Category: Mt. Maisan Provincial Park


Thursday, October 4:  Ailsa’s Travel Theme (Where’s my backpack?) for this week is Foliage.  She writes: It’s getting all autumnal up here in the northern hemisphere, while down in the southern hemisphere everyone’s looking forward to spring. Whichever hemisphere you inhabit, now is a fantastic time to get out and have a look at what the trees are doing. Whether they’re about to burst into life with fresh green growth, or starting to adorn themselves in their autumn glory; even if they’re still wearing their evergreen needles, it’s a wonderful time to go leaf peeping.

Since there is no autumn in Oman, I thought I would celebrate my favorite season by posting some beautiful fall pictures from Korea.  I haven’t had a U.S. fall since 2009.  😦  Here are some pictures of foliage from Korea, taken in the fall of 2010:

In Jeongju, South Korea

I’m reliving fall colors through my memories of Korea.

a Buddha surrounded by foliage

bright foliage and a Buddhist temple

bright red foliage and lanterns

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Saturday: December 4:  The first weekend he’s here, I expose Alex to public transportation in Korea.  We take a bus to Jinan, which takes about 3 hours.  I don’t think he’s fully gotten over the trip to get here and he gets a little irritable about having to be on the bus for so long.  We end up in the Jinan bus station waiting for a bus to Maisan Provincial Park, but we can’t get any information about when this bus arrives.  People tell us such a variety of things, our heads are spinning.  The Jinan bus terminal is one of Korea’s more grungy terminals.  Old people inundate this corner of the world.

the crazy jinan bus terminal ~ one of Korea's finest .... LOL

the crazy jinan bus terminal ~ one of Korea’s finest …. LOL

When we arrive, a girl in a school uniform immediately accosts us and starts speaking a little English with us.  Once we fall under her “care,” we can’t shake her and as our wait stretches from minutes into hours, she attaches herself to us with a vengeance.  She keeps repeating some kind of English-Korean mixture of words, none of which we can understand, and then she starts jumping at us and poking us in our heads to startle us.  It becomes quickly apparent that she’s a little uh— crazed.

crazy girl & alex at the jinan bus terminal

crazy girl & alex at the jinan bus terminal

Finally a bus driver speaks some English and informs us that the bus we are waiting for to take us to Maisan doesn’t arrive until 7:00 at night!!  We would have been waiting a long time….Someone tells us we should take a taxi; I have no idea how far it is, but at this point we have no choice.  We take a taxi.  It turns out to be a 2o-minute ride and costs only about 7,000 won.  No big deal.  When we arrive at Mt. Maisan, I see there are no taxis just sitting around waiting to take people back to Jinan, so I ask the driver for his card so I can call him when it’s time for us to leave.  He is a jovial fellow and agrees that all we need to say is “Maisan” and he will come for us.  Later, I am glad to have thought of his ahead of time, or Alex and I would have spent the night in the wilderness!

At Maisan, we stop for bibimbap at one of the many restaurants lining the path to Tap-sa, the temple we have come to see.  Alex has his first taste of true Korean food!  He likes the bibimbap; admittedly this is some of the best bibimbap I’ve even had in Korea.

alex eats his first bibimbap

alex eats his first bibimbap

bibimbap

bibimbap

a typical Korean meal, including bibimbap

a typical Korean meal, including bibimbap

After, we walk the long path to Tap-sa and have a fun time exploring this unique and quirky temple.  In 1885, lone Buddhist hermit, 25-year-old Yi Gap Yong, came to Maisan to meditate and “cultivate” himself.  Over the next 30 years, he single-handedly constructed over 120 conical-shaped natural stone pagodas, without using mortar.   Today, 80 of his pagodas still remain standing.  This is a very unusual temple in Korea, an almost lunar-like landscape, thus it draws many tourists.  I came to Maisan before for an EPIK field trip, but didn’t see this temple because of a miscommunication about the time we had to see the sights.  Determined to see this bizarre place, I drag poor Alex along for his first Korean “temple” experience.

alex and his friend

alex and his friend

alex one with Buddha

alex one with Buddha

little buddhas

little buddha-like beings

tap-sa

tap-sa

tap-sa temple

tap-sa temple

tap-sa temple

tap-sa temple

inside tap-sa temple

inside tap-sa temple

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inside tap-sa temple

inside tap-sa temple

alex under the eaves of the temple

alex under the eaves of the temple

We meander back and probe around in the Golden Hall Temple, which I saw last time I was here.  With darkness falling quickly, we call the taxi driver and head back to Jinan.

