Korea, the yin and yang.
Jeonju and Jirisan National Park.

Good and bad.

Having almost missed the train to Jeonju and Jirisan National Park – bad, the tour company shouted us dinner in Jeonju and breakfast in Jirisan as compensation – good.

Very few westerners travel in this part of Korea so we were lucky to have an excellent guide, Chulwoong, to show us the way.

Chulwoong loved to walk and talk so, over 3 days we spent many pleasant hours hiking in the mountains and exploring the numerous temples and small towns in the region.

Close to Jeonju is Han-ok Village a traditional Korean township or ‘Slow Town’ as they are known. In Han-ok we walk through the village, had tea in a traditional tea house and marvelled at the craftsmanship of the new traditional Korean buildings being constructed.

“Tradition” is a word you hear a lot in Korea, as maintaining the old ways is very important to them.

We also met a group of photographers who were travelling around the area, snapping everything in site, so they could sell prints in the city.

The fisrt sign of the big Christian community, over 40% of the Korean population is Christian, was the large Catholic Cathedral in Han-ok Village. At night you can see many crosses illuminating the sky around the Jeonju area, especially from the lookout behind the town. Climbing there was good exercise after our gratis Korean dinner.

From then on we weren’t surprised to see churches everywhere in south.

The following day Chulwoong drove us to Baegyangsa Temple, built in 632 as the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The temple, with its craggy mountain backdrop, is near a river and along its banks the red Korean Lilies were in full bloom.

Interestingly, the local tourists were there as much for the flowers, as the temple.

From there we went to Seonunsan Temple and Seonunsan Provincial Park. They were setting up for a local festival and there were hundreds of colorful ‘Wishing Lanterns’ hanging from a large metal frame.

We again had tea. This one, served in a pavilion by the temple, was provided free by local volunteers, however we did give a small donation to show our appreciation.

The Koreans love to walk and in Seonunsan Provincial Park we were accompanied by hundreds of hikers. They had come down from Seoul by the coach load and walked for three or four hours then headed back to the city.

Finally we made a slight diversion to the west coast to see the tidal flats and the Samyangsa Salt Paddies, where we caught up again with the professional photographers we had met in Han-ok Village.

They were still madly snapping away.

We then travelled, from west to east, through the mountains and over the valleys to Jirisan.

The road system, especially the mountain tunnels and viaducts, are a match for any of those found in Europe.

And just like in Europe, you are constantly being passed at high speed by black and silver sedans and SUVs, however they aren’t Mercs, BMWs or Audis, that race past, but Hyundais, Kias and SsangYongs.

However, unlike Europe and a lot like Australia, they will pass you on either side.

After overnighting at Hanwha Resort we walked to the peak of Mount Nogodan, 1507m, in Jirisan National Park.

Over the last 10 years the government has replanted the vegetation and it’s now returned to a more original state. Tourists can only access the peak for five hours a day and they close it completely during winter.

There were walkers of all ages, from primary school children to retirees.

After 3.5 hours walking in the mountains we discovered Caffe Bene and had the best coffee of the entire trip – so far.

It was then back onto the freeway and off to Busan, a regional port and resort city in the south east of the peninsula.

 

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