Friday, April 18, 2008

A Spring Weekend Around Daegu (3): Palgongsan Provincial Park

A 20 dollar cab ride brought us out of Daegu, Korea's third largest city with around 2.5 million residents, and up a winding road lined with cherry trees, forsythia and azaleas to Palgongsan Provincial Park. We were primarily interested in seeing Donghwasa, the Paulownia Flower Temple, which boasts the largest stone Buddha in Asia. (The frequency with which I've read or seen that claim causes me to doubt its veracity). The temple was founded originally in 493 and was reconstructed in 771 and 832. The stone Buddha is much newer and is dedicated to the peaceful reunification of North and South Korea.

A gate leading to the monk's quarters

This building was off-limits. I saw a monk exit one of the rooms, so perhaps these are prayer rooms or individual monk's cells.

The Unification Buddha. You can't clearly see from the picture, but a sizable bird's nest is tucked up under Buddha's left arm.

People have put little Buddhas and prayer beads into the niches of the stone wall near the Buddha complex.

Outside the temple and closer to the entrance of the park, there's a small commercial area with motels, restaurants and even a drive-in movie theater. We took a cable car (5 dollars round trip) that brought us halfway up the mountain. Though the day was pretty hazy, we had a good view to the surrounding peaks and even caught a glimpse of Donghwasa and nearby hermitages.

There's no need to go inside most Korean restaurants just to check the menu because it's often written or pictorially displayed outside.

The road was just so lovely that we stopped often to take pictures. Though this picture suggests otherwise, there were lots of people driving in or out of the park. We walked as far as we were alongside cherry trees and then we stopped to catch a very crowded bus back to Daegu. Once we got to the intercity bus station, we discovered that all of the buses to Cheongju were sold out. We had to wait 90 minutes for the next bus to Daejeon and then got a bus from there to Cheongju.

After a low-key winter spent mostly in Cheongju, I was happy to enjoy the warm weather and spring flowers in a different part of Korea. The relative ease and low cost of travel makes weekend trips so doable. I'm going somewhere again this weekend, but I'm not exactly sure where. Considering its 12:30am Saturday morning, I should figure out my travel plans and get to bed!


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