Sunday, March 4, 2012

Obligatory? Korean Tourist Spot #5: Hoeryong Temple

The obligatory nature of this destination is questionable because there are certainly larger and more impressive temples in Korea. However, I think for anyone living in Uijeongbu, Hoeryongsa is absolutely a must-see. The scenery is just too gorgeous not to.

 Take exit 2 out of Hoeryong Station and you should see signs directing you to Hoeryongsa (they're usually brown, not blue like typical road signs). You'll be walking through a more ramshackle part of Howon-dong, and eventually through a neighborhood of hanoks that look like they were thrown together immediately after the Korean War and never really updated since. At the end you'll find the entrance to a number of hiking trails, along which you can find thirty-odd temples that aren't listed on the road signs along Pyeonghwa-ro. I was shocked to find that there were so many little temples in the mountains out here. It's a destination that bears repeating, if only to visit them all (or at least a few of them).

Despite feeling a bit under the weather today, I took the trail to Hoeryongsa just for the sake of doing something on the weekend that wasn't sitting at my computer or abusing my liver in a bar. It was a glorious day and a pleasant reminder that spring is coming soon.

Hoeryongsa itself is small; like I mentioned earlier, if you want breathtaking size and grounds you can get lost in, then somewhere like Bongeunsa or Bulguksa is more what you're after. As it stands, there's simply a main meditation hall, what I presume is living quarters, a pavilion for the bell, and public restrooms for the visitors. It looks like they're adding more buildings, as there was some construction going on. The buildings themselves are very new, having been rebuilt after they were burned down in the Korean War. I'm not sure if this is the kind of place that welcomes any random Mr. Kim to wander in and sit and meditate as he pleases (contrast Bongeunsa), so I just skulked around, got some pictures, and then sat on a nearby rock to enjoy the nice day.

Pyeonghwa-ro, the main drag that runs mainly parallel to subway line 1. Just to give a sense of where I started.

guidepost on the hiking trail to hoeryongsa temple

dry spring at hoeryongsa temple
Temples all have freshwater springs for the visitors' use, but the one here at Hoeryongsa was dry. Not sure if it's just because the river is still frozen (see below), or if it's a permanent issue.

hoeryongsa temple uijeongbu
Hoeryongsa itself.

In case you can't tell, "Korean War" has been crossed out, and "Japanese Regime" has been written on top. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a factual correction, or a political sentiment.

One of the things I love about living in Uijeongbu is that it is greener and calmer than in Seoul. From my apartment, I can walk to the downtown neighborhood: shopping, Indian food, bars, a new performing arts center, people-watching, and the subway into Seoul. Or, I can walk to a Shilla-era temple set in the side of a mountain. How awesome is that?

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