Autumn in Busan 2019: A brief exploration of Taejongdae Resort Park

Taejongdae COVERR - Autumn in Busan 2019: A brief exploration of Taejongdae Resort Park

Perhaps the most challenging part of our 2-day trip to Busan was choosing what to include in our itinerary. There are certainly many places to visit there, but because time was short we aimed for the locations that would best allow us to bask in the identity of Busan as a port city. To me, that meant picking places that would showcase its mountains and waters to full effect– places like the Taejongdae Resort Park. In my opinion, this is one of the best spots to catch a glimpse of the true beauty of Busan. 

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As a top Busan tourist spot, you can expect Taejongdae Resort Park to be quite busy. This is especially true during the weekends, but if you visit on a weekday like we did, the crowd will be significantly more manageable. Aside from co-tourists, you will see a lot of locals doing a bit of exercising here, alongside students of different age groups on field-trips. If you decide to walk through this park like most of them do, it will be quite a long trek with occasional steep slopes.

Because this park is vast, you will do quite a bit of walking one way or another. To save energy, you can buy a ticket to ride the Danubi Train, which is essentially a hop-on-hot-off mini train that stops at all the major points inside the nature park.

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A brief history of this park: Officially established in 1967, the park was named after King Taejong Muyeol of the Kingdom of Silla. (If you’ve seen the K-drama ‘Hwarang’, you probably have some idea about this kingdom/era.) It is said he had a special place in his heart for this location. Apparently, this was his favorite place to practice archery because he was also able to take in the breathtaking landscape in between.

And the truth is, the landscape is pretty amazing here. Though I imagine Taejongdae has changed a lot compared to those ancient times, I feel like it has not lost its luster. The combination of Taejongdae’s lush woods, brown rocks, and twinkling blue waters is a sight to behold. But you know what else literally takes your breath away here in Taejongdae? Making your way up and down the steep slopes and stairs around the park lol. Luckily, everywhere is picture perfect.

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Your trekking adventure starts all the way from the bus stop, where you’ll have to walk quite a bit just to reach the main entrance of the park. There you will notice a small shop that sells tickets for the Danubi Train. After acquiring tickets, you will have to join the people lining up behind a railing, waiting for said train. While the entrance to the park is free, you will need to shell out 3,000 won (adult price) for a round trip ticket on the Danubi Train. I would strongly advise buying a ticket because this park is legitimately big, and at the very least you’ll want to ride the train on your way back to the entrance when you’re tired of exploring.

Take note that the train has a specific schedule and runs a specific route, but you are not required to get on and off at every stop. There are some stops located close to each other that can be easily reached by foot, so it’s really your choice. Depending on the day and time, you might have to wait long or not wait at all to get on a train. As I mentioned above, there will be plenty of walking even if you ride the train to every stop since it can only travel on the main road. Most of the nicer attractions are located deeper inside in the park and can only be reached by walking. I guess the most important tip I can give you after all is to wear comfortable shoes.

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Anyway, even though we’re all fairly competent walkers in our group, we decided to ride the Danubi Train up to the first destination: the Taejongdae Observatory. It took maybe 10 minutes through winding roads to get there on the train, so imagine how long it’ll take by foot lol. Ironically, the main observatory was closed for the day, but even if you don’t go up there, you can appreciate the Korean Strait from the outdoor viewing deck just fine.

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The observatory is located on a cliff, and placed prominently on the plaza is a statue of a mother holding two children. It is meant to remind everyone of the importance of valuing one’s life, for it was a gift that came from one’s mother’s love. Called Mosajang, the statue was placed here in hopes of deterring the spate of suicides that happened in the area in the 1970’s. According to what I read, this helped reduce suicide rates a lot.

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Moving on, we decided to walk to the next stop, which is the Yeongdo Lighthouse. It’s not a particularly long walk, and because the weather was pleasant, it wasn’t hot either. The walk takes you through a wooded pathway lined with trees on either side, and I’m always a sucker for those kinds of things. You’ll have to walk a number of stairs as well before you can arrive at your destination.

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There are many things you can find here at the Taejongdae Resort Park that are on such a large scale they don’t fit in photos, and one of them is ‘The Seaman’s Hall of Fame’. I thought I’d just talk about it a little since it’s one of the first thing that will greet you when you arrive at this point. It’s basically a monument honoring historic seafarers with a centerpiece called ‘Spirit of the Ocean’.

Moving on, you will be able to spot the Yeongdo Lighthouse in the distance, but before you can even think about reaching it, you’ll have to climb down more stairs that opens up to a railed deck.

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The view is stunning of course, but your attention will inevitably go to the different sculptures scattered in this area. The one with the humans at sea with the dolphins is called ‘The Ocean Charter’. It has a slab underneath that basically details Korea’s vows as a maritime nation to protect the ocean. It also describes their deep understanding of the importance of the ocean, since it has been their source of life, peace, and prosperity, as well as their gateway to the world.

What they’re saying essentially is that the ocean is a big part of the spirit and success of their nation. I personally think it’s only right to have a higher level of appreciation for the ocean and nature in general. If only my country’s government and people thought the same.

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As you move along towards the lighthouse, you will come across this iconic half round thing with a pointed teardrop jutting out. It’s called ‘Light Beyond Limitation’, and the meaning of this sculpture is pretty deep. Most of this is based on my understanding so bear with me please: First, you have the overlapping blue and red circles that allude to continuous movement. The blue refers to the sky and sea, while the red refers to the sun, nature, the universe, five oceans, and six continents.

