As the busiest port and second most populous city in Korea, Busan (부산) might easily be dismissed as a soulless industrial hub, rich in concrete but poor in charm. I’ll admit to entertaining that notion in the past, but this false idea was decisively dispelled by the historic and cultural attractions I enjoyed during a brief stay there in 2017. This February, I paid Busan another visit and got better acquainted with the more natural side of things – starting with a pleasant coastal park south of the city centre.
With the schedule I’d plotted out, there was a fair chance that lunch would have to be postponed. (No trifling matter for a creature of habit such as myself.)
Can’t be helped, but here’s my attempt at pre-emptive damage control: an extra-heavy hotel breakfast.
I walked to the bus stop across the street from Busan Station and glanced up at the live arrivals board.
Tip of the moment: learn hangeul. Even with a shoddy grasp of Korean grammar and vocabulary, being able to decipher simple things like stop names can work wonders.
The current roster had no less than three buses (66, 88, and 101) bound for my first destination of the day, so I simply boarded the next available service (101 in this case).
Off we go!
After getting off at my stop, I walked south along a street lined with shops and restaurants. Most were still closed at this early hour, and the pavements were virtually empty…
…which suited me just fine (given my introverted disposition).
Ahh, the cold winter air and bright morning sunshine. Nothing better.
I arrived at a roundabout and crossed to the other side. Next to a broad stretch of tile-covered pavement, there was a stone monument with three large hanja chiselled into its surface and picked out in black paint.
This was the entrance to Taejongdae (태종대 / 太宗臺), or the Taejongdae Resort Park (태종대유원지) – a protected seaside area of hilly terrain and thickly forested slopes at the southern tip of Yeongdo. The island of Yeongdo is itself just south of Busan’s congested centre, making this chunk of nature an easily accessible refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Up we go.
It’s a gentle slope, but the weak of knee should bear in mind that there’s about 200+ metres of pavement to pound…
…until we arrive at the visitors’ centre – the starting point for the leisurely and most effortless (read: lazy) way of exploring Taejongdae.
3,000 won (as of this writing) buys you a ticket for the Danubi Train (다누비열차), which isn’t actually a train but a set of wheeled carriages dragged along by a truck that’s been dressed – in an amusement park sort of fashion – as a locomotive.
The Danubi Train runs in an anti-clockwise loop from the vistors’ centre, calling at Taejongdae’s key attractions before returning to the start point. Now if I’m not mistaken, the ticket isn’t for unlimited rides. You are only allowed one complete loop per fare, but you CAN hop off and hop on at the different stops until your last ride ends at the visitors’ centre. At that point, the train is completely emptied and the next service begins, which by then will be under a different number than the one on your ticket; this would of course alert the person manning the boarding queue should you try to sneak back on.
Right, off we go!
My first stop was the Taejongdae Observatory (태종대전망대), a cliffside building with observation decks.
There are commercial establishments if you’re in need of a bite, but the view itself is free.
And my word, the view is gorgeous.
In perfect conditions, it’s possible to see Tsushima (an island in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture) from Taejongdae – or so I’ve read. I do have a couple of photographs with the very faint trace of what might be the island over on the far horizon, though it could just as easily have been a large ship.
Now then, a quick snapshot of Angry Usagi peacefully recharging in the midst of nature. Well, in the midst of plastic vegetation but close enough.
Ahh, bliss. If he could smile, he’d be grinning from bunny ear to bunny ear. I was in a bit of a rush that day; otherwise I’d have parked myself here on the view deck with some hot coffee and taken a few moments to enjoy the warm morning sunshine.
Right next to the observatory is a statue depicting a mother with her two children.
Up until fairly recently, the tall and jagged cliffs of Taejongdae were often used by those seeking to end their lives. As the plaque on the statue’s pedestal explains:
The Statue of Mother and Children was erected in 1976. It helps remind those who are about to commit suicide, by jumping from Taejongdae’s cliffs, of their mother’s unconditional love for them, and will hopefully encourage them not to give up on life.
I recall reading somewhere that the number of suicides at Taejongdae declined in the years after this monument was unveiled.
A concrete ramp near the observatory leads down to a lower level, from which one might better appreciate the sheer cliffs and crashing waves along the edges of Taejongdae.
Instead of waiting for the next Danubi Train to pull up, I decided to hoof it to the next stop (about 180 metres away).
Near the waiting shed, I found the start of a long staircase leading down to the rocky cliffs below.
After passing an odd-looking arch, gate, er thing, which vaguely seemed as if it’d been assembled from a whale’s skeleton…
…I emerged onto a terrace sprinkled with monuments and memorial sculptures. It had something else as well: a view of the place I was heading for.
That white tower is the Yeongdo Lighthouse (영도등대), the modern successor (2004) to an older beacon (1906) set up to guide ships entering and leaving the port of Busan.
Right, let’s keep going.
Down some more stairs (there seems to be an awful lot of these hereabouts)…
…and I’m soon face to face with one of Taejongdae’s most iconic landmarks: an art installation titled Light Beyond Limitation (무한의 빛).
Truth be told, I’m not a fan of contemporary art in general – and I am putting it very politely here. (If I were to speak plainly on the matter, I’d risk writing something unprintable.) That said, I suppose I do appreciate the sculpture’s presence in this specific context…
…and what a glorious context it is.
Let’s have a few more pictures taken in the vicinity of the lighthouse. The long set of stairs I took from the road to here was a pain to negotiate downwards – and even more of a pain on the ascent later – but the fantastic views were well worth the effort.
With that, I called an end to my morning tour of Taejongdae. Back onto the Danubi Train to the visitors’ centre, from where I continued on foot to the park entrance.
Later, I hopped aboard a city bus and began journeying towards my next stop of the day…
…which we’ll save for another post.
Till then, cheerio.