Sunday rolled around on a recent trip to Busan and with several hours to kill before our KTX ride back to Suwon, Jo and I wanted to make the most out of our day. Therefore, I culled the Internet looking for things to do that would take us outdoors and fill us with a sense of wonder. Previously, an overwhelming number of people recommended the cliffs of TaeJongDae (태종대), and after reading about it, I thought it a good way to round out our trip.
Getting there required a bit of a trick. You see TaeJongDae Resort Park (an odd name) rests at the tip of Yeongdo, an island extending out from the tip of Busan. Since we were coming from Haeundae, we needed a transfer to catch the right bus. Thankfully, this could be achieved at a number of points along the way and Jo and I opted for the one at Busan Station. From there, we took Bus 88 to the end of the line. It’s not the only option, but one that makes it easy. Since TaeJongDae is the terminal point of route, if you’re unsure about where to get off, there’s no doubt on this trip since you HAVE to get off there.
At this point, it’s a short walk up the hill to the information station where guides can give you a break down on the history of the site and instruct you on how best to get around. The area is National Scenic Site No. 17 and it’s easy to see why. The evergreen trees and sheer cliffs are breathtaking. The rocky beaches allow waves to crash up close and provide some great sounds to sooth busy travelers. The location gets its name from King TaeJong of the Silla Dynasty who frequented the area to practice his archery. It was a practice continued through the Joseon Dynasty.
The entire park area is quite expansive with a lot to see. It’s easy to spend a whole day walking around and seeing the sights. That wasn’t something we had time for, and the first decision point we needed to make. The loop trail around the developed area is 4.3km and goes up and down the hills of the island. If one is out of shape, this can be a bit rough, but the park has a tram available. Individuals are able to ride to each predetermined stop and get off and resume their trip. The tram runs at 10-15 minute intervals, so it’s quite easy to get around quickly. It’s something I would recommend if traveling with small ones. Since Jo and I felt like stretching our legs, we opted to walk and found the hike a lot easier than the information booth made it out to be.
The first thing we came across was a large marble disk symbolizing the natural beauty of the area. Other than that, it really wasn’t worth stopping for. What was worth stopping for was the observation deck located a few more minutes down the path where you get your first glimpse of why TaeJongDae is so loved.
From this vantage point, visitors can sit on park benches and watch the crashing surf meet the rocky shore. Dining tents line the beach, making it a perfect place to settle in on a summer day and picnic. With spring not in full effect, there was still a little bite to the air, but several were along the shore taking in the soothing sounds first hand.
Gumyeongsa Temple was the next stop on our journey and our favorite stop. Jo and I love temples. There’s just something so peaceful about them. What made this temple special was that even though it was situated along the road and a featured stop for the tram, no one was here. We were the only ones take advantage of the site.
The main hall had several lanterns hung from the rafters, but for me what I enjoyed most was located outside the temple itself. By the spring were two Buddha statues that stood facing the road and peering into the ocean. Since no monks were around, I had no opportunity to learn about the exact nature of the temple or how old it was. Even without that information, it was great to get off the main path and surround myself with nature.
The next major stop on one’s journey is the Observation Station. This is where we discovered that the information booth was really over exaggerating the strenuous nature of the loop trail. Neither Jo nor I were tired upon our arrival. What we did do here was enjoy a little ice cream while taking in the cliffs.
The observation deck is the main sight seeing point for many who come to the park. From here one can see Japan on a clear day. For me, that was never a draw. I love hearing the crashing waves and this venue provided them in abundance. I also took a few minutes to breathe in the salty air. It was heaven!
Jo and I opted to bypass the Lighthouse, as it was starting to get late and we didn’t want to be caught on the island after dark. Not that any monsters would come out and get us, but we wanted to make sure there would be enough light for photos and dinner back in Busan. What we didn’t pass up were two memorials. One was dedicated to sailors that had died and the other to those lost during the Korean War. I found both moving and the inscriptions on the monuments provided some good details. The last stop of the trip was Taejongsa – Taejong’s temple.
The prayer area was currently configured for a funeral, so I didn’t venture inside, but found the bell structure quite interesting. The doors lead to another area that was cordoned off at the time of our visit. Of the two temples we visited, this one seemed more inhabited, since near the graves and steeles, we could see several cottages for monks.
In all, this was a fantastic outing and well worth our trip. The entire video was shot with the GoPro Camera and the first time I ever ventured out without the Canon as a backup. I will admit to wanting the Canon on this trip, as it would have been nice to get some zoom shots of the crashing waves. However, I am not disappointed with the outcome.