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Korea

Sept 22, 2008 – Busan

Busan

We traveled today to Beomeosa temple, an active temple. It was a 3km walk up a winding and pretty steep roadway. Luckily a shaded walk. For part of the trip we were not sure if we were going the right way – signs are not also where you need them (or at least where we need them). The roadway had 2 lanes of traffic going the same direction but I am not really sure why there were lines on the road as the use of lanes seemed very arbitrary.

On the way there, we stopped at one temple and recorded the sound of a service going on. Then proceeded back up the road to our destination. Beomeosa is a large temple with a Templestay program for those that which to enhance their practice and also has what seems to be a large training center. Here again we were able to record some additional sounds of the temple.

As were were pretty hungry at this point and with no food in sight, we took a bus back down to the city. As the bus departed the temple and started downhill we discovered all the restaurants we on the downhill side of the road. We did not have exact change for the bus. In total it cost us 2000 Won but we only have a 5000 Won note. We put it in the bill collector. At the end of the bus ride the driver called me up to the front. He was taking 1000 Won notes from people, instead of having them deposit them, to make change.

We had lunch at a small restaurant just past the bus terminal. We ordered ‘nude sushi’ and a noodle soup. Nude sushi has the rice rolled on the outside. We were very surprised to find slices of processed cheese in the roll. A group of 4 women whom we saw at the temple came into the restaurant. From how they were ordering and checking phrase books we knew they were tourists – at the time I assumed from from Japan. We could hear the shock as they saw sliced cheese being added to their sushi roll. We ran into them again in the afternoon and they turned out to be from Singapore on a 2 week holiday.

We took a cable car ride in Geomjgang park to get up the south gate Geumjeong fortress. This a fortress that was destroyed by the Japanese during one of their invasions. When it was fully built it had 17 km of walls and 4 gates (North, South, East and West). From the top of the cable car we were told it was a 20 minute walk to the south gate. For us a it was probably 35 minute walk. Direction signs were not always where we needed them – at least not English ones. The English signs tended to be along the straight aways and not at the decision points (do I go left or right?). It took us 13 minutes to walk back once we found the gate.. Based on a sign in Korean that was present at the south gate, it appears that there is a plan to restore the fortress (or many parts of it) by 2010. Or at least that’s how I interpreted the sign.

As we descended the cable car we could see many areas of Busan. It is a port city that buttresses up against mountains and hills. The city has developed around many of the smaller hills and you can see the green tops of the small hills poking through the developed the city looking like little islands.

After the trip up the mountain we went to the Korean baths. Located in the Nongshin Hotel these bathes are apparently the largest in Korea. The bath part is separated by gender and you are naked in the baths. There is a large rest area that is mixed – you get a little uniform of sorts to wear. In the common area there are saunas that are coed and an ice room that is kept at -2 degrees C. I was the only one in there and I couldn’t help but to think of Sam McGee from Tennessee and the Marge of Lake Lebarge as I was in there. It was the most comfortable I had been since I got to Korea – nice and cool!

The process of the baths is pretty straight forward, and there were some young children. For some this is part of your lifestyle. As you enter, you shower to clean off then you can soak in any number of baths that range from ice cold to scalding hot (45 degrees C). There was one that was a giant tea bath – complete with giant floating tea bags. The signs indicated that the tea is changed everyday – but the description of the contents of the bags was all in Korean so we don’t know what was in it. One bath in the Men’s side was green, a Jasmine – Mint bath. On the women’s side it was Yellow – just a jasmine. There are also saunas and an area where you can be exfloliated by the staff. From the effort they were puting into it, it looked like a couple of layers of skin would come off!

You then finish up with another shower and exfloliating yourself with a fairly abrasive cloth.

Dar and I finished about the same time (about after 90 minutes) and then waited in slightly different places for each other for about an hour. We checked for each other, but as timing would have it seems we missed each other by a few minutes each time we moved to where the other was!

Temple Sounds

Chanting

One gong from a bell