“You didn’t get the picture!”, the twentysomething monk said, in English, after performing an impressive chest-high split kick. An older monk told him to do it again, for the camera. The younger monk pointed at me, saying to snap on two – one smaller jump, then a second, higher jump. After refocusing his energy, he jumps once, and – snap – got him in mid air! After showing the shot to the monks, they smiled and brought out the guest book for me to sign. For not having anything on the line, that was more pressure than I expected from visiting a Buddhist temple.
Golgulsa (골굴사) is distinctive More >
To be clear from the start, it’s a tourist trap that sucks in plenty of Koreans – and strangely enough, their kids. Combine wine and tunnels, and apparently families with kids are somehow enthralled. The persimmon wine tunnel has an old dungeon-like quality, although it’s ‘only’ a century or so old. The tunnel was completed in 1905 and originally called the Namseonghyeon tunnel to allow the Gyeongbu railway line to pass through Donghaksan and Yonggaksan. After being abandoned in 1937, the tunnel languished for decades until someone figured out it’s a perfect place to let wine age.
It’s a More >
IT’S a rarity to be so pleasantly surprised. While in Andong and checking out the Soju Museum, we couldn’t pass up the chance to check out Andong’s main attraction – Hahoe Village. This museum of masks happened to be right where the bus let us off, and it had to be checked out. Masks impart a character, whether it comes via a realistic or satirical look at the person. In most cases within the Korean collections, the masks are worn as part of a character’s costume during the traditional plays. Not many of these plays are still performed, although they’re still put on occasionally.
The Hahoe More >
Destination: National Lighthouse Museum, New Millennium Memorial, and Homigot (Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do)0
LIKE Suwon and Jinju, Pohang has precisely one noteworthy place attracting tourists from around the country – welcome to Homigot (호미곳, literally ‘tiger tail port’), home of the the New Millennium Memorial, a Sea Fossil Museum, and a big hand in the sea. Although the area isn’t high on the ‘must-see’ list, it makes Pohang worth a full-day visit.
The first place you’ll see from the road is the New Millennium Memorial. It’s aimed at wowing people with the size and economy of the area, and for the most part succeeds. Once in the first museum, you can push the English button to watch a few More >
YOU’LL see the park first, then the traditional collection of restaurants and souvenir shops that welcome tourists. There’s also a porcelain museum a short walk away. Sure, there’s a temple up there – but you’ll have to walk by these first.
Our visit, during the three-day Buddha’s Birthday weekend, couldn’t have been timed any better. The weather is gorgeous, the colorful plastic lanterns are quite visible, and there’s more than enough history to go around.
First built in 418 AD during the Shilla dynasty, it was renovated in the Great Priest Chajang in 645 AD, the Priest Chon-mook in 930 More >
AUTHOR’S note: this post is rated PG-13 – put the kids away and keep scrolling if you’re squeamish =)
Yes, I enjoy Buddhist temples, although I’ve found a lot of them look quite similar in many ways. No, I don’t have an intimate scholarly knowledge of the religion, so a lot of the symbolism is admittedly lost. While the temple has had an excellent write-up over at Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures, it lacks a Wikipedia page and has no real mention on Visit Korea – a bit surprising, personally.
Rewind the time machine to over a millennium ago, when King Jinheung and Supreme Master Myeonggwan More >
TO call Bongamsa in South Korea a temple is like calling Stanford a university – a gross understatement at best. Being one of the founding Nine Mountain Schools of Zen, it has a history that dates back to the 9th century and the end of the Shilla Dynasty.
To the monks, it’s a peaceful, solemn place about as far from modern civilization as you can get. It’s a zen (seon) meditation center for the Jogye order, one of the largest Buddhist orders in the country. I’m told there’s a competitive process to get to attend this center, although I’m not privy to the selection process. Monks that are More >
Destination: Dongni Mokwol Literary Museum and the hall of Silla’s Great Men (Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do)0
AFTER seeing Seokguram Grotto in Gyeongju, we hopped on the bus back towards Bulguksa and the rest of Gyeongju. The bus, however, left us aways from where we got on. We eventually found our way back to the bus stop, but we saw a sign for these two attractions and decided to venture in.
To be sure, I’m no Korean literature buff, but I know a guy who is. That the museum is entirely in Korean with little translation around means you’ll meander bemusedly or wonder what all the fuss is about.
PARK Mokwol (1916-1978) himself – the bronze statue seems the best way to immortalize a face. He mainly More >
”Welcome to the middle of nowhere,” I thought as we arrived at the Seongju bus terminal. As per my own tradition, I walked out of the bus terminal to the closest intersection and looked down both streets to see what there was.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect. We were looking at a map of Gyeongsangbuk-do to see what else there was in the area, and there it was. As one of the most unusual – and grossest sounding – destinations on the map, it was the one we had to check out.
We have 곽명창 (Gwak Myeong Chang) to thank for his very kind translation and tour of the area. As with most tourist More >
Call this one a nice aside to an otherwise packed itinerary. As a major tourist destination in Korea, the Hahoe Folk Village (하회마을 – Ha-hwey ma-eul) in Andong needs little introduction – if you’re reading from outside of Korea, Hahoe Village is a Joseon Dynasty village and a UNESCO World Heritage site. More popular than the vaguely nearby Yangdong Folk Village, it’s tourist-friendly and a way to enjoy some houses older than your great-great-grandfather. Above, some jangseung (장승) – common wood poles with grotesque faces guarding one against misfortune.
Getting here is fairly easy, but takes More >