Category Archives: hiking

hiking Outside Gyeongju Sites to see tips for tourists Ulsan

Going to the River: Mt. Shinbulsan’s Hongnyu Waterfall (홍류폭포) and Eonyang’s Jakcheon-jeong (작천정) Pavilion

Jakcheon-jeong Pavilion, outside Eonyang, Ulsan

Jakcheon-jeong Pavilion, outside Eonyang, Ulsan

One way Koreans like to beat the oppressive heat and humidity of the summer is by “going to the river.” Although it never got past the first post, one of my projects for the blog last summer was to share some of the rivers near Gyeongju where locals like to picnic and swim. One popular area for “going to the river” is just outside of Eonyang (언양), 30 minutes south of Gyeongju on Highway 1. Technically within the Ulsan city limits, Eonyang is traditional market town in the mountains 15 minutes west of Ulsan city. Over the last few decades Eonyang has also become famous as the gateway for tourists and hikers exploring the surrounding the Yeongnam Alps.  Just outside of Eonyang in secluded valley at the foot of Mt. Shinbulsan (신불산) are a couple great places for spending the day picnicking and splashing around by the cool of Jaksujeong River. read more »

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Buddhist culture East Sea Gyeongju hiking history Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Going to the River: Girimsa Temple (기림사) and Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls (용연폭포)

Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls, Girimsa Temple, Gyeongju

Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls, Girimsa Temple, Gyeongju

About a month ago a friend on on Facebook asked where around Gyeongju you can “go to the river.”  Unfortunately I’ve been a bit distracted with writing my Master’s thesis over the last month, but I hope to post on a few places to “go to the river” around here while there’s still some of the summer left. There are actually a number of nice swimming holes and lovely picnicking spots by the rivers around Gyeongju which we go to almost every weekend, if the weather’s nice. read more »

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Buddhist culture Events Festivals Gyeongju hiking history holidays photography Statues & carvings Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Buddha’s Birthday at Sinseonsa (신선사) Temple on Mt. Danseoksan (단석산)

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Like many things in Gyeongju, I’ve been meaning to write about Mt. Danseoksan for a while, but I’ve been too busy to get around to it.  However, celebrating Buddha’s Birthday, or Seokga Tansinil (석가탄신일), yesterday at the ancient stone grotto of Mirukgul (미룩굴) on Mt. Danseokan has given me the best reason I’m probably going to get.  Located about 10 km south-west of Gyeongju City, Mt. Danseoksan is officially part of Gyeongju National Park and is famous for its history, legends and natural beauty.  Literally meaning “Split Rock Mountain,” Mt. Danseoksan is, in fact, named after one such ancient story involving the famed Silla general Kim Yu-sin. read more »

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Slideshow: Autumn in Namsan-dong (남산동) Village

Muryangsa Temple, Namsan-dong, Gyeognju

Muryangsa Temple, Namsan-dong, Gyeognju

To be honest the Korean urban lifestyle doesn’t really do much for me.  Sure, I sometimes miss the art and culture, the night clubs and the convenience.  But after living in London, Berlin and Barcelona, there’s really not anything new that I get out of big cities in Korea.  All it takes is a walk through one of the many quaint and quiet farm villages near Gyeongju to remind me why I like living with the Korean countryside so close at hand.   One of my favorite places to visit is Namsan-dong (남산동);  a string of farming villages just 15 minutes outside of town tucked in the shadow of Gyeongju’s historic Mt. Namsan (남산). read more »

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Bulguk-dong East Sea hiking Hotels and housing tips for tourists

Camping and Cabins in the Mt. Tohamsan Recreational Forest (토함산 자연휴양림)

Camping at Mt. Tohamsan Recreational Forest

Camping at Mt. Tohamsan Recreational Forest

This post is coming a little too late for the summer, but  I’m posting it anyhow for those who might be interested in doing some camping this fall or are already kicking around ideas for their next vacation.  For years I’ve heard that there there’s a campground at the Mt. Tohamsan at the Recreational Forest (토함산 자연휴양림), but I’ve never been up there to check it.  Growing up in  Virginia, I used to go camping at least a couple times a year, so I’ve been curious about it for a while now. read more »

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Gyeongju hiking history Sites to see Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Choi Jae-u (최제우), Yongdamjeong Pavilion (용담정) and the Donghak Peasants Revolution (동학농민운동)

Yeongdamjeong Pavilion, Gyeongju

Yeongdamjeong Pavilion, Gyeongju

The 19th century was a dark time for Korea (and sadly just a prelude to the horrors to come in the 20th century to come).  Korea was still a feudal agrarian society and the nobility of the Joseon Dynasty had become bloated and corrupt, exacting heavy taxes and conscripting forced labor from the peasantry.  Foreign governments with imperialist ambitions were constantly vying for power on the Korean peninsula.  And to make matters worse, the country was plagued by droughts, natural disasters and famines which lead to widespread suffering and civil unrest among the peasantry.  Considering the average farmer was lucky to live to 30, it’s not surprising this malcontent boiled over into full scale uprisings against the landlords and the rich on more than one occasion. read more »

