On our last day in Korea, Amanda and I headed out of Busan to Geumgang Park, up yet another cable car. If you want the audiovisual version of the story, just watch. Otherwise, scroll down and read on:
We knew finding Seokbulsa temple would be difficult because the guidebook said so, and it was correct. We hiked in the wrong direction for 40 minutes and had to turn around and hike nearly all the way back to the cablecar. In our defense, all the signs were in Korean, and most of them didn’t even list the temple as a destination.
Once we had the correct trajectory, we found ourselves feeling defeated and hungry so we checked out what looked like a food stall on the mountain. Odd thing to put a restaurant in the woods. It turns out the park is full of volleyball courts, where groups come to play after getting sloshed at the adjacent restaurant. A friendly Korean retiree, presumably excited to see some Westerners on the mountain, started chatting us up. Before we knew it we were clinking glasses of beer, soju, and makkoli, and feasting on duck, Korean style. Did I mention the Simon & Garfunkel singalong?
I’m sure there’s a name for Korean-soccer-volleyball, but that’s what I’m going with. After a few points of the game back and forth (and getting hit in the face with the ball), our new friend insisted he’d show us the way to Seokbulsa temple, since it wasn’t easy to find and he wanted to keep the good times rolling. We eventually made it there, after our host played (and hummed along to) a handful of classical numbers from his phone for us, and took a few breaks (where he seemed to fall asleep there once). He told us the only reason he drank so much soju was because he was so happy to have made friends with us. Can’t blame him there.
We politely declined our host’s offer to come over for dinner, needing to sober up, pack, and catch a flight the next morning. So we parted ways and headed down the mountain back to town.
We’ll forever cherish our memories of singing, soccer-volleyballing, and hiking with our newfound Korean friends.