Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Seokbulksa: a hidden temple

Our weather the weekend before last was gorgeous.  Cherry blossoms still clung to the trees, the sun was shining, and it was warm enough to forgo jackets, finally.

A friend of ours had finished her teaching contract and was heading back to the states, so we took the hike to Seokbulksa Temple we'd been talking about doing together for months.

The cable car brought us halfway up Geumjeong Mountain (I like hiking but not that much) which we've done once before
 Going up in the cable car

 Soon we found a small village area dotted with traditional restaurants and foot volleyball courts.  Men in business suits (Saturday is often a work day here) kicked up dust as they passed the ball over tennis nets.

We wandered past them and through the flowery hillside to a stream where we stopped to enjoy the view.
Ryan sipped on rice wine, a traditional Korean hiking drink, and snacked on onigiri, a ball of rice, chicken and seaweed.

We found the cherry blossoms were at their peak.

Once we got moving again we were met with a rocky downhill trail that wound around for (MUCH) longer than we would have liked, but it proved to be worth it when we reached the temple.

The atmosphere and views at Seokbulksa were unlike other temples we've seen in Asia.  Its massive stone walls and the peaceful grounds made it difficult to remember we were in the midst of a booming city of four million people.  Because of its slight difficulty, far fewer people were around (aside from a family whose dad was ironically sporting a Jesus shirt) than at other temples.

The uphill walk on the stone path was no picnic as we headed down the mountain, but the weather was on our side so it was hard to complain. 

For dinner we treated ourselves to a savory kimchi pancake, pork stir fry, tuna stew and steamed tofu with kimchi and seaweed at a funky restaurant.
Delicious strawberry makgeolli (rice wine) complemented the meal well.  

More makgelloi please!  
Maybe this time without the hike?

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