Monday, November 5, 2012

Korea, You are Beautiful

Close to a year ago, when I started telling people that I might be moving to Korea I got tons of varied reactions, but among one of the most often heard phrases was "oh my god, it's such a beautiful country". Fast forward a few months and there I was arriving to a cold, brown, dirty town. Umm where is this beauty you speak of?  Just be patient said the little voice in my head, after all it was the dead of winter.  I was soon rewarded with the blossoms of spring, cherry blossoms and sunshine galore.  Then came summer with it's lush green forests, everywhere, literraly my dad was blown away by how green the country was, and we're from Greendale!  I quickly understood what all the fuss was bout and low and behold the country continues to amaze me.  Exhibit A:

After our Halloween celebrations Sara and Amanda came up with a plan to venture out to Haeinsa temple, which is about an hour and a half bus ride south west of Daegu.  We started the day with a real brunch at a small restaurant near Camp Walker in Daegu and then made our way to the bus terminal. I wasn't really crazy about a long bus ride or, to be honest, visiting another temple (After living here for 8 months they kind of lose their zeal), but along for the ride I went.  The temple is located in they Gaya mountains, is noted as one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea and is home to the Tripitaka Koreana so I guess it was worth the trip, oh and it's a World Heritage site.   The fact that the fall colors were in full swing didn't hurt either.

The above building is where the Tripitaka Koreana are located but unfortunately you can't take any pictures inside.  In case you didn't check out my hyperlink i'll give you a brief overview: the Tripitaka Koreana is a ginormous collection of Buddhist scriptures which are carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks, dating back to the 13th century, impressive right? Well it gets even better, the Janggyeong Panjeon (storage halls for the woodblocks) are some of the largest such storage facilities in the world and were untouched during the Japanese invasion of Korea and spared from the 1818 fire which burned most of the temple complex, along with other fires and bombings.  The most impressive part is in the construction of the building, situated at the highest point of the temple facing southwest it avoids damp southeasterly winds, is blocked from the cold north and strategically designed windows aid in ventilation and regulate temperature. In 1970 a new storage complex was designed but test woodblocks were found to mildew and rot thus leaving the Tripitaka Koreana to remain at Haeinsa. Further proof that sometimes the old way is the right way. 

No outing in Korea is complete with some type of ridiculous story which this weekend came compliments of the bus ride home, transportation and ridiculousness kind of come hand in hand in this country.  So there we are waiting in line for the bus, along with a large crowd of hikers and other temple goers, the schedule said the bus was to arrive at 4 pm and around 4:05 we saw what we thought to be our bus drive by, fully loaded.  We asked a few others and they assured us another would be coming at 4:40, not the best news as temperatures were dropping and I was starting to get hungry, but at least there would be one. We chatted with some other friendly waygooks, make lots of jokes, cursed and adored Korea and soon the bus came. But there was one problem people were already standing in the isle and the two other foreigners we were talking to barely crammed into the last inches of the entrance.  After a yelling from the guys next to us there was a glimmer of hope as a bit of space opened up. Not wanting to wait until who knows when, or pay for an expensive cab ride home we made like sardines and squeezed our way in. If you're wondering if this is safe, legal or sane - the only answer I can give is: it's Korea.

Great seat 
Mom, you'll be glad to know we only rode like this for about 15 minutes down the mountain. Then about 30-40 hikers departed at the lower parking lot and we had a nice comfy seat for the remainder of our journey.


  1. I must say, between your photography skills and your camera, you could be a photographer for a vacation magazine or soemthing of that nature (pun intended). The patronas towers pic is still my background on my phone and have gotten many compliments on them when i show props to you