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Published: September 14th 2016
21st May: We left Seoul very, very early. We had a long drive ahead of us as Miryang is at the opposite end of Korea. Luckily the traffic wasn't too bad and with a couple of short rest stops we made it there by lunchtime. Speaking of lunch we were all starving when we arrived, so took a walk through the market looking for somewhere to eat. No where looked that appealing, so I headed back to a Kimbap Cheonguk I had spotted earlier. Some jjigae, mandu and kimbap filled me up nicely. We re-grouped near the entrance to the festival area and were met by our tour guide. This trip was dirt cheap, I paid less than 30,000 won, as it was sponsored by the local Miryang government and a Seoul based marketing company, that is trying to promote tourism in the region.
Arirang is a Korean folk song and extremely popular. It is a kind of unofficial national anthem. There are different versions of Arirang and the Miryang version is one of the most famous. It is a love song of a dancing girl from Miryang, who was left behind by her lover from Seoul. We were in
what appeared to be the historical centre of Miryang. Straight away the city reminded me of Jinju, another southern city I had visited the previous year for their spectacular lantern festival. This place was like a mini Jinju. There was a competition going on in one of the pavilions, they were picking who would be Miss. Arirang. I was surprised to hear them giving their speeches in English as well as Korean. We were shown around some of the other buildings and their history was explained to us. From there we headed down to the river and watched some performances that were going on. That was fun!
We then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around. There were some food stalls that had food from different countries around the world and there was a big building which had food on display, showcasing the different restaurants in Miryang. We then headed back to the river and did some random activities, smashing plates, anyone? Before looking around some craft stalls. We then chilled by the river. Miryang is a very pretty town and it was nice to be in a more rural setting.
We went to take some group
photos in town as promotional material for the marketing company, then it was back on the bus and we drove to the Miryang Museum. Since it was pretty late, I have a feeling we got there after hours or very close to closing time. Not much in the museum was in English, but the main curator described things to us and one of the group members translated. You could also do some block printing with traditional pictures. I didn't do one, but the pictures looked really good. Then we took a walk around the grounds there was a big pond and lots of Taegukgi flags. We also got to watch a bit of the sunset.
The bus drove us back to the city and we were deposited in front of the restaurant, where we would eat dinner. The restaurant was a traditional place and we were led into a large private room. It was the typical set up of low tables and we arranged ourselves around the tables. Soon the food started to come out. It was a series of banchan (side dishes) all arranged in small bowls around a central one, so it kind of looked like a
flower. We were also given a hot clay pot with rice, we spooned out most of the rice and then filled the pot with water and put the lid back on. The food was all really delicious and we got second helpings of some of the dishes. When we were finished we open our clay pots and drank/ate the water and rice combo. Fantastic!
After dinner we were taken back to the river area to watch the Arirang performance. The place was packed. Luckily some seats had been saved for us, so we were in a good position. The fortress on the hill on the opposite side of the river was all lit up and again this place really reminded me of Jinju, where I had been to the lantern festival. I sat waiting for the performance, growing increasingly tired. They had some kids do performances, which were nice, but not really my cup of tea. The the ads started. One of the guys in our group was getting increasingly pissed off with the ads and suggested we should go back to the bus. By this point I was so tired, I didn't really care about watching the performance.
When the others got back to the bus, they said it had been really good, but really all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep for a week. The day had been just too long for me. To make matters worse, some people got lost on the way back to the bus, not their fault but it did add a delay on getting to our pension. Our accommodation was about a twenty to thirty minute drive out of the city. There was a small convenience store there, which they had kept open late especially for us. I greatly appreciated that as it meant I could get some very unhealthy breakfast supplies. The place we were staying in looked brand new and pretty swanky. Our room was huge, I think there were about ten of us sharing it. It had two big bedrooms and a lounge room. I opted to sleep in the lounge. There was lots of nice new looking bedding. The bathroom was very nice, but I wasn't too sure about the double shower as none of us knew each other well enough to make use of it. I was happy to be clean and crawl
into my bedding.
22nd May: It was an early start, not that I'd had the greatest night's sleep. There was a lot of noise from outside and the sun rose early, which also woke me up. After having a quick breakfast of iced coffee and cup ramyeon, it was time to head down to the bus. The place we were staying in was gorgeous, one of the nicest places I've stayed in, in all my time in Korea, but we didn't have time to appreciate it, arriving so late the night before and then leaving early. I did mange take take in some of the views from the dining hall of the complex. We were surrounded by mountains. It was really beautiful. I wonder if this was used as accommodation in winter for any nearby ski resorts. I would be happy to relax there after a long day's skiing.
