Monday, September 3, 2012

[Tour/Press Article] Biking Mt. Palgong - Songnimsa Temple

Biking Mt. Palgong - Songnimsa Temple

As I'm moving out of my neighborhood in a couple of weeks I decided to bike north into Gyeonguk Province and Dongmyeong which I haven’t the entire time I've lived here. I heard there was a nice temple along the Mount Palgong trail I wanted to check out. 

I live on the northern end of chilgok and biking north a few minutes I reached the city limits and the sign markers for the start of Gyeongbuk province. Some of my students live here and come by bus from Dongmyeong as we have a better school in the city. 

Heading north for another few kms the road becomes a country highway. It’s not the best place to go biking as the traffic was quite fast and there were many entranceways to industrial yards. However, the main turning to the temple was only about a km away so I was able to avoid the traffic from there on.

The turn off road had a signpost describing it as one of koreas most beautiful routes. The mount palgong trail runs east-west across the city for about 30kms and it does have many scenic spots. I had wanted to come to see the cherry blossoms but came too early before they were in bloom.

Heading to the temple there is a large reservoir and a ship restaurant along the roadside. You then come off the main road to a side road and follow it a short way to the temple. The temple was quite near to the turning off the main road. I keep hearing from friends they don't want to see "just another temple" but this proved to be yet another interesting find, different from all the other Mount Palgong Temples.

The complex had a large brick stupa in the centre lawn, buildings on either side of the rectangular lawn, and some outer buildings. The main building was undergoing some exterior restoration work.

Inside the main large building there were three large seated gold buddhas. At one end of the hall one wall was a large unpainted wood carving with many faces and lots of detailed etchings.

There was another colourful building facing the centre lawn which had some surprises. This building housed lifesize painted wood figures. I've seen them before about 2ft high but this was the first time seeing them lifesize.

I also had some scenic shots looking in and out thru the doorways.

The sides of the buildings had some unusual artwork I hadn’t seen before. It seems to be judging the souls of the dead in the afterlife and sending them to various forms of punishment.

There was also bell tower painted in great detail. It had a large bell, drum, and a hanging dragon which is hollowed out and used for tapping from the inside.

Outside of the main rectangular lawn was a new unpainted building. Inside you could see the bare timbers with a nordic feel to it. There was a carved dragon head which was yet to be painted.

I then discovered another building which I named the 1,000 Buddha hall. Behind the three large gold buddhas were rows of identical smaller buddhas set on an incline ascending up to the roof. It was quite an impressive sight and how the temples in Taiwan and Vietnam were to give a distorted perspective of infinity. 

Heading back was much faster as I sped down the incline I had to bike up to get here. The ship restaurant takes you back to the main road and reservoir. I've driven past this reservoir a few times when we came in this area for school dinners so this was the first time to see it slowly up close.

Back on the main highway heading south I passed by an interesting country house and roadside tombs. I then made it back inside Daegu City Limits and headed home.

To reach the temple you can take buses 427, 527, or Rapid 3 which all end in Dongmyeong. From there it’s about a half hour walk to the temple. Or you can take Palgong Bus 3 though I'm not sure of times and frequencies. It does not stop at the temple but at the ship restaurant on the main road. From here you can cross and walk back along the side road a few minutes till you reach the temple.

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