Down the East Coast to from Samcheok to Busan

A bus brought us to the town of Samcheok where we found a conveniently located motel next to the bus terminal. Once again the tourist information office was excellent and gave us a handy bus time table for the main attractions in the region – what a service!

So we took a local bus to Haesindang Park – probably one of the most special sights on our entire trip. The park has a huge collection of phalli in all shapes an forms (yes my dear reader that’s penises). The legend is that a girl who was supposed to get married soon drowned in the sea. Subsequently the villagers were not able anymore to catch fish so to please the dead girl the locals started to put penises along the coasts as an offering. And the fishes came back. Amusing for sure.

The following day we visited the Hwanseongul cave about an hour outside of Samcheok. A steep cable car ride brought us to the cave entrance from where we explored the huge cave. Nicely made pathways led us through the various “halls” of the cave which was much more extensive than we first thought. So we spend a good 90 minutes exploring.

Next stop on our trip was Gyeongju about 4 hours south of Samcheok where we stayed at the Nahib Guesthouse. The super friendly owner gave us some very good BBQ recommendation and soon we enjoyed some delicious grilled pork in a small backyard restaurant. This country really loves its pork meat.

Gyeongju was the center of the Silla empire which ruled from about 50 BC to about 950 AD. A remain from this period are the more than 150 burial mounds which are spread all over town which gave the town quite a special charme. In the very pretty Tumuli park there was even one mound “cut” open which allowed an insight into the totem cult of the Silla period.

In the afternoon we visited the excellent National Museum which also provided cover from the now quite heavy rain. The museum had a very good collection of weapons and every day items from the Silla empire. We were especially impressed by the more than two thousand year old jewelery which contained a lot of details and showed the very advanced craft skills they must have had.

On our last day in pretty Gyeongju we visited the Bulguksa temple. On the way there we passed countless rice fields – a really beautiful sight. The Buddhist temple was in a small park and we enjoyed the stroll through it. The temples in Korea are to a great extend similar to the ones in China and often restored in the 1950s after the end of the Japanese occupation.

In the afternoon we continued our trip to Seokguram a UNESCO World Heritage Site which contains a beautiful Buddha statue in a small temple. After so much culture we pampered ourselves with yet another Korean BBQ for dinner – and decided afterwards that we need a BBQ break for a few days.

The port city of Busan which was only a one hour bus ride away was our next stop. The lovely Blue Backpacker was our home for the next three nights in Korea’s second biggest city.

In the evening we went to watch a Baseball game. The first for the both of us. Baseball is very popular in South Korea. Besides the local league a lot of games of the American MLB are shown live on TV and so it was just logical for us to have a closer look at this sport.

We reached the stadium of the Lotte Giants about 3 hours before the game started and already a lot of fans were around. We soon realized that here baseball is a family event with a lot kids fully dressed up in fan wear. Furthermore you are allowed to bring outside food and even alcohol to the games – unheard of in Europe. What a great thing.

We got excellent seats on the height of the first base for 6000 W (which is about 7 SGD) in the middle of the home fans. And oh boy, the about 20’000 fans were enthusiastic. Inspired by an animator and sexy cheerleaders they sung one chant after the other. Especially when their team scored they went berserk. What a fantastic, family friendly ambiance (and in the end they even help to put the rubbish together – how civilized) – a good role model for the soccer clubs back home. And so we had a indeed fantastic first baseball game!

Next morning we visited the local fish market which apparently is the largest in the world (for sure you can smell it from quite a distance). Besides the market there were some nice small alleys with a lot restaurants and shops which invited for a stroll.

Later on after a quick detour to the Lotte Department Store’s animal park (cure animals and a lot of kids) we ended up at the Shinsegae Department Store. It has the questionable honour to be the largest department store in the world (they even show the certificate from the Guinness Book’s of Records). Our main goal were not the countless stores but the inhouse SPA Land.

What followed was an absolute highlight. The bathhouse consists of a (as usual gender segregated) bath area with various hot and cold baths as well as various saunas. In addition, there was a huge mixed gender rest area (where you were wearing a kind of pyjama they provide for you) with super comfortable desk chairs and eight different sauna rooms. The whole facility was very nicely designed and made one fell like in a high class hotel spa. The price tag: 8 SGD for 4 hours. We call it paradise on earth and loved it!

Actually we loved it so much that we revisited SPA Land the next afternoon for another 4 hours of pampering (and again it was just great). However in the morning we added some culture and visited the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. This small temple is situated right at the edge of the sea which makes it somewhat special and visual appealing.

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