A&E on the World Heritage Train East 2009 travel blog

Naejangsa Temple

Naejangsa Temple

The way forward

Korean tower blocks from up on the mountain

The way just covered

Baengnyeoman Hermitage, note the reversed swastika, the symbol for Buddhism in Korea

Baengnyeoman Hermitage

Chipmunk, everywhere in the korean forests

Clubbing next door till at least four a.m. a noisy business. I tried the free pot noodle for breakfast, but it was every bit as bad as I remember them being. So off I went to the bus station and then directly to Naejangsan National Park. Much to my surprise I was there before 10, so got a motel and set off to explore the mountains. It is extremely lovely here, and I immediately chilled out and decided to stay an extra day. Basically the Mountain (as is often the case in Asia) is a small range of mountains, in this case in a horseshoe, completely forested, mostly with acers. Sadly, it was too early for most of them to be colourful, but they're still great trees. It should be amazing in a few weeks time, when half of Korea is expected to come to see it. Hopefully I will get to see some acers in Japan.

I was going to do a short circuit around three temples, and then walk the whole horseshoe of eight peaks tomorrow, but as I had so much time I decided to extend the temples up on to the peaks. Blimey, it was harder than yesterday! All Korean mountains are steep, but these were especially so, often having to use ropes, ladders, stairs bolted to the cliffs, etc. And what looked like a fairly even run between two of the main peaks in fact went up and over several minor peaks on the way, sometimes meaning climbing up several hundred steps, going straight down another several hundred, straight back up a load more, etc, etc, like a roller coaster. I was sweating even more than yesterday, if that was possible.

But seven hours later back at home it felt great, and the first and last temples were really nice and the mountains and views were great too, and I'm even looking forward to doing the rest of the horseshoe tomorrow, though I know it will be just as hard. I have been looking for a good pic of Korean tower blocks, this one is a bit blurry as it was taken from a top of a nearby mountain but I think shows well how they crowd together. Most Koreans live in tower blocks - all the flat land is used for farming - and these are very close together with big numbers on the side, like some Stalinist thing.

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