We drove for a little while, until we reached a convenience store. Knowing that they wouldn't have enough food to feed a whole bus full, I made a beeline for the sandwiches and snagged the only decent one. I also bought more coffee and snacks to keep me going
throughout the day. We drove on further to reach the Yeongnam Alps, where were would spend the day hiking. Where we started the trail was pretty nondescript, the bus literally pulled over on the side of the road, we got out and walked down the road to the starting point, which had a small map marking the trail. Yeongnam Alps are located in Gyeongsangnam-do. They are said to remind locals of the European Alps. The first part of the trail was a little steep as we climbed up to a kind of ridge line. From there the trail was nice and flat, and we were in the shade of the trees. Sections of the trail were out in the open and we were all liberally applying sunscreen as it was a hot one. There were lots of mountain ranges surrounding us. What beautiful views! We reached the two peaks of Neungdongsan, the first peak 983 metres high and the second 968 metres high. I feel like we must have started off at a pretty high elevation as I didn't feel like there was much uphill to get them. We continued on, I feel that the path started to get steeper
but not too much. We came out of the woods are were greeted with what felt like civilisation. There was a big building that acted as some kind of shelter/restaurant. We headed up to the top floor, where there were lots of tables and a small concession selling food and drinks. We had our lunch and enjoyed the views from the balcony.
After lunch we went to take some photos, where there was more decking set up. This meant that we got some nice views of Milyang. From there, we didn't have too much further to reach the peak, only 2.3 kilometres. The trail had become steeper here and I was enjoying the more energetic workout. The first part was through the shade of some trees. Then the trail came out into the open. It was both rocky and grassy, with a clear trail up the middle. It was a hot day and I was definitely sweating by this point. I reached the highest peakthat we would visit, and the second highest of the Yeongnam Alps, Cheonhwangsan. It is 1,189 metres high. The peak marker had, as always, the name of the mountain written in Chinese characters. However someone
had crossed out the middle character and written Sajabong (Lion Peak) next to it in Hangeul. A friend explained it to me. Under the Japanese colonial rule, the names of many places in Korea had been changed, as a way to wipe out the Korean identity and further establish Japanese power. The name Cheonhwangsan and the Chinese characters it derives from come from this time. Sajabong is the original name of the mountain and someone wanted to make it known. I found that really interesting as I hadn't seen it on any other mountains I had climbed in Korea.
We were all feeling pretty tired and our itinerary said that we would visit another peak. We were kind of hoping and praying that we could skip it and just head don the mountain as we also had a long bus journey ahead of us and it was already early afternoon. However it was not to be and we made our way down to Jaeyaksan. It took a while to reach there. It was a couple of kilometres away. Since Jaeyaksan is 1,119 metres high, the trail was mainly downhill, with only a couple of small uphill sections. I liked
Jaeyaksan, as there was a large deck to take in the views and it was very rocky. This meant we could scramble about a bit to explore the views better. We continued down and down, the trail wasn't too difficult, we were all just tired and ready to be done. The views as we descended into the valley made up for this as it was really beautiful. We were surrounded by the mountains and could take some respite in the shade.
We had finally reached the end of the trail. Since I was in the first group with the local guide, he lead us to a small stream area, where we were able to take off our shoes and socks and did our feet in the cool water. It felt heavenly! There is nothing nicer after a long hike than refreshing our feet in some water. We chilled there for about ten minutes and then headed over to the temple, Pyochunsa. Standing looking at the temple, we could see the mountains above us and could make out where we had been hiking. I definitely had a big feeling of accomplishment. The temple was beautiful and serene as almost all
temples are in my opinion. There weren't too many people there, too, which made it more enjoyable to walk around. Pyochungsa was originally called Jungnimsa and is part of the Jogye Order of Korean Bhuddism. It was established by Wonhyo, a leading Buddhist monk, in 654, but in a different location. It moved to its present location during the Shilla period and the reign of King Heungdeok. The sun was starting to go down a little too, which made the temple look even prettier. There is also a shop selling water and ice cream. What a bonus after a long hike!
It was about six pm by the time we left. The drive back to Seoul was a long one. Since we had left so late, we had missed most of the traffic. We got to Gangnam after 11 pm and I made my last bus home, which was followed by a longish walk. It was a great weekend, but long and tiring. At least I could have a lie-in the next day to recover.
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