on the way to the Golden Hall Temple

on the way to the Golden Hall Temple

Alex and Buddha pal around outside the Golden Hall Temple

Alex and Buddha pal around outside the Golden Hall Temple

I have thought of many options because I want to see a particular temple in Jiri-san park, but after talking at great length to Tourist Information, I find any which way we travel to this temple, we will spend 7 hours on multiple buses on Sunday.  As Alex is of no mind to spend so much time on a bus, we decide to go to Jeonju to spend the night.  Though I’ve been to Jeonju twice already, Alex is interested in seeing Hanok Village (which I’ve also been to twice), so we plan to do that on Sunday.

Sunday, December 5:  Sunday morning we head to Hanok Village.

Hanok Village

Hanok Village

At Hanok Village, we walk all around the quaint little town and do a bit of Christmas shopping.  We buy gifts for Alex’s grandmother and aunt, his sister, his brother, and himself.

alex at hanok village in jeonju

alex at hanok village in jeonju

a pavilion where Korean music is performed during nice weather, overlooking Hanok Village

a pavilion where Korean music is performed during nice weather, overlooking Hanok Village

We see the Catholic Church, a historic building of some sort, and wander about enjoying the village.

Catholic church in Hanok Village

Catholic church in Hanok Village

We stop to warm up and eat waffles with ice cream at a cute little shop, where we find some interesting signs on the toilets.

Alex in the waffle cafe

Alex in the waffle cafe

waffles with ice cream :-)

waffles with ice cream 🙂

around Hanok Village

around Hanok Village

Alex loves mimicking statues :-)

Alex loves mimicking statues 🙂

We stop at Gyeonggijeon, built to preserve the portrait of King Taejo Yi Seong-gye, founder of the Joseon dynasty.  Gyeonggijeon used to be a gigantic building with numerous other buildings attached, but it lost half its land during the Japanese occupation.  On the grounds of Gyeonggijeon today, there is an art show with some very strange art.

Alex at Gyeonggijeon

Alex at Gyeonggijeon

a bizarre art show at Gyeonggijeon

a bizarre art show at Gyeonggijeon

Art show

Art show

From inside Gyeonggijeon looking out

From inside Gyeonggijeon looking out

pavilion at Gyeonggijeon

pavilion at Gyeonggijeon

Alex at Gyeonggijeon

Alex at Gyeonggijeon

Finally, we continue our walk around Hanok Village, enjoying the colorful foliage.

at a little cafe

at a little cafe

Later in the afternoon, we catch the bus back to Daegu and take a walk around Keimyung University, where we can see a great view of west Daegu and my neighborhood near the university.

Alex near my neighborhood in Daegu

Alex near my neighborhood in Daegu

alex on the campus of keimyung university

alex on the campus of keimyung university

me & the angels of Keimyung University

me & the angels of Keimyung University

looking at the west end of Daegu, and my neighborhood, from Keimyung University

looking at the west end of Daegu, and my neighborhood, from Keimyung University

We have dinner at Olive del Cucina, watch The Hangover at the DVD bang.  I prepare for a week of work.

Alex at Olive de Cucina

Alex at Olive del Cucina

pasta with shrimp cream sauce

pasta with shrimp cream sauce

Saturday, November 6: In the morning, we head out toward the coast to see the Saemangeum Tidal Embankment, a seawall dubbed “The Great Wall on the Sea.”  This is the world’s largest sea dike measuring 33.9 km in length, beating the former largest dike in the Netherlands, the Suiderzee Afsluit.  It was completed in April, 2010 after 18 years and 5 months.

Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

The purpose of the dike was to secure enough arable land to ensure food security for the future.  The reclaimed area is about 2/3 the size of Seoul, about a square meter of new land for every Korean.  The original intent was to allocate 70% of the land for farming and the remaining 30% for industrial use.  Now, with an oversupply of rice, the plan has been changed to give 70% to industrial use, tourism or logistics, and the remaining 30% for agriculture.  A large part will go to tourism, such as casinos and other facilities, which is hoped to bring 8 million tourists by 2012.

the biggest dike in the world

the biggest dike in the world

We walk down to stand over the water as it roars out of the dam.  When one level is higher, they open the gates for 45 minutes and let the water flow out.  It is a quite impressive and powerful flow of water we see bursting from the floodgates.  I walk up to a hill where there is a park and observation area.

