Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stropping Around Korea - Daegu / Gatbawi

Daegu is a major city of around two and a half million people in the province of Gyeongsangbuk on the eastern coast of South Korea. Because of the population and the availability of funds they have established a convenient system to aid the tourist industry. Right outside the central train station there is an information office with English speaking staff that will happily assist any newcomers with checking out the sites and even pointing you in the direction of a place to stay.

A general wave of the arm was all that was needed when we stropped up to the counter and asked where we might lay our heads. To the young lady's left were motels at around 30,000 won and to her right were more expensive motels at around 50,000 won. We opted for the cheaper and after checking out the times of the various tours that were available headed off. Sure enough there were a large cluster of places to stay, all with colourful names and just as colourful signage. We picked a place called Guam at random and checked in.

The next morning we were at the information office once again right in time for the morning departure of Daegu City Tour bus. There are six departure times each day and with a hop on hop off system you are not rushed at any of the ten sites they stop at. The mixture of places caters for young and old with a farm visit, a theme park and the more traditional temples and ancient Confucian schools.

Our first choice was a placed called Gatbawi, a statue of Buddha carved in the Unified Silla period bu a Monk heartbroken over the death of his mother. I knew beforehand that the statue was at the top of a hill but the climb was grueling and there came plenty of times when i wanted to turn around a limp back down. With a method of one step at a time and small goals of the next twist in the staircase i managed to finally crest the mountain.

The last few steps were the hardest as the nearer we got to the top the clearer the sound of a Monks chanting could be heard along of the rhythmic beats of stick on wood which was a lot faster then my current pace and seemed to stir everybody around me on. but manage it i did and satisfied i was.

When i finally reached the flat space directly in front of the statue it was hard to move with the large number of tightly packed bodies bowing or sitting in reverence and even harder to see the statue itself as the view was blocked with the framework of coloured lanterns that have been set up in anticipation of Buddha's 2553 birthday on May the 2nd. Once i had recovered my breath and sampled the view of the mountains surrounding us I made my way forward to admire the skill of an ancient artisan.

When it came time to head back down we naturally followed the path that continued on beyond the statue. That was our mistake. It was a lot easier getting down and we were quickly at the base of the hill thinking if we'd come up this way our legs wouldn't be feeling like they wanted to drop off. Our thinking also included the idea that if we followed this way we'd eventually arrive back at the bus stop we were dropped off at. But how wrong we were. It was at the bottom of the fourth car park that we came to the depressing conclusion we were on the wrong side of the mountain and had now idea how to get to where we needed to be. My friend flagged down a passing car and the driver quickly confirmed our dilemma but he also just as quickly offered us a solution, he offered to drive us around to the correct place. We very thankfully jumped in and ogled the fate he had saved us from as we headed back out onto the highway and eventually to our recognizable starting point.

Part of the aim of this trip was to restore my faith in the locals, it's working!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

love this little bridge....almost like a toy.