My parents arrived on Friday, May 22 in the Busan airport. Keegan and I took the car ferry there again and enjoyed a very Korean dinner in the airport restaurant while we waited for my parents' flight. We sat down and ordered, and shortly afterward, a group of four elderly Korean women sat down next to us. Those four ordered, got their steaming hot food, scarfed it down, and were out of the restaurant before we even finished our meal. I was impressed.
My parents were surprisingly chipper when they arrived and had nothing but good things to say about their flight on Korean Air. We chattered non-stop on our drive to the hotel, as we checked in, and then in my parents room for another 30 minutes or so. Mom immediately began plying me with cookies and candies, in true Mom fashion.
The next morning, we decided over breakfast that we wanted to visit a beautiful temple by the ocean. Our friend Sung took us there over Chuseok last year, and we both think it's a pretty spectacular temple. The breakfast conversation was frequently interrupted by exclamations of amazement, as we were eating in a restaurant with a built-in tiger habitat. Cesar, the tiger, was awake and lively. I felt sorry for him that he has such a small enclosure, but he looked so cozy and cat-like when he finally settled down for a nap that I decided he could have it worse.
Our visit to the temple was an interesting one. It was not quite as crowded as the last time we were there over the Chuseok holiday, but it is still obviously a tourist attraction, so the atmosphere is not as peaceful as at some other temples we've been to. I think Mom and Dad enjoyed their first visit to a Korean Buddhist temple, and they were very curious about the Buddhist religion.
Mom and Dad at Haedong Yonggungsa
We could hear monks chanting and tapping out soothing rhythms on wood blocks, and we could smell incense in the air. Mom and Dad also enjoyed the variety of odd items for sale on the walk to the temple, including gigantic roots, pickled fish, and all kinds of dried squid.
In the afternoon, we headed over to the infamous Jalgachi Fish Market, where we all marveled (as is required) over the sheer amount of seafood for sale and wondered what they do with it all at the end of the day. We decided to get lunch on the fourth floor of the market in a clean, efficient Korean restaurant overlooking the water. We ordered bulgogi, stone bowl bi-bim-bap, and a seafood pancake. My parents were very brave and tried everything with some success. Dad was mystified by the spiciness and lingering effects of the whole, partially-cooked garlic clove he mistakenly ate. Mom was horrified by the octopus tentacles in the seafood pancake. And everyone was uncomfortable on the floor. But overall, the meal was a good introduction to Korean food and a big success.
At this point, we headed over to the Busan Tower for a view of the city. As we approached the tower, we stumbled upon the beginning of some sort of traditional performance. I told my parents that finding an interesting performance like this completely by luck was an integral part of our Korean experience. We saw a team of four acrobats perform traditional Korean see-saw jumping (called nol-ttigi) and then a whole slew of traditional dances and drumming, performed by women in beautiful, brightly colored folk costumes. We were thrilled.
After a quick trip up to the top of the tower, we returned to the hotel before regrouping for a late dinner. I had my heart set on visiting the new Shin-se-ge Shopping Center, so we set off on a long subway ride. We had dinner in a fashionable Italian restaurant with absolutely wonderful food. I was excited to find such good Western food in Busan since it's not too far from our place on Geoje. I foresee this restaurant being a good place for celebrations in the future! By the time we finished dinner, it was almost 10:00, so we didn't get to see much more of the shopping center. We did look around the Kyobo bookstore, which has a decent selection of English books, as well as a fun crafts section that I'd like to visit again.
On Sunday, we decided to try something new. We looked at the Busan map and decided to drive down to the southern part of the city to a park called Taejongdae Park. It was a beautiful place, with a long, pleasantly-landscaped walking path, an entertaining outdoor exercise area, and fantastic views of the rocky coastline and the ocean. We spent a while just walking leisurely along the path and taking lots of pictures.
Michaliks on the loose in Busan!
I also visited the most scenic public toilet ever, where you can do your business facing a huge back window that looks out over the ocean.
In the afternoon, we returned to Geoje Island on the car ferry and made it safely back to our apartment in time for a simple pasta dinner, with Keegan's homemade marinara. Everyone seemed to be adjusting well to the new country and time zone, so we were ready for the next stage of our adventures.