a tunnel under Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

a tunnel under Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

Memorial at Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

Memorial at Saemangeum Tidal Embankment

From the embankment, we head south to Buan-gun, a peninsula that juts out into the Yellow Sea.  Within the Byeonsan Peninsula National Park, we walk through a gorgeous scarlet-hued tunnel of fir trees, and then rows of cherry blossom trees, to see Naesosa Temple.  Originally called Soraesa Temple, it means “a place to visit to be reborn.” The weather is cool and crisp and the autumn colors are stunning.  Naesosa was built by a Buddhist monk in 633 A.D. during the Silla Dynasty and rebuilt in 1633 during the Joseon Dynasty.  Daeungbojeon, the main building, is built with interlocking wood blocks without nails.  Each door is decorated with lotus blossoms and chrysanthemums. The temple also boasts the Goryeo Bronze Bell, with three Buddhas on its body, from 1222.  It is thought to be the leading creation of the late Goryereo Dynasty.

me at naeonsa temple

me at naeonsa temple

Korean pancakes

Korean pancakes

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typical Korean restaurant on the way to Naesosa

Naesosa Temple

Naesosa Temple

thankful messages at Noesosa Temple

thankful messages at Noesosa Temple

inside Naesosa Temple

inside Naesosa Temple

The best thing about visiting Naesosa Temple is the setting, with its bright tunnel of trees.  My interest is also piqued because they offer temple stays.

the stunning tunnel of trees at naesosa temple

the stunning tunnel of trees at naesosa temple

Finally, we start our journey west to Daegu, with a stop in Mt. Maisan Provincial Park. Mt. Maisan’s claim to fame is its donkey-ears shape.  A myth tells of  two gods that came down from the sky, had a child and lived on earth for a while. As they were going back up to the sky, a village woman saw them ascending, and were trapped on earth and were transformed in to a rock mountain. Even today, you can see the father peak and the child peak, and the mother peak on the other side.

When the bus drops us at the entrance, we are told we have until 3:40 to go explore.  We jauntily walk off, not even knowing what we’re supposed to be looking for.  We linger along the path, checking out the interesting food stalls and restaurants along the way, snapping pictures.

succulents in pots for sale along the path

succulents in pots for sale along the path

a snack of silkworms, anyone?

a snack of silkworms, anyone?

big hunks of meat for sale

big hunks of meat for sale

Finally, we come to a temple with a bright gold roof, Geumdangsa Temple, or “Gold Hall Temple,” built in 814 during the Silla Dynasty.  I think this is the temple we have come to see, so I take a bunch of pictures and spend too much time exploring the grounds.

Geumdangsa Temple Buddha

Geumdangsa Temple Buddha

bright leaves and lanterns at the "Gold Hall Temple"

bright leaves and lanterns at the “Gold Hall Temple”

drum at "Gold Hall Temple"

drum at “Gold Hall Temple”

I see other EPIK teachers walking further down the path, and I meet my friends Anna and Seth, who are heading to the really cool and unusual temple we are meant to see, Tapsa.  By this time it is 3:20 and though Anna and Seth are determined to walk to it, none of knows how far away it is.  I keep walking with them for a while, but as we round each corner and don’t see it, I become worried it about making it back in time, with my troublesome knee.  Finally at about 3:30, I say I better turn around.  I make it to the bus at 3:40, but no one is in any hurry to leave as they apparently changed the departure time to 4:00!  I would have had time to see the amazing Tapsa after all!  I am so disappointed, especially when Anna finally returns with her pictures of the very unusual temple.  I can’t believe I was right there and didn’t see it.  I have determined to return to this park sometime in the next couple of weeks to see it.

me with Mt. Maisan's donkey-eared peaks

me with Mt. Maisan’s donkey-eared peaks

Tapsa is a temple where a retired scholar built numerous pagodas one stone at a time over a period of decades. There are some marvelous towers which are so tall and massive it’s hard to believe they were erected by just one man. It is said that he built 108 towers over 30 years from 1885, but only 80 of them remain today.

the golden hall temple, but not the one i was supposed to see :-(

the golden hall temple, but not the one i was supposed to see 😦

We are on the bus a long 4 hours after this, heading back to Daegu.  By this time, I am bus-burned, especially as these seats are tight and narrow with little leg room, unlike most public transport buses in Korea which have plenty of room to stretch out.  We arrive at the Gyeongsangbuk-Do Provincial Office of Education around 8 p.m.  Wiped out, but happily so. 🙂

the beautiful grounds of Geumdangsa Temple

the beautiful grounds of Geumdangsa Temple

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