Gayasan and Haeinsa

Haeinsa Temple

Fifteen miles out of Seomyeon, someone said it: “Hey, this is my first Korean road trip.” Oh right, we’re on a road trip! Cool.

We were too late in getting our shit together to take a bus, so we piled into a friend’s car with a road atlas and headed out into the mountains. It took us just over two hours to get to a tiny town outside of Gayasan National Park. Mountain towns in Korea are not unlike those in America, except for the signage and the people. There was one nuribang (a requirement for any town), some convenience stores, and a few small, uninhabited restaurants, all lining a single street. It took us some time to find a place to sleep, but we eventually got a nice deal on a “yeogwon” I think it’s called – 40,000 won for four people.

We got up early the next morning and got a breakfast of bi-bim-bap and bean soup. We arrived at Haeinsa temple around 10:30. The highlight of this temple is that it houses stone tablets that have been preserved since around 800 AD.

Haeinsa Stone Tablets Stone tablets

Another interesting thing about this temple was a sort of maze just inside the entrance. I think the idea is that you walk the maze in a meditative state. It had a distinctly Buddhist quality to it. It was simple in design and looked very brief, but only when you walk it do you realize that it’s a bit more involved and takes quite a while to walk. And once you arrive at the end, you find that you’re right back where you started.

Haeinsa Maze The Haeinsa Maze

After we’d spent a good hour or so at the temple, we walked around the left side, past the busses, and found the trailhead to Sangwangbong (상 왕 봉) Peak, a 4 km journey. Four kilometers, no problem. Yeah right. It started mellow enough but eventually went into a steep ascent. I love hiking in Korea, but their trails kill me. They don’t believe in switchbacks and instead want to go straight up the mountain, often using long runs of stairs. I guess that’s a Buddhist thing as well.

About a half kilometer from the summit, it got even more involved, with ropes and some near Class IV type climbing.

Sangwangbong Ascent Rope climbing Sangwangbong

But we finally made it to the top and the view was spectacular. Some truly Roger Deanesque landscape.

View from Sangwangbong Peak View to the south from the top

Gayasan National Park 1 Heading up to the summit

Gayasan National Park 2 Continuing toward the summit

gayasan3.jpg Heading back down

We stuck around for a while, had a lunch of tuna sandwiches and fruit. We made our way back to the car, and eventually found what must be the only san-gyup-sal restaurant in town. We went back to the yeogwon and drank beer, and played music. By the time we fully dissected the values (or lack thereof) of The Doors and David Bowie, it was time to crash out on the ondol-heated floor.

Delicious reward Our delicious reward

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One Response to “Gayasan and Haeinsa”

  1. Lots of rocks in Korea.

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