Friday, February 12, 2010

Episode 51: Busan Day 4

In the 7th Century AD King Taejong Muyul of the Silla Dynasty used to practice his archery in a forest on an island near the East Sea. On Saturday, January 9th, 2010, Ji-hyun and I walked through the same forest on the same island, now called Taejongdae.

The obvious highlight of Taejongdae is the magnificent white light house, and the cliffs on which you can walk, to get as close to the sea as good sense will allow. I of course, walked out on the cliffs, but I also attempted to get an even better view of the sea by walking to the top of the light house. Unfortunately, once I got there my view was obstructed by the dirty safety glass keeping me from jumping over the rail and killing myself and so alas, the best view of the sea and Oryukdo - a collection of five islands that sometimes look like six, depending on the level of the water, hence the name, which means “five or six islands” – is only from the cliffs beside the light house.

(The lighthouse at Taejongdae, complete with old man waiting to take your picture on a Polaroid camera.)

(Another view of the lighthouse, from below. The red hoop with the needle sticking out of it has a placard describing the meaning of the structure. However, like all representative art, it made absolutely no sense.)

(The cliffs.)

(One of the many stunning views from the cliffs around the lighthouse.)

(The rainbow tent on the rock at the bottom of the picture is home to a restaurant which I assume sells fresh fish caught from the sea right beside it. At one point a wave was so big it came crashing over the edge of the rock and covered about half the top. It's tough to tell from the image, but everything on this rock is actually raised up to avoid getting soaked when this happens.)

After touring all of Taejongdae Park with Ji-hyun, Jeong-pil picked us up, and we drove to another beautiful cliff area called Igidae Park. Igidae is perhaps even more scenic and peaceful than the famous Taejongdae, but because there’s no lighthouse, very few people come to visit. (Even Jeong-pil had to admit that despite its beauty, this was the first time he had ever been to Igidae.) Come to think of it, the fact that no one goes to Igidae is probably the reason it is so scenic and peaceful, so I shouldn't complain too much. After visiting all the major cliffs of Busan, we drove back home for a raw-fish dish called sashimi. (Sorry, it was too dark by this time to get any decent pictures.)

I had first eaten sashimi during my visit to the Ulsan area back in April/May. At that time, I had already eaten a few crabs and three other sea food courses, so when the giant platter of raw fish came I just didn’t have the stomach room left to down too many of the large rubber-like fillets without first half cooking them in my bowl of maeuntang.

This time though, the cuts were much smaller and so I was able to wrap them with garlic and other sauces in ssam (any lettuce-like food stuff used for wrapping other food stuffs) thus adding some much needed “oomph” to what I can only describe here as small, cold, pink pillows, with the "chew-ability" of a pencil eraser, but containing much less flavour. In one of the great mysteries of Korea though, despite my relative aversion to sashimi, most Koreans (especially those from the Busan area) can't get enough of it. Considering Korea is the home of that most delicious of dishes - bulgolgi, the fact that more than zero people would rather eat raw, tasteless fish is something I'll never understand.

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