We had been in South Korea for over a week but we woke up in Busan, feeling more refreshed and relaxed than usual. Was it because we had spent a night at a 4-star hotel? Not really. Did we even spend the night at a fancy place? Not even close.
We woke up in a love hotel, but it was by far one of the most comfy hotels we had ever been to. Huge bathroom with a jacuzzi bath, cute dressing gowns at our disposal, free popcorn at the entrance booth, we were literally living the dream. Well, we had been handed condoms upon check-in, so that part was pretty uncomfortable but easily forgettable.
When we got out in the street, it wasn’t as impressive as it had been the night before and the bright neon lights were off. Our hotel was stuck between a noraebang, the Korean version of karaoke, and a convenient store, painting a cliché image of the typical Korean back alley. In the early hours of a chilly March morning though, the place seemed calm and quiet, still numb from the winter cold. We could have stayed longer in bed but our stay in Busan only lasted for a couple days and there was one place we needed to see, no matter how discouraging the weather.
A long subway ride led us to the northern part of the city. Yet, it wasn’t the end of our journey as the Beomeosa Temple only revealed itself to the most deserving. Leaving the comfort of our seats on the subway wasn’t easy, and neither was climbing Mount Geumjeongsan. We gathered later that we could have ridden a bus to the very entrance of the temple. For now, we were walking in oblivion, trying to figure out how much we could sweat on such a cold day.
Finally, we saw a gate and knew the end of our painful hike was near. Other tourists had already taken control of the temple, although we seemed to be the only outsiders among a number of elders elders, all geared up with walking sticks and hiking shoes, but whose hairstyle were still as neat as ever.
Local families on a day trip with the kids and young couples holding hands were also taking a stroll within the temple, which seemed like a perfect place to escape from Busan’s frenzy. It was starting to grow on us too.
The early morning fog and dim light gave Beomeosa an even more compelling charm, gently highlighting the delicate shades of green, red and blue on the buildings. Said colours were not as bright as the ones adorning temples and palaces in Seoul but there was something genuine about them. Indeed, the temple had been destroyed and then rebuilt in the course of the 18th century, but most buildings had been left untouched since then and we could tell.
The brown shapes of mountains in the back gave the impression that the city was a thousand miles away, while the only sound breaking the silence was that of the wind caressing a bell. A vivid drum could have interrupted the stillness of the moment too, had someone dared touch the dragon-shaped drumstick hanging next to it. Instead, the sense of serenity lingered.
The shy pink of cherry flowers took our attention away from the main temple and its fierce gods painted on the gates. Most flower buds were still closed, waiting for the end of the month to come in full bloom. We felt even more grateful for this unexpected sight and took some time to savour the moment, knowing fairly well that full cherry blossom season would attract many more tourists from all parts of the country and beyond.
At this point, we were chilled to the bones and skies were grey, but Beomeosa couldn’t have looked any better in our book.
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