baekdamsa: third time's a charm

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Our first attempt to visit Baekdamsa, a temple on the other side of Mt. Seorak National Park, was last year during our summer vacation. We would have had to wait hours for a bus that really wouldn't have taken us very near the site at all, so we caught a bus to Gangneung instead.

We tried again last fall. We rented a car and stayed at "Happy Road" with J.E., but it was while the autumn leaves were changing colors and half of Korea seemed to have the same idea. Saturday, we couldn't even get near the shuttle bus parking lot. Sunday, the traffic was backed up onto the highway.

Since this week was our summer break, we avoided both of our prior mistakes by going on a weekday and renting a car, and actually made it to our destination.

After parking, we stopped to pick up some snacks and let Liam explore the river. Matthew ended up buying a bottle of beer (Hite, which tastes like shite, rather that Cass, which tastes like ass...), which we drank at one of the tables over looking the river,

while Liam played,

then Matthew joined him for old fashioned rock throwing.

Cars are not allowed on the road leading to the temple, and for good reason. Most of it is narrow and winding. I have never heard people applaud a bus driver's skills before, but then again, I haven't spent any time on Korean tour buses. We did pass a few people who had chosen to walk up or back, but most pay the W2,000 per adult (W1,000 per child) EACH WAY to take the bus. (So we paid roughly $10 for Matthew, Liam & I. Highway robbery.)

Liam and I (with Rowan sleeping in the Ergo) at the entrance.

Liam inspects the wishing candles. We had to convince him that he was not supposed to blow them out like birthday candles.

These are the tiles which people pay to write a message on: a prayer, a blessing, "KimTaeHoon wuz here," etc.

Liam's first attempt at flashing ubiquitous peace signs, or as J.E. calls them, "kimchi fingers." Isn't five better than two?

Liam getting water from the temple spring.

A peak inside the temple, while my child glows in an unearthly manner.

I love the roof details on Korean Buddhist buildings.

The unusually cool, wet summer has been good for the flora.

Overall, the temple was a disappointment, after all the hype. The most remarkable feature was the mostly-dry river bed. Koreans have this obsession with stacking rocks and this locale provides them with ample opportunity to do so. From our understanding, it's a Buddhist practice to illustrate the idea that everything is temporary; anything humans build will eventually fall down. Liam tries to help them learn that lesson, but we usually interfere.

Liam explores, while a family in the background builds together.

Liam puts into perspective the height of some of the stacks.

Finally, he finds something a little more his speed: throwing rocks into the river with "hyung" (older brother).

Rowan wakes up from his nap.

Matthew poses with an unwilling Liam.

A rock carved with hangul on the way back to the shuttle bus.

Since we were already running late to meet J.E. at Happy Road, we didn't even attempt the hike beyond the temple. Apparently, this is quite impressive, and might have made the trip more worthwhile. Instead we waited in line for too long, with a smug old man who seemed to be talking schmack about us, before riding the bus back to our car.

My advice: If you want to visit Baekdamsa, allow the better part of the day, bring decent beer, and do the hike up past the temple.


One response to “baekdamsa: third time's a charm”
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Wow, Rowan has really grown up this summer.
I haven't gone far beyond Baekdamsa myself - I wore poorly-fitting hiking boots that crippled my achilles tendons when YN and I visited in the winter - no bus in the winter.

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