The silver teardrop symbolizes the light from the lighthouse that splits the sea and sky as it ascends upward, representing Korea as an ascending maritime nation. I think that part is pretty cool.

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Taken as a whole, I think what this represents is how the coexistence between the universe/nature and humankind is the key to progress. If you know how to live in harmony with nature, then it is possible to thrive together. I wonder how long it took to come up with such a symbolic piece of work. I honestly don’t know if my interpretation is accurate or true to the intention of the sculpture, however it is true I would like nothing else but for humankind to learn how to live in harmony with nature. And really, if you look at all the powerful countries around the world, I’m pretty sure this is one of their secrets to success.

Now if you thought only the sculptures are worth your time, you are sorely mistaken. There are a great many stories surrounding the rock formations here in Taejongdae. I wasn’t able to spot all of them, but their stories are enough to give a partly chilling and partly fascinating feel to the place. The chilling aspect is based on the true story of the infamous ‘Suicide Rock‘. It is said that because so many people had committed suicide on those rocks, the temple that was eventually built on Taejongdae was for consoling the spirits of the dead.

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There is also the rock formation in a rough shape of a woman, called the ‘Mangbuseok‘. This one is more of a legend, but it’s that of a faithful wife who turned into a rock after waiting for her husband who never returned from sea. There is also that myth about what is called the ‘Sinseon Rock Formations‘, where the waves appear to always gently lap on the rocks. As the story goes, this is the favorite resting place of Korean mythological gods and goddesses whenever they feel too tired from their duties. Knowing all these things makes me wonder what it’s like to be here at night lol.

After viewing the rock formations, you can choose to go up the Lighthouse itself, or visit the museum in the area. A lot of people are saying going up the lighthouse is unnecessary as it can be a bit of a tourist trap. I did, however, read belatedly that they actually preserved a large piece of rock with a dinosaur footprint in the museum. Would’ve wanted to see that!

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We stayed for a moment on the steps below the lighthouse, where a statue of a mermaid is located. It’s not a waterside location without a mermaid statue, am I right? There are a handful of mermaid statues here in Busan actually.

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It’s impossible not to feel hungry after a trek through Taejongdae Resort Park. Inside the park there is an area by the sea where a cluster of restaurants serve fresh seafood. We didn’t go down there though. Instead, we exited the park and made our way downhill to the 원조 조개 구이 촌, read as ‘Wonjo Jogae Gu-i Chon‘. Roughly translated, it’s the ‘Original Grilled Clams Village’, located right beside Gam Beach or ‘Gamjihaebyeon‘ if you’re asking for directions.

You can actually pin 감지해변 on Google Maps and follow the map there from Taejeongdae. It’s a bit of a walk, but well worth it. Watch out for this signage:

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It’s been a while since I helped plan this trip so I can’t recall how we found this or who among us did but it’s quite a place. Your biggest problem will be picking which restaurant to patronize because you’ll be faced with SO MANY choices. We ended up deciding where to eat based on how many patrons were inside and how friendly the storeowner ahjumma was lol, so we found ourselves at Ulsandaek Mannam 울산댁만남. The stalls are normally numbered but I think they rotate locations every so often so everyone has a chance to position themselves up front.

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Anyway, the stalls here have one commonality, and that’s semi-al fresco dining. You get to eat in tents by the sea, plus I do think the seafood will be fresh and cheap regardless of where you choose to dine. To me, this is like the ultimate Busan eating experience! You simply should not miss getting your seafood fill in Busan.

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I’m trying to think about the last time I’ve seen seafood going for prices like this. We’re talking about seafood in platters here, and to be able to get them in this price range is rare. To put things in perspective, seafood platters range from 40,000 to 70,000 won, which is Php 1,700 to Php 3,000. And depending on your group’s appetite and how many people are in your group, you can simply divide the cost and conquer the food.

We went for an Assorted Seafood or haeumul modeum 해물 모듬 middle platter, which is 50,000 won. Tell me if this is not a seafood lover’s dream?! I didn’t even get to include the photo of our clam soup appetizer. Yummeh.

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And indeed, you get to grill the seafood yourself, which is part of the package of eating at places like this for me. I love that the ahjumma would come and check on us from time to time to make sure we did not muck up perfectly good seafood. The seafood is fresh and delicious enough on their own, but adding in some broth and cheese and minced vegetables really elevates the flavors! Everything adapts a slightly smoky profile too. It’s so good. I don’t know what else to say!

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Noticed that little spicy tteok seafood casserole included in the platter? After we polished off most of the contents, ahjumma suggested that we order some rice to cook in the leftover sauce. The bokkeumbap (aka fried rice) we got was the 2000 won one and she basically just dumped the generous serving into the aluminum container and told us to mix the rice around until coated in the sauce. The leftover mozzarella in the sauce gave the rice a bit of cheese pull in every scoop! The memory is making my mouth water.

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If you’re wondering how I remember all this stuff in detail years later, it’s because this was one of the best meals I’ve had in South Korea. Come to think of it, my best meals so far have involved seafood, because I also fondly remember that time I had soy-marinated crabs. Damn, that was good. We didn’t get to eat any this time around, but next time I’ll make sure to add that into the schedule.

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After a filling lunch, we hung out for a bit at Gamjihaebyeon 감지해변 nearby. It’s a rather peaceful beach, which is perfect for that post-lunch full tummy drowsy state of mind. It’s nice to take a little rest in between exploring. We had a lot more walking ahead of us!

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To learn more about Taejongdae Resort Park, visit their website. If you want to see what else we were up to in Busan, check out the video below:

Other posts in the BUSAN AUTUMN 2019 SERIES:

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