This evening I’m in Busan (pronounced Pusan) a port and beach resort on Korea’s southeast coast which I’ll see more of tomorrow.
Today, I made an excursion to Gyeongju, about two hours away, which boasts two UNESCO world heritage sites. The first, 8th century Bulguksa temple, is guarded by two scary-looking statutes of giant beasts with more friendly carved pigs and monkeys peering down from the rafters inside. Nearby, a large stone Buddha sits in a similarly ancient grotto. Buddhists believe in reincarnation and the same architect built both sites – the temple to honour his present parents and the grotto his past parents.
Today was also dominated by food. I had a on my first night, trying ‘royal cuisine’ (the top notch kind) in Inchoen. It was, like all Korean food, incredibly fresh and healthy and the intricate colourful dishes just kept coming. My highlights were abalone sushi and eel in raspberry sauce. I even got a high five from my guide for trying one particular delicacy – pork, very smelly preserved fish and kimchi (spiced pickled vegetable) wrapped in seaweed. For those who like plainer fare the chicken soup and beef dishes would certainly appeal.
Still nursing a ‘food baby’ from an Italian meal last night I was back on the royal cuisine this lunchtime at a restaurant in a traditional wooden house. Sitting cross legged on the floor my guide and I again ploughed through multiple vegetable, meat and fish dishes (think Asian-style tapas), that looked like mini works of art, washed down with a rice liquor drunk from dolls house sized egg cups.
Tonight I ate in Busan at a place that specialises in raw fish or ‘h-away’ as they call it here (my phonetics). One delicacy was a little too fresh for my liking as it was still wriggling when it reached the table. I’d have needed more than a congratulatory high five for trying that one. Luckily, with around 20 other small dishes on the table by this time I felt this was one I could skip.