Monday, September 19, 2011

Palgong Mountain, The Experience of a Lifetime

Palgong Mountain or Palgongsan as it is known locally, is one of the most visited areas in Daegu. The beautiful mountain chain is not only home to many plants and animals, but also to many of Korea’s National Treasures.

One of the most fascinating National Treasures that embraces both the natural and the manmade is Daegu’s Gatbawi (Sitting Stone Buddha). This amazing work of art is nestled at 850m above sea level on Gwanbong Peak.

Gatbawi greets many visitors throughout the year as worshipers from around the country come to the Buddha to pray. This Buddha is believed to have the ability to hear at least one wish from every truly sincere individual.

This is ‘Il Jumun’ the vibrant entrance to the trail leading to Gatbawi.

Before hiking up the mountain please take a quick look at the Palgong Mountain Provincial Park Map.

We were lucky this morning, as we were able to catch the morning fog, providing the necessary mystical feeling.

After hiking halfway up the mountain you will find a cozy little restaurant where food is provided free-of-charge to all those visiting Gatbawi. Although the food is free, you can always give a voluntary donation for the needy.

If you go up a little bit farther you will find a small temple which is crowded by those who praying or simply resting.

Though this is a rather remote location, Daegu City has provided the location with free Wi-Fi!

The top of mountain is not much further. You can make it! From this point it is only a 20~40 minute walk, depending on your pace, to the peak.

We have finally made it to the top. We were amazed to see so many people are gathered around Gatbawi.

As you can see, it is mostly middle-aged women praying to the statue.
The reason for it being mostly women is because they are mostly mothers praying for their children who are preparing for their SATs in Nov. The mothers are praying for good grades and successful university applications.

The Buddha’s official name is Gwanbong Seokjo-Yeorae-Jwasan, which translated means “Sitting Stone Buddha.” It is because of the 15cm thick traditional style stone hat or “Gat” that the Buddha has become knonw now only as “Gatbawi.” The Buddha’s hat is not held on by any substance but has remained for years, enduring typhoons and storms.

On the side of Gatbawi, we found lots of coins stuck on the wall. We discovered that this is because the visitors believe that if the coin fits in a gap between rocks, your wishes will fulfilled. It is a peculiar site to see these coins placed on a vertical wall without falling. I took a moment to look around at the scenery around Gatbawi and I was awestruck by the beautiful landscape.

A unique thing about hiking in Korea is that in the middle of the mountain, you may encounter merchants who are selling herbs, grains and pumpkin candy. These places provide a better price than those in town and you can also haggle for the best price.

On your way back down, you come across a beautiful temple named “Gwanamsa.” This is a great place to rest and grab a quick drink of cool water at the small well in the front entrance.

You will also come across a beautiful bridge after leaving Gwanamsa, where you will find more people praying for good fortune under the bridge.

As you hike in Korea you will notice many stone towers. These are built by the hikers and are believed to help wishes come true. To have your wish granted you must place your stone on the top without knocking over any of the other rocks. If you destroy the pile your wish will not be granted and you will be cursed for destroying the other wishes.

At the end of our hike we came across a banner for the IAAF World Championships Daegu 2011!
If you decide to take a different course than we did today, you should go to the Palgong Mountain information centre, where you will be able to find many guide books and maps.

After climbing, we decided to have lunch. We ordered the hand-made noodles (Guk-Su) and seafood pancake (Pancheon) both of which are considered specialties Palgong Mountain. The meals are well priced, ranging from KRW 4,500 to KRW 10,000.

To get back to central Daegu you just need to follow the signs to the bust stop and take bus number 401 to “A-yang Bridge.” The bus is very cheap and safe, costing only KRW 1,100.

To find out more information about Gatbawi, please follow the link below!



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