Korea has never featured predominately on my personal radar, and the recent three days I spent in Busan hardly qualifies me now as a Korean expert. When I would think of Korea the things that would come to mind; minefields, Hyundai cars, M*A*S*H, the crazy dictator next door, and Kimchi, Kimchi and more Kimchi. With respect, not a lot has changed, except now I would add COLOUR and Hibiscus to the list! I lived in complete ignorance for 40 years that Korea is home to an incredible diverse and colourful collection of Hibiscus. The flower that I would immediately associate with Hawaii, Jamaica, the South Pacific, Polynesia or similar is apparently the national flower of Korea! Who would have known! The Korean Hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus, is indeed a beautiful Hibiscus specimen.
The colour of the Buddhist temples of the Busan area certainly are a distinguishing feature amongst other Buddhist temples in the Asian region. Certainly Hindu temples in various global locations are garishly, yet at the same time, stunningly colourful, and the Buddhist temples in Korea seemed to have inherited the same colourful traits as their Hindu predecessors.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Busan
Despite the colour, the tension of living within seconds of nuclear destruction with your nearest neighbour to the North is inescapable in everyday life. Whilst I was in Korea, land mines from the north had apparently “accidentally” washed down into South Korea from the north killing two innocent farmers. The residual tension from the recent sinking of a South Korean warship with considerable loss of life hung heavily in the air. A visit to the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea was a sober reminder that the Korean War has never really ended and remains in a state of limbo.
Soldiers of the Korean 53rd Division guard the cemetery with daily morning and evening ceremonial flag raising/lowering ceremonies. Every second Saturday the ceremony includes the flags of all nations that contributed to the UN force during the Korean War and is accompanied by a volley of rifle shots
Certainly fitting into the “colourful” category is Haeundae Beach outside of Busan. In summer Koreans flock to this beach in the thousands. The beach is jam packed with neat rows of colourful umbrellas that one must rent, leaving absolutely no “free” space on the beach at all. Giant piles of bright coloured inflatable beach “toys” are everywhere ready for the crowds to hire. The water off the coast is quite dirty and the beach itself nothing special yet they continue to flock here in their droves.
Crowded Haeundae Beach, Busan
Certainly for many of us the thought of spending time in such a crowded, “regimented” beach is an abomination but it really has to be seen to be believed!
Korea, or at least my limited exposure in Busan, has a colourful street food scene, something I love. And where ever there is food in Korea there is Kimchi!
In many ways bright red Kimchi is a perfect example of Kolourful Korea!
View Haeundae Beach, Busan, Korea in a larger map
Google Map View of Haeundae Beach
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