Strolling Monks and Squirming Seafood in Busan, South Korea

Our journey from Japan to South Korea was slowed slightly by the effects of Typhoon Phanfone, but we safely arrived in Busan on a sunny yet choppy morning.
Our onboard lecturer from Stanford University had given us quite a bit of history of the Korean peninsula and today we were going to see several different aspects of the culture. We began with a drive about an hour out of town, passing huge towers of condominiums and the 5th largest container port in the world.

Our first stop was the Beomeosa Temple, a vast complex built over 1,300 years ago during the Silla Dynasty. There are seven palace wings but our visit focused on the main temples and their various gates. In our travels, we’ve come to learn that it is always a bit of a walk to these sacred places as they are situated at an elevation to ensure that the “pilgrims” are cleansed enough when they finally enter the temple. However, the walk was quite spectacular, and our arrival to the first gate was met by beautifully intricate architecture and statues.

Once inside the palace we saw a few more examples of the icons of the beliefs, like the one below holding a Lotus Flower.

While we were listening to the guide in the courtyard, a group of monks came strolling toward us, as if they had just left a meeting.

There was no one praying when we entered the final temple, so we were allowed to take some photographs of the vacant space.

Our next stop was the United Nations cemetery, the only one in the world. It contains the remains of 2,300 service members who fought under the auspices of the UN during the Korean War. We visited a memorial hall which contains some artifacts as well as pictures of combatants and then watched a very well done video on the history of the cemetery. Finally, we walked among some of the graves.

After our very solemn walk through the cemetery, the afternoon was almost over but we had one more stop. A visit to the Jagalchi Fish Market brought us through a series of narrow streets filled with vendors selling all sorts of marine life. We have never seen so much fish and so many different (and unique) varieties!

Next, we went inside the building that must have stretched two or three city blocks. Here were all the shellfish, many still alive as Koreans like to eat the small octopus while it is still wiggling. It was very clean and water was running everywhere, aerating the fish.

Luckily, from here it was a short ride back to the Ship and some hamburgers for dinner!

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