Chuseok Part 3: More hiking and eating

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Morning of day 2 is when we discovered that the Western restaurant at the hotel didn’t actually serve a breakfast… so we walked to the strip and got a giant box of chicken nuggets from BBQ Chicken. I see this chain all over the country but had never eaten it. It was OK, a mix of dark and white meat chicken nuggets that were burped up the rest of the afternoon. While waiting for our chicken to fry, we walked to the National Park visitor’s center. It’s a half hour walk from here to the park entrance and the cars were backed up beyond this point. Here are the crowds and traffic we were warned of, arriving well after we did.

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On the walk back to the hotel with our chicken we noticed that along with the increase in traffic to the National Park, there were now quite a few visitors staying at Hotel Sorak Park, which in our minds seemed to reduce the probability of a Jack Nicholson “Here’s Johnny” moment, and made us feel a little better about our choice of lodging.

After throwing down our chicken we moved ahead with day two of hiking. We started with the Bisondae Cliff Course through Cheonbuldong Valley, the main valley at Seoraksan National Park. The hike is fairly easy, and a mixture of paved surfaces and rocky pathways. Most of the trail parallels a creek that provides ample opportunity for getting off the main path and climbing around on water soaking boulders.

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Arriving at the Bisondae Cliff we noticed a few pretty cool things. For one, there were several rock climbers harnessed in, climbing up and down the cliff, as well as rallying around up top. And second, a lot of the flat surface rock lining the creek had been carved by Korean poets.

Looking at the top of Bisondae Cliff from Geumganggul Cave trail

Looking at the top of Bisondae Cliff from Geumganggul Cave trail

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At this point, we were faced with the decision of turning around and heading back, in hopes of hiking the Ulsan Bawi rock course next, or taking the course up a very steep incline to the Geumganggul Cave. In one of the best decisions we made all trip, we chose to ascend to the cave.

Almost to the cave

Almost to the cave

Cave close up

Cave close up

Hanging around in Geumganggul Cave is one of the sweetest things I’ve done in Korea. It’s only .6 km from Bisondae Cliff trail to the cave, but if feels like you are going straight up, all the while gaining something like 1,600 feet in elevation. ¾ of the hike is climbing rocks, and the last ¼ is consists of steep steps.

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The cave is an ancient place for Buddhist prayer and meditation. There was a monk up there when we arrived, and a few hikers taking a breather from the monster upward climb. And just like everywhere in Korea, there was a dude slanging souvenirs. There were also some people praying at the shrine. And the view looking back down at the Cheonbuldong Valley from the cave was breathtaking.

Cave monk

Cave monk

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I always forget that the hike down a steep mountain may be quicker, but it takes just as much out of your legs. By the time we hiked back down to the Bisondae Cliff trail, and all the way back to the entrance of the National Park, we were pretty exhausted. Instead of taking the Ulsan Bawi Course, we chose to take it easy and enjoy Sinheungsa Temple.

Sinheungsa is an ancient Zen temple, and a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Historical data reveals it was either built in 637 or 653 by Jajang. It burned to the ground in 699 and was rebuilt in 710, to be burned down again in 1645 and rebuilt in 1648. It is the oldest Zen temple in the world.

Having visited a few temples in Korea now, I wanna avoid the seen one temple, seen them all approach. And what made Sinheungsa different was the beautiful setting, nestled in some extremely beautiful mountains. Also setting it apart was the giant bronze statue of Buddha.

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Thoroughly wiped from an exhausting day, we walked back to the hotel for shower and a nap, followed by our third and final meal on the strip. This turned out to be the best meal of the trip by far. The bulgogi was excellent, and the side dishes at this restaurant were some of the best I’ve had in Korea. They consisted of the usual kimchi, radish squares soaked in soy sauce, a fermented green leafy veggie, the same awesome root that we had with our bibimbap on Daedansan, the dried and shredded anchovy that I love, and some sort of thinly sliced and stripped raw fish in a delicious red sauce. The meal also included the bean-paste tofu soup that I crave.

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Completely satisfied with dinner, and feeling fat and happy, we spent our last evening out on the balcony again. This time, instead of clear skies, we were greeted by the clouds that rally across the sky so fast they are constantly shifting shape. Not as good for the stargazing, but a fun weather event nonetheless.

Next up, Sokcho Beach and the bus ride home

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~ by ripcitytoseoul on October 8, 2009.

One Response to “Chuseok Part 3: More hiking and eating”

  1. […] part 1 Chuseok part 2 Chuseok part 3 Chuseok part […]

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