my own Busan adventures. I didn’t make it to Beomeosa Temple, so enjoyed your tour. The fish market is so vibrant! I’m not super daring when it comes to seafood, so I passed on most of the delicacies on offer. Good on you for refusing the octopus.

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  7. Loved your images, Ruth. The architectural details in the temples are fascinating and the market is a photographer’s dream, too. One of my favorite things to do when traveling. You sure were enjoying very fresh seafood! 🙂

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  8. Arrrrgh the live prawns! I would not have been able to eat there after that. I remember years ago at a restaurant in Vancouver being served food that we were to cook at the table. It included wriggling live prawns with small skewers threaded through them. I was heartsick watching them. Apart from that Busan looks like a place I’d love to explore, especially the markets (always a favourite). Wonderful photos.

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  9. I’m sure the dancers and drummers are a fond memory. Beautiful costumes. I was surprised to see the opposite of what I’d expect in Western culture, with the man dancing and the ladies drumming. Glad you took the time to go to the Busan tower at night and get that spectacular photo of the city below.

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