CONTRIBUTED BY CHARISSE WINDEBANK
Our family had been meaning to – and finally made it – to Palgongsan to visit Donghwasa Temple and the site of the famous Gatwabi Buddha. Palgongsan is located in the outskirts of Daegu, about a 45-minute drive from our apartment. Since we wanted to beat the crowds and the mid-summer heat, we headed out early to get there.
There were plenty of parking spaces and the information desk had English pamphlets available. The attendant also spoke English and was very helpful in showing us which trails to take. It was a nice sunny day and a great weekend to discover more temples and Korean architecture.
Soon after a short hike through the woods, a compound with several different temples emerges through the clearing. Many of the sites had fresh water fountains for the visitors and those who pay their respects to Buddha. A nice lady approached us and gave us a block of rice cake to snack on after our hike.
As always, the temples were beautiful and statues of Buddhas were grand pieces of stone or metal sculptures. I never grow tired of seeing the multiple temples of Korea and colorful architecture. Mythology also tells the story of the four earthly elements ruled by gods. A lady approached me while I was taking photos of the gods and she tried her best explaining the legends that surround the statues.
After touring a few of the temple grounds, the stairs ascending to more larger temples and a picturesque view of the mountain side. Large multicolored drums lined the outer passages of the temple. The columns extended to the roofs of the temple and made for a great photo backdrop.
After touring Donghwasa Temple, we set our sight on to Gatwabi. Unbeknownst to us, the climb was arduous and even treacherous at times. The climb was steep and never ending to the summit of the mountain. I did a bit of research before attempting this climb, but the few blogs I stumbled upon were all stating that it wasn’t too difficult climb. I guess if we didn’t have a 2 year old in tow, it wouldn’t been so bad.
We kept climbing which seemed like forever. At one point, my husband asked if we could just turn around and go back. I kept thinking that there should just be a few more steps to arrive at our destination and that it should be just right around the corner. It took a little over an hour to climb to the top, and another to climb back down. A nice gentleman named Benjamin, befriended our toddler and gave him a lollipop.
He spoke to us about his trips to the US and that his son now lives in California. He continued to tell us that Gatwabi was known as the Penitent Buddha and people from all walks of life make the trek up the hill to say their prayers. We weren’t the only parents who brought their young children to the mountain. Many young parents had their little ones strapped to their back or carrying them on their shoulders.
As we descended back down on the other side of the mountain, Benjamin notified us that the stairs we took also leads back to the parking lot. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the same parking lot that our car was located. We had ended up on the other side and soon discovered that it would be too far to walk to our car. Luckily, a nice young lady noticed our distress and asked if we needed help. We were able to communicate what we had done and she offered us a ride to the correct parking lot. I don’t know what we would have done if it wasn’t for her.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that you will need to descend on the same set of stairs or you will end up on the wrong side of the mountain. I love the people of Korea the most and will be forever impressed on how a stranger will take the time out of their day to make sure you are ok and will even go out of their way to assist you.
Address: 229, Gatbawi-ro, Dong-gu, Daegu
대구 동구 갓바위로 229 (진인동)
GPS Coordinates: 35.9711164, 128.7262124
Directions (by bus):
from Dong Daegu Station
Take Bus 401 or Express Bus 1 (급행1)
Get off at the entrance of Donghwasa Temple (동화사입구)
Websites in English that include information on how to reach Palgongsan hiking sites.
Charisse originally published this post on her personal blog, and has allowed us to republish it here with her permission.