Sunday, May 10, 2009

The neighborhood II

It was a nice today, so I decided to get some exercise and do some hiking in the mountains around my house. I'm mapping the trails so that I don't get too lost. Here is the route I took. My house is #17 on the map.

Since my GPS records elevation, I thought I'd include that as well.

At #26 I discovered what appears to be a helicopter pad. Or maybe it's just a slab of concrete on top of a mountain. From the growth around it, it seems to have been abandoned some time ago.

Not far from the slab of concrete is a grave site. There are graves scattered all over the place around here, but most are much lower lying. Over Chuseok (the Korean Thanksgiving) families will usually visit the graves of their ancestors and have a small ceremony. I'm not sure if people still visit this one, but it is a reasonably vigorous hike up there. I even saw another grave site on the next mountain over. It would be at least a 2 or 3 hour hike from any village in the area.

My next finding was one of the electrical towers that carry power lines over the mountains. #27 on the map, for those keeping score at home. There's actually a dirt road that led up to this tower. The second structure on your left holds a cable that I presume was used to transport supplies to the next tower over, which isn't connected to the road.

Taking the dirt road, I heard some noise. I uncovered a group of workers assembling another tower. They were rather surprised to so me.

Working on the high steel.

The view from the tower. Most of the time the trees block the view, so it was good to get a glimpse of everything from up high.

The tower from further away.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Buddha's Birthday in Gyeongju

Buddha's birthday rolled around again, and as tradition dictates, I visited three temples.


First was Bunhwangsa. It dates from the 7th century, although it has been reconstructed a couple of times. The pagoda is a reconstruction of one of the first pagodas built in Korea. Overall, it's a rather small temple, but it's near several other famous sites.

From Bunhwangsa we attempted to take the bus to Bulguksa. After waiting for about 15 minutes, the other people waiting at the bus stop told us they had been waiting for an hour. So we started walking toward the bus terminal in town. About half way there we saw buses headed to Bulguksa. So we grabbed a bus from there.

Traffic on the road leading to Seokguram/Bulguksa.


Seokguram Grotto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Grotto itself is a temple that's been buried under a mound, much similar to the burial mounds throughout town. Inside are sculptures of Buddha and various other apparitions. Buddha's Birthday is the one time of the year (although maybe on Lunar New Year's Day as well) that you can go inside and walk around the Buddha. On the list of World Heritage Sites that I've visited, I wouldn't rank this one very high.

The outside of the Grotto.


The final stop was Bulguksa, which is probably the most famous temple in Gyeongju. It's not a particularly impressive temple, but on the night of Buddha's Birthday it does have a bit of charm. Unfortunately, it started to rain so the crowd thinned out and the lantern parade around the pagoda was reduced to a few hardy souls. I still managed to get a few decent photos of the temple and lanterns, so I was happy.