Monday, August 22, 2011

Coming To A (Korean) Tree Near You

Korean Adventure (November 15, 2002 Chautauqua)

A recent article in the Korea Herald (which used the above title) by Andrew Petty listed the major areas in the country where people could go to see the "most spectacular collections of autumn foliage."

There is Mt. Naejang in South Jeolla Province, Mt. Jiri and Mt. Gaya in South Gyeongsang Province, and Mt. Seorak in Gangwon Province. All feature rugged mountain scenery, splendid views of the trees, and a variety of Buddhist temples to compliment the serenity of a day in the wild.

Well, these areas are a bit removed from Daegu, so I had to settle for either Beisulsan (to the south) or Palgongsan (to the north).

I had been to Beisulsan last October, with a large group of friends. We caught a "coach bus" for a two-and-a-half hour trip that still wasn't over when we debarked. It seems the driver had let us off at the bottom of the hill, and it would be another three hour walk before we arrived at our condo.

There is nothing so resourceful as a group of foreigners to find alternate transportation. A truck driver at a nearby construction site was more than happy to carry us up the hill.

There was a short ten minute walk to our condo, which passed by a hillside temple surrounded by trees clothed in brilliant orange and red. The view down the valley was very nice. Trips like this exhaust your vocabulary. There is only so many ways to say it was all spectacular.

That night was spent consuming many beers, so that we would be in the proper frame of mind the next day. A long night of singing and drinking games is a fine way to appreciate the hike up to the top of the mountain.

There was a wide flat space just below the summit where a great congregation of trippers were enjoying picnic lunches and the view all the way around.

There was a pagoda on the lip of a precipice, and there were a couple of para-gliders to complete the picture.

Flint is enjoying this picture, I bet.

This year, I was all on my own. Saturday, November 2, was a brilliant day. The sun was shining, but the wind had picked up, and made the cold just a little more bitter.

I took a "coach bus" all the way from my place to Palgongsan. There is a small tourist village at the base, with a variety of restaurants, hotels, and souvenir stands.

Not being as physical as last year, I took the cable car to the top of the mountain. The trees were more colourful the closer I got to the summit. There is a much smaller space to move around, and there is a trail that leads back down.

I took this trail, but it is not for everyone. It is very rugged, with a lot of jagged rocks and tricky spots to negotiate. There are even ropes strung up to assist the more vertically challenged. Going up would definitely be a major challenge. Going down is no problem, as there is a variety of long stretches where you can do little else.

About an hour down from the summit is the temple of Dongwasa, which has the largest stone Buddha in the world. And it is enormous. It was erected in the hopes of the eventual reconciliation of North and South Korea (something a little more distant now that the North is going nuclear).

The temple itself is the center of a loose collection of temples, and there were many people using the various facilities to pay their respects. There is a large area at the base of the Buddha where you can light a candle. The floor of highly polished marble is a no-shoes area, and many supplicants brought their own rugs to pray in comfort.

Korea's "fall" is a very brief time between the steamy heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter. I was very happy to have taken advantage, and gotten a little taste of a world some only see in a postcard.

I have some photos of us strung out along the road, hitchiking, with our pant legs up to show our legs. Doesn't work too well on the guys. Another photo shows us all piled into the back of a Bongo, sitting on top of our bags. The guy was a good driver, and not one of us fell out on the way up.
I went to Dongwasa a few times. There's another temple/Buddha in the area at Gatbawi, which I never did manage to get to.


  1. I always loved going to Songnisan. Especially the makkeoli place just after the lake. :)

  2. Damnm, you're almost making miss Daegu.

  3. Beautiful shots!

  4. @ Flint: Mmmmmmmmmmmmakkeoli.
    @ David: I try to remember the good things about my time in Daegu, few as they are.
    @ Anonymous: Thanx.