Naeyeonsan and Bogyeongsa

dsc010071The cherry blossoms are in full bloom, and the unusually long winter has finally run its course. Time for a trip to the mountains to take in fresh air, green hills, a temple, and some village life. I know that when I leave Korea, these trips to the countryside with friends will be my best memories of life here. So I try to escape the concrete and crowds of humanity as much as possible.

This journey took us to Naeyeonsan mountain and Bogyeongsa temple. It’s an area about a half hour drive north of the east coast city of Pohang, itself about a half hour north of the popular tourist destination, Gyeongju. Seven of us left Friday evening around 8:30 and arrived in Pohang, where we meandered in search of a place to stay. We found a hotel and crashed out early.

It’s difficult to get seven people motivated in the morning, so we got a late start. It took a bus ride and a couple of ripoff taxi drivers, but we eventually arrived at the mountain village around noon. We quickly found what must be the coolest minbak in South Korea, with tons of character, huge open windows letting in light, a balcony overlooking the main drag, and a piano in one of the rooms. We unloaded our things and went downstairs to gorge on homemade kalguksu.

After lunch, we headed down the cherry-blossom-lined road and entered Bogyeongsa temple. It was a fairly humble complex, set in open land, with no real discernable identity to it. This was probably the shortest temple visit I’ve done. But the day was beginning to grow old and we had other, more important destinations in mind — namely, the series of waterfalls along the trail up Naeyeonsan.

The path cut through a valley, where the river was re-channeled to a canal of sorts. I wondered if it might be the water supply for the temple and village around it. Like all major outdoor destinations in South Korea, the trail was well-maintained, with occasional wooden footpaths, stairs, and hand railings in some spots. It didn’t take long to get to the first waterfall, where we stopped and skipped stones in the lake below it.

In all, we hit about three or four of the waterfall areas along the trail. At one point I heard the sounds of monk chanting (a recording piped through speakers). Me and my girlfriend decided to split away from the group and make a side trip up a steep and narrow footpath to find the source. There we found a tiny hermitage and saw a couple of monks sitting inside talking. We continued on up an even steeper path and discovered a simple lonely Buddha statue. It was so quiet and peaceful up there that we stayed a few minutes just to enjoy the nothingness.

We caught up with the group later. They were having a picnic by another waterfall and before long we continued on up to a strongly constructed suspension bridge over the falls. On the other side was the largest fall yet. From there, we could see that the trail continued on up very steeply. Normally we like to get to the peak, but we decided we’d seen enough, so we went back to the minbak.

Once back, me and the girls decided to go to the sauna. The three of them went to the girls section and I went to the men’s section on the opposite side. Saunas are weird. It’s a big part of Korean culture, but I’ve only gone a couple of times. Having my penis stared at by Korean men is not one of my favorite pastimes. But this time I didn’t care. I needed a soak in hot water. I really should go more often, because I felt great after.

It’s always good to try the local specialty when out in some far off village. This place seemed to specialize in duck. I think it’s 오리고기 but I’m probably spelling it wrong. It tasted fantastic. After eating we played a little music. But I didn’t last long. I was wiped out. The rest of the gang continued playing music, and from our room next door we heard the loud, off-key, reverb-drenched drunken singing of post-hike ajoshis. I thought, I’m never going to fall asleep with all this noise. That was the last thing I remember thinking before passing out completely.

The next day was a logistical clusterfuck of failed navigation and dysfunctional attempts at consensus. It was kind of a mess trying to get everyone back home. Somewhere in the madness I lost my cell phone. I must have dropped it on the bus from Naeyeonsan to Pohang. Whatever, nothing I could do about it. Back in Busan, a small group of us had a pasta dinner, said our goodbyes, and headed home.

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5 Responses to “Naeyeonsan and Bogyeongsa”

  1. Great shots man!

  2. czechmates Says:

    Nice pics. I loved the one showing the water falls running into the small body of water.

  3. cool, i think i’m gunna head up there today. thanks for the info.

  4. Looks amazing! A group of us are heading up there this weekend, could you give me the name of (and maybe directions to) the minbak you stayed at? I’m having a hard time finding any info on Google. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks:)

  5. I don’t know names of places, sorry. There’s one main road. Just go along it and look for 민박 signs; take a look inside and ask for a price. I’ve never had a situation where I’ve been unable to find a place, so you’ll be fine as long as you get there in daylight. Enjoy!

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