Opening our curtains we were greeted with clear blue skies for our first full day in Busan. Leaving our room for breakfast it seemed strange taking the lift upwards as the hotel’s restaurant is on the top (13th) floor alongside the reception area.
Stepping inside, the breakfast area was very attractive with large, sliding glass doors leading out onto the rooftop garden. We found a table by the window and started the day with yogurt, fresh fruit and cereal before moving on to investigate the hot dishes. Here we found everything from western style bacon and fried eggs to hearty chicken, fish and rice dishes.
Returning to our room and ready to go out, we pressed the button near the light switch indicating that we wished our room to be cleaned. We came across a similar device in Taipei last year but haven’t seen one elsewhere, it’s a big improvement though from hanging a piece of cardboard on the door handle.
It was just a few minutes walk to the nearest metro station in Seomyeon. One reason that we had selected this district was that Seomyeon is an interchange station making it convenient to get around. We took the train to Haeundae Beach station, Line 2, Exits 3 or 5 which was approximately ten minutes walk from the beach.
Haeundae Beach, located in the eastern part of the city, is the most famous beach in South Korea and is popular for family holidays during the summer months. Although it was quite warm for early May, it wasn’t sunbathing weather just yet. We wondered why parts of the beach were cordoned off and diggers were creating large heaps of sand. After reading some signs we discovered the annual Busan Sand Festival would be taking place the following week with giant sand sculptures and beach activities.
We followed a path alongside the beach in a westerly direction towards Dongbaekseom Island where we crossed a wooden footbridge and continued along a walkway. The island is very small and is named after the dongbaek trees that grow there. It was once separated by the sea but years of sediment have built up connecting it to the mainland.
Just below the cliff we spotted a statue of a mermaid mounted on a rock. The statue symbolises the legend of Princess Hwangeok and depicts the story of the mermaid princess who misses her prince and spends her days gazing out to sea, longing for him to return.
Continuing, we passed a lighthouse viewpoint from where we had spectacular views of the Busan coastline, the Gwangan bridge and APEC House, which was to be our next place to visit.
Built on a peninsula and surrounded by pine trees and camellias, stands Narimaru APEC House (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) which is now used as a memorial hall and conference centre. It’s open to the public with free admission and our self guided tour included the meeting room set out as it would have been for the 2005 APEC summit together with its lounge and rooftop terrace.
We’re always attracted to yachts and decided to continue to the marina but this proved disappointing as we found it wasn’t possible to walk along the quay and we were unable to see very much. Instead, we took the metro from Dongbaek station to Kyungsung University and Pukyong National University station then found a cafe on the edge of the Pukyong campus for some lunch.
After strolling a short distance we reached Busan Arboretum which is free to visit and its attractive gardens contain 600 varieties of plants. Exploring its glass house we found a selection of tropical and desert plants all clearly labelled.
Beyond the arboretum lies the vast U.N. Memorial Cemetery in Korea which includes the cemetery, memorial hall, peace park and sculpture park. Opened in 1951, the cemetery was established to honour the service and sacrifice of U.N. soldiers who died during the Korean War 1950-1953 and is the only U.N. cemetery in the world.
There are 2,300 graves on the 35 acre site, the majority of which are of British, Turkish and Canadian soldiers. The USA, who had the highest number of casualties in the war took all their fallen home soon afterwards. However, 36 members of the U.N. dispatched from the USA and stationed in Korea after the war who died wished to be interred here. The graves are set out in 22 sections designated by the nationalities of the buried service members.
An Honour Guard from the Republic of Korea 53rd Division carries out a flag ceremony daily but our visit wasn’t timed to witness this. The cemetery is beautifully kept with sculptured trees, manicured lawns and a koi carp pond stretches the length of the main cemetery, edged with rose bushes and azaleas.
On the edge of the cemetery stands The Wall of Remembrance which was completed in 2006 and has the names of 40,896 U.N. casualties (killed and missing) inscribed on 149 black marble panels. We saw so very many names and when we had walked to the end of the curved wall we found the list also continued on the rear panels. It was a sobering and moving experience even for those of us who hadn’t suffered fatalities.
Inside the memorial hall a video presentation takes place which is available in several languages. The U.N. Sculpture Park is near the exit and since it opened in 2001, 29 pieces have been created and donated by artists from a number of U.N. countries.
A short stroll from the cemetery took us to our final location of the day, the Busan Museum. Admission is free and inside this large museum were excavated relics found in the Busan area from prehistoric age to modern times. The galleries revealed the city’s historical and cultural heritage and in the outdoor exhibition hall we found a collection of precious pagodas, Buddhist statues and monuments. There is a cultural centre in the basement which offers visitors an opportunity to experience a traditional tea making ceremony but this was unfortunately unavailable when we enquired.
On our way to Daejeon metro station it started raining heavily so we popped into a bakery for some delicious green tea and cream cheese dough buns to keep us going before returning to the hotel.
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