Monday, July 18, 2011

Donghwasa Temple and Bath House

Yesterday we had another full day of exploration and fun! We got up early so we could go out hiking...and we had to get up early because it took almost two hours to get to the mountain where Chris wanted to go. Maybe next time I'll go to the mountain that's not quite so far away. First we had to take the free shuttle bus into downtown Daegu, which is about 40 minutes, and then we had to take a city bus up into the mountains which was another 40 minutes at least.

The mountain was nothing like I had expected. There were little towns all over the place with restaurants and convenience stores and a lot of people were driving right up to the temple. The temples were all full of very intricate wood work and paintings. Many of the buildings were newly constructed or under construction so who knows how old most of the buildings actually were. But the informational sign said that the Donghwasa temple represents the Buddhists of the Silla Dynasty and it dates back to 430 A.D. The area is still used as a place of worship by many as we saw when we visited.

Main Temple

Worshipers inside the main temple
Intricate woodwork/paint on the doors
Paintings on the ceiling of one of the smaller temples

The temples with the mountains in the background
The phoenix is the symbol of power of the Donghwasa Temple 
The Hermitage- The sign says Keep Out
Tree growing out of a rock in the middle of the river (This is for Leslie)
On the way to the hermitage
Mt. Palgongsan was actually in the same area as the temple. After we had wandered around the temple and the hermitage for a while we went back down to where the tourist city was and took a gondola half-way up Mt. Palgongsan. The view was gorgeous! The mountains went on and on so far that you couldn't see the end of them. The humidity is so thick that it creates a haze and you can't see as far as you would be able to in Colorado. There is actually a hiking trail up to the point where the gondola takes you but a member of our group had knee surgery in February and had to take it easy. Looking forward to going for a real hike in the future! Gorgeous, but hot and sticky.

On the gondola on the way up!
Mt. Palgongsan

Looking up the hiking trail on the way down

Group pic: (L to R) Front: Mike, random Korean lady, Mary, Leslie  Back: Rob, Chris, Me, Gwen- The Korean lady's friend was taking the picture and she wanted to jump in!
 (The photos with the date stamp are from Leslie- thanks Leslie!)

After the hikes we had some delicious lunch of roast duck and chicken soup. They served us so much food we couldn't eat it all, even between 7 of us. I was nervous about trying the food but there was no need to be- as long as you get the right thing, it's delicious!! After lunch we went to the Jim-jo-bong (spelling? I don't know, that's what it sounds like) -the traditional Korean bath houses. First you go in, get naked, and go into this massive room with a whole bunch of other naked ladies. You start of scrubbing your skin with a loofah and just hot water. I made the mistake of putting my toes into the bath before soaping up and got a nice slap on the back from one of the old ladies. Once you scrub all your skin off (well not all, but some ladies scrub themselves almost til they bleed!) you go into the shower area and soap up. After that, you're allowed to get into the pools. There are several different pools and at the place we were there were inside and outside baths.  They have all different temperatures from scalding hot to freezing cold and everything in between. There were also a couple of saunas, which felt magical after a long day of wandering/hiking mountains. Overall, I found the experience to be fabulous and intend to go once a week like the rest of the Koreans do :)

Looking forward to a busy but boring week. Hoping I will meet some people to keep me entertained because I don't want to sit around in my room being anti social all week!

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