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Gyeongju hiking Sites to see Statues & carvings Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Off the Beaten Path: The Standing Buddha (마애불얍성) of Mt. Maseoksan (마석산)

Standing Buddha of Mt. Maseoksan, Gyeongju

Standing Buddha of Mt. Maseoksan, Gyeongju

Hidden away above a small farming valley just south of Mt. Namsan, the Standing Buddha (마애불얍성) of Mt. Maseoksan  (마석산) is the epitome of “off the beaten path.”  In fact, for a long time the only reference to it I could find was a mark at the bottom of the regional map published by the Shilla Cultural Society.  I found absolutely nothing about it in any English guidebooks or online and very little when I ran searches for it in Korean. So, of course, for a guy like me that’s all the more reason to check it out and see what’s there.  Happily, I discovered one of those numerous hidden gems that are scattered around Gyeongju. read more »

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hiking history Sites to see Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines Ulsan

Museum and Memorial Shrine of Patriotic Martyr Park Jae-sang (박제상 기념관)

Park Jae-sang Memorial Museum, Ulsan

Park Jae-sang Memorial Museum, Ulsan

Taking advantage of a break in the cold weather, the other weekend I piled into the car with some friends and took off to explore the mountains south of Gyeongju (not to mention my wife was putting the finishing touches on her Master’s thesis and needed me out of the house).  I’d managed to score an English tourist map of Ulsan, on which there’s marked the “Historical Remains of Park Je-sang”  about 15 minutes south of Gyeongju  just of off N.R. 35.  Nothing else was said about who this Park Je-sang was or why he was worth remembering, so I figured he must’ve been a small-time Confucian scholar with a few stone tablets propped up in his honor.  Still, I was itching to explore some new territory and decided to check it out. read more »

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Book Reviews: Winter Reading from Seoul Selection Bookstore

Front cover of “Korean Tea Classics”

Front cover of “Korean Tea Classics”

Seems like it’s been ages since I’ve posted any book reviews here on the blog.  But last month I scored a passel of books from Seoul Selection Online Bookshop for a bit of light reading over winter vacation.   Not to get to promotional here (and no, I’m not getting paid for this), but if you’re looking for books about Korea, Seoul Selection is a great resource.   They have a knack for carrying a lot of books that simply are not available on Amazon or whatthebook.com, not to mention they self-publish a lot of titles which sell for very reasonable prices.  So without further adieu, here are a few books that might help you while away your time in front of the space heater this winter:

“Korean Tea Classics” by Hanjae Yi Mok and the Venerable Cho-ui:  Ever since my friend and local tea aficionado, Don Baumhart, published his two-part introduction to the Way of Tea in Korea here on this blog, I’ve made a point of exploring more of Korean and East-Asian tea culture.  Turns out this year Seoul Selection has made the timely decision to publish English translations three classic Korean tomes on tea and tea culture:  “Rhapsody to Tea” by Hanjae Yi Mok (1471 – 1498) and “A Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea” and “Hymn in Praise of Korean Tea” both by the Venerable Cho-ui (1786 – 1866).  In fact it was Ven. Cho-ui who earned himself the nick-name Dasan or “Tea Mountain” was responsible of the revival and restoration of the tea ceremony in Korea.  Translated by Brother Anthony of Taize (author of “The Korean Way of Tea” ) among others, this book is not simply a dry, academic  translation of obscure historical texts.  Rather it is an object de art itself, with impeccable design and choke full of beautiful color pictures of tea, ceramics, temples and ancient paintings.   Plus, for students of classical Chinese, the original “Hanja” is printed alongside the English.   Not merely an obtuse historical artifact, this book would be of interest to anyone with a love for Asian tea culture, and of course it’s a lovely accompaniment to a lazy afternoon sipping tea. read more »

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Gyeongju hiking history Korean culture Stories, legends & people tips for tourists Wierd Gyeongju

Wierd Gyeongju: Queen Seondeok and the Legend of Vagina Valley (여근곡)

Map of Yeogeungok Valley, Mt. Obongsan

Map of Yeogeungok Valley, Mt. Obongsan

Yup, you read that right.  About 17 km west of Gyeongju on the north face of Mt. Obongsan (오봉산) is a little valley that goes by the name of Yeogeungok (여근곡).  This literally means “Jade Gate” Valley which, you might not have known, is actually a euphemism for female genitalia.  Just why the ancient Koreans dubbed this valley just that is clear to anyone with a basic knowledge of human anatomy and a bit of imagination. read more »

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