Monday, July 2, 2018

HIKING IN KOREA | 10 Things to Enjoy at Apsan Mountain

Apsan Park: Fun in the Details!

The value of a place is not necessarily in its BIG attractions or even in what TOURISTS would enjoy on holiday. The value of a place is in its daily offerings of honoring, teaching, feeding, freeing, or playing with its people. This is why I love Apsan Park. Meanings will differ between the Soldier, the Student, the Elderly, the Athlete, and the Child. Finding your type of fun in the details is totally part of the adventure!

1. The “Rocky Steps” at Chunghontop Memorial Monument

I may have only been 3 years old when the 1976 American boxing movie ROCKY first played in theaters, but the epic background music still plays in my head whenever I see a challenging set of outdoor steps! Interesting note: there are only 72 stone steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in Pennsylvania, compared to the 108 stone steps at this location in Daegu. You can feel like even MORE of an underdog winner when you (like Rocky) finally reach the top! Raise both fists in the air for victory!!

Or you can just take the elevator (no Rocky theme music though…not even elevator music).

Once at the top, explore around the grounds. The details that impress me might not necessarily excite you. Leave no corner unexplored. Dare to wonder! I adore sculpted stone and admire the patience & skill it must take to create such a work. I also giggle with delight when passing through aquarium-looking tunnels that lead you back to the elevator!
Location: Chunghontop Memorial Monument, 540, Apsansunhwan-ro, Nam-gu, Daegu

2. Nakdong River Victory Memorial Hall

Honestly, I passed by this area many times on my way to the Apsan Cable Car without stopping. My thinking was that only Soldiers would be interested in war memorials. It looks so official! But do not be afraid to visit. There are vintage military vehicle exhibits outdoors, and well-preserved equipment exhibits indoors. When you pause and think about both the Korean and American sacrifices represented by these artifacts, they become mementos of peace…not of violence. Entry is free and the hall worth exploring. Did you guess my favorite exhibit?!?
Location: Nakdong River Victory Memorial Hall, 574-110, Apsansunhwan-ro, Nam-gu, Daegu

3. Venue & Destination of Coffee Café (at Cable Car - bottom location)

Do you ever go to a café because the atmosphere is sooo relaxing? The amusing thing is that THIS café can only be reached by those willing to WORK to get to it! It is located a short uphill hike from the main entrance to Apsan Park. Affectionately referred to as “The Cable Car Café(Coffee Myeongga) ” this is my favorite pit stop halfway through hikes; or sometimes the culminating event after a tough hike in the area. The details of this café work together to soothe my spirit even if my muscles are starting to become super achy. Offering Myungga coffee and many seasonal dessert/drink specials, the café does not open until 10 am (important information for early morning hikers).
Coffee Myeongga, 574-114 Apsansunhwan-ro, Daemyeong 9(gu)-dong, Nam-gu, Daegu

4. The Locks at Apsan Observatory

An adorable trend among the sentimental (both young &old; internationally &locally) is the placing of a padlock in honor of a COMMITMENT, ANNIVERSARY, or JOURNEY. The sites are usually near bodies of water (bridges or docks) or up high (towers or observation decks). Wherever it is, it will be a unique place of awe for the specially selected lock to hang…in theory…forever. Until rust do them part. 
Apsan Observatory, Apsansunhwan-ro, Daemyeong 9(gu)-dong, Nam-gu, Daegu

5. Inside a Temple Courtyard

Pick a temple, any temple. Visitors are welcome. Just remember a couple of details – keep shoulders covered as Buddhist monks actually reside in quarters adjoining the temples. Keep pets out as there is usually a Jindo chained nearby for protection. Maintain a quiet and reverent attitude as the temple IS a house of prayer. If you want to make an offering or pray, it is best to go with a friend or proper tour guide familiar with those practices. Eunjeoksa Temple sells Tile blessings to raise money. All temples will host events with refreshments and colored lanterns on Buddha’s birthday (catch it in 2019, on May 12). There are temples at each of the Apsan Park valley entrances and even on the paths along your chosen trail climb. Often you will here loudspeaker chants almost like a song on the wind.
Daeseongsa Temple, 574-112, Apsansunhwan-ro, Nam-gu, Daegu, Korea

6. “Adult” Playground

Technically, it’s a normal children’s playground complex. But when I hike with my grown adult friends…they have the most fun here. Most popular is the Giraffe Bridge made of suspension netting. The best picture is taken at the mouth of the bridge. It is super sturdy. My dog trotted through no problem, so it is safe for kids (but not strollers). Located beyond the Dinosaur Trail on the north side of the side of Apsan Park, this area is often overlooked as it is adjacent to the start of “Temple Alley.” Just keep an eye out for a playset to the left consisting of a plank wall with two thick climbing ropes. This leads to a mini maze and the standing swing. Step up on it and ask for a long push from a friend! Also in the area are clean restrooms, and a large deck area for groups to rest and have a snack.
Gosangol Valley Playground, vicinity Beopjangsa Temple, Bongdeok2dong, Nam-gu, Daegu

#7. Barefoot Walking

Barefoot walking opportunities are given throughout Apsan Park and it is both therapeutic and challenging. Knowledge of pressure points under the feet are key to reaping to most benefits while negotiating the varied textures of the barefoot walking course. Some individuals take years of practice/patience to hone their physical step technique, mental toughness, and tolerance thresholds for pain! Elderly folk seen gliding along the barefoot walking path find it centering and relaxing. Young adults grimace wondering how to catch their breath through such a self-torturing act! Annually mid-May, community invitationals to barefoot walk are an interactive chance to learn more about this local pastime.
Various locations throughout Apsan Park, Nam-gu, Daegu

#8. The Ecological Trail

Annotated in BLUE on the Apsan Park map, the Ecological Trail hugs the perimeter of approximately the entirety of Apsan Park. Connecting all valley entrances to the park, this trail is tree canopy-covered for shade (in the Summer), clearly marked with trail numbers, and rolling with inclines appropriate for the beginner hiker. Though only 100% stroller friendly on the Dinosaur Park side, this trail is family-friendly but still requiring appropriate conditioning. There are however lots and lots of rest benches!!

#9. Fitness Poles

An interesting find within Apsan Park are these wooden poles with varying widths between each pole. There is a separate set for men and for women. Meant for the KOREAN body frame, men test their “fitness” level by passing through the space below their age group. Women do the same on their side. It is always a hoot to start at the oldest gap (under 60 year old) and weave your way through the years in case you are fortunate to still have the physique of an under 20 year old. This is just for fun and is not considered a true measure of health, fitness, or beauty.
Various locations throughout Apsan Park, Nam-gu, Daegu

#10. Fish Pond, Free Library, and other Randomness

On the walk from the main bus parking area to the Apsan Cable Car, you will find a body of water just before an overpass. Take a peek. You should ALWAYS find at least a duck, three turtles, and a school of big ole carp. No feeding, no fishing, and no swimming please! The free libraries only have books in Hangeul, but I love the idea that they are there. Lastly, time flies when you are having fun in the details. This grandfather clock (the time is accurate) is positioned in a rest gazebo along the Ecological Trail in the middle of one of the larger outdoor gym spots at the base of Apsan. Ok. YOUR turn for fun!!

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