NOTE: Due to my schedule over the last couple of months, I didn’t had the time I’d have liked to post to Ye Olde Photoblog.
I have been posting away at my Tumblr photoblog, though.
Anyway, will be posting more consistently here from this day forward.
MAIN POST: Last weekend, I went with a friend of mine on a long awaited trip to Baegyangsa, a Buddhist temple famous throughout Korea for its spectacular autumn foliage. I should rather say I met a friend of mine down there—unfortunately, I missed the early morning bus and had to go separately by KTX.
Hidden in a valley at the foot of Mt. Baegamsan, the temple and its mountain are actually part of Naejangsan National Park. Thanks to its deep crimson foliage, the park is one of the most popular in Korea come autumn. It’s certainly a must see, but be warned, it can also be something of a madhouse—I tried to take a cab from Jangseong Station to the temple, but had to get out several kilometers out and walk since traffic was at an absolute standstill.
This is the shot everyone goes for.
It’d have been nice to have had a bit more sun on the crimson maples to the left, but I’ll take it.
The pavilion, Ssanggyeru, was first erected in the mid-14th century, although what you see now dates from a 1980 reconstruction. It’s been a favorite scenic spot for quite a while—even famed late Goryeo official and scholar Jeong Mong-ju wrote a poem about it. The harmony of mountain, rock, trees, water and architecture make for a truly stunning sight.
You take the shot of the pavilion from the stepping stones. Yes, it’s crowded, both with photographers and pedestrians trying to cross in both directions. It’s even more unpleasant that it seems, because there’s a steep drop just behind the stepping stones, which can get quite slippery. Lots of ways to lose thousands of dollars in camera equipment. If you have thousands of dollars in camera equipment, which sadly, not all of us do.
Does make for a pretty picture, though.
And to think we were actually a bit late—the colors were apparently even nicer the week before!
A short (roughly 30 min) but steep hike up the mountain brings you to Yaksaam Hermitage, where there’s an observation deck with good views of the Baegyangsa Valley.
Just above the hermitage is a grotto and a very welcome mineral water spring. If you’d like to bag the peak, there are paths that’ll take you there, but put aside five hours for the round trip.
Yaksaam also affords nice views of Baegyangsa Temple itself. Founded in the seventh century, Baegyangsa is one of the most important temples in southwest Korea and one of the country’s leading Seon (“Zen”) centers. Several of its hall are heritage properties; unfortunately, I really didn’t have a chance to look at them as there were events going on at the time.
The small town of Jangseong is the gateway to Baegyangsa. Surprising as this may sound, it’s actually a KTX stop, and is the point where the Honam Line splits with one fork going to Mokpo and the other to Gwangju. Trains to Jangseong depart from Seoul’s Yongsan Station, and take about 2 hrs, 30 min. From Jangseong, you’ll need to take a local bus to the temple.
There are also Mugunghwa trains from Yongsan that stop at Baegyangsa Station. It’s a shorter bus ride to the temple, but the train trek itself is nearly four hours.
NOTE: Gwangju is just 1 hr, 30 min away by bus.
There’s a 3,000 won national park entry fee.
View Baegyangsa Temple in a larger map