The Cliffs of Taejongdae

An elderly man smiled at me as I sat on a rock, alone, taking in the sunset. I could see the silhouettes of my friends in the distance. Although the laughter coming from a nearby group was joyous, I softly played Death Cab For Cutie’s “Transatlanticism” to make the moment my own. I felt both at ease and beautiful under the glow of the sun.

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Earlier that day, my friends – Monica, Brent, and Emily – and I consumed sannakji (live octopus) at the Jagalchi Market. As it was our dear friend Emily’s last full day in South Korea, we thought we would pull out all the stops. We roamed around Nampo-dong, home of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), for a bit before deciding to head to Taejongdae.

Named after the 29th monarch of the Silla Kingdom, King Taejong Muyeol, Taejongdae is located on the southernmost tip of Yeong Island. Although you can hike in the park to get the cliffs, we decided to take a ferry instead. I have professed my love for boats before, so needless to say I was thrilled. Although the ferry only cost us ₩10,000 ($8.54) a piece, Monica and Brent ended up paying for me (oh, the life of a perpetually broke person).

After being dropped off at the “port” by a driver, we passed restaurant owners desperate to have us try their food. We said no to at least ten people on our short walk. I know the seafood would have been delicious and fresh, as they were diving for the food right outside of the restaurants. Monica, Brent, Emily, and I watched people buy bags upon bags of shrimp chips, one of my true loves, so they could feed the seagulls later. I vividly remember being told that I “should be thrown off the boat” after I tossed food to a seagull while leaving Cumberland Island. That lady would have abhorred being on this ferry.

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As we took off, the strangest/most delightful music came on. Although I dislike making scenes in crowds, if a good tune comes on, my body cannot control itself. My friends and I danced like no one was watching, although everybody was. We had initially thought that the ferry would take us to the very tip of the island, but we learned fairly quickly that it was not stopping at all.

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A few kilometers away was Oryukdo Island (오륙도), which translates to “five or six islands.” Depending on the tide and time of day, it may appear to be (wait for it) either five or six islands. Remarkable.

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Oryukdo.

After turning back and getting off the boat, we walked up the hillside to find a place to watch the sun go down. Although the masses kept walking onward, my friends and I veered off and ended up at a relatively secluded spot. My friends ended up climbing up some rocks to get higher, but after assessing the ascent, I thought it would just be best for me to enjoy sundown from a safer ledge. I am not afraid of heights, but I do suffer from a fear of falling (My Chemical Romance – “It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Deathwish” anyone? Anyone at all? Okay, no?).

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The sunset over Busan was absolutely breathtaking. It is a beautiful memory that will stay with me forever. I had to remind myself to put my cameras down (I carry three with me) and take as much of it in as possible. I think back to some of my travels in Europe and wonder how much of it I spent looking through a lens. I realize that capturing moments through photography helps the moment last, but it has less effect on me as a person. As one of my students from Hungary used to yell, “What a conundrum!”

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In other news, the Vietnamese Embassy in Seoul currently has my passport. Tourist visa time, baby! A month and a half until I am reunited with Emily (another Emily) in Vietnam!

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