Saturday, January 08, 2011

Wintery Korea trip- Day 2

We were off bright and early the next morning. Our destination? Gangwondo where we will be staying at High1 Resort. But first, a temple visit along the way.

Korea's main religion used to be Buddhism, but Christianity has been on the rise and I believe it may have overtaken Buddhism. Still, Buddhisim (or aspects of it) is still very much part of their way of life.

We were supposed to visit Woljeongsa/월정사 but ended up at Bubheungsa/법흥사 instead due to time contraint.

Bubheungsa/법흥사 is located at Gangwondo, Yeongwolkun and is about 1,400 years old. Though not as famous as some other temples, it is nevertheless a very important because it is just one of 5 temples in Korea that houses the relics of Buddha.

It is huge, though it seemed to be in need of a little more loving care. We were told that the 'spirit' of the temple is very strong and many monks cannt stay in residence at the temple. Hmm...

We took a long uphill walk to the top where the main hall is located.

Quite abit of walk, so good thing it was in winter coz it was a good way of warming up.

*Quirky note: Can you hear the chanting being broadcast at the beginning of the walk up?

We stopped by this little stream/ fountain on the way up. It's water direct from the mountain top. Took a sip - it was cool and clear. No funny taste at all. I'm not sure if it's meant to have any healing powers...

See the many small Buddha statues? They were next to the fountain stream.

Because Bubheungsa/법흥사 houses a relic of Buddha, there is no statue of Buddha in the temple. (Now that's a fact I only found out at this trip).

Prayer lanterns..

Carvings on the wall just behind the main hall.

This was the meditation place as well as the final resting place for the founder of the temple. And the relic is actualy not inside the temple but somewhere amongst the mountains just behind the temple. During the turbulent times, the relic was hidden away in case lest any harm should come to it. Ok..this is one complicated temple.

Temple stay is possible here. If you are going in a large group, there will be a minium cost but if it's just one or two of you, I think the cost will be waived as the temple is not in the business to make money.

For more infor, go to their website but be warned, it's in Korean. Or you can go to Adventure Korea for a little more help. If you want to stay at other temples, check out KTO's site. Also read about this guy's temple stay at Bubheungsa/법흥사. Quite informative and gives a pretty good idea of what to expect. Click here, here and here.

There are bigger stone pagodas in some temples but these are personal ones, along the way to the top of the temple. I've read that you can pick a stone and place it on top of the pile, whilst making a prayer/ wish at the same time.'t make any wish or prayer. ^^

After that we proceeded to the hall below for some tea, especially brewed by the second top monk there using the first baby leaves, which are expensive but taste heavenly. The tea ceremony was rather simple I thought but maybe this was an informal tea ceremony?

Tea ceremony

Monk robes (I don't think I will find one that fits my size....)

After this, we went on our way to a much needed lunch.

Outside view from inside bus ^^

When we reached our lunch destination, it started to snow. For us, it would be first snow and we all got pretty excited. There would be more snow to come during the rest of our trip.

Gangwondo is well known for the fish, Pollock and it is especially eaten in abundance during winter to keep the cold away. I can certianly vouch for that because it brought much needed warmth to my body. I love the tasty soup. The spicy grilled pollock was good though I did find it just that little bit too chewy.

Does this clip make you hungry? Hehehehe! Interested in trying out this restaurant? Unfortunately, I don't have the address but you can call them.
Hwangtae Myeongga/황태명가 Tel: 033-591-5288

There are also quite a few winter related activities/ festivals in Gangwondo including a big Pollock Festival. Check out here for more details.

It was time to head to High1 Resort for my first ski lessons. But first, off to rent the required skiing attire. If you have ever been to a ski resort, you would have noticed the many ski rental shops nearby. You can rent all the necessary attire and equipment in these shops. Whilst I can't really compare on the prices, I am assuming they should be cheaper than cheaper than those from the Ski Resort. We rented from High1Skiplus

Check out the skis!

Built in 2006, High1 Resort, part of the Kangwon Land Family Resort Complex is considered fairly new. This place used to be a mining area and when the the mining industry died, they decided to make use of the natural landscape and turn it into a top notch resort.

I glanced through their website and found that it is very family oriented, providing play areas even for toddlers. If you are tired of skiing, there is a hiking trail around the hotel. And get this- You can ski in this resort all year round! Though it does seemed stramge to me that people would want to ski during summer. I am really very curious to know how is it like? Anyone game to try?

High1 Resort seems a little less crowded than Yongpyong Resort which is great if you are really interested in trying skiing.

Quirky note:A Sunny Place of the Young starring Bae Yong Joon (as a supporting role) was partly filmed here. Now If I had known earlier, I would have dug out my set of dramas and do a quick watch before going. Hehe!

Children just back from their skiing lessons.

Allow yourself plenty of time if you are going skiing coz there seems to be alot of preparations before skiing. From choosing the right skiing jacket and pants, to getting the shoes and skis to actually going up to the ski slope. I think we took almost 2 hours.

You have to measure your feet size before you can rent the shoes and skis.

I have to admit- those darn shoes are really difficult to put on because they are really, really stiff and hard and heavy. According to the ski instructor, the shoes/ski should feel as one with your leg. Right....

It was very difficult to sit down (what with the heavy and bulky attire) and putting on the skis were no mean feat. I couldn't bend down to do it (that includes a few others as well so I don't feel so stupid) and in the end, a very nice staff came over and helped us.

Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera along to the skiing lessons but here's a photo of me in the skiing attire (minue the cool looking sunglasses).

We were led to a very gentle slope by this rather cute instructor. Julie, our guide told us most of the skiing instructors tend to be young and rather good looking, so that's incentive for you if you intend to take up skiing lessons.

We were taught to go up the slope, ski down, turn and get up when we fall. My conclusion? It will take more than a couple of lessons before I can go "Wheee!" down the slope. Getting up from the ground was particularly hard. But it was a good experience and I would definitely try it again though I must admit, I had rather sore legs after the whole session. Me getting old... :(

Dinner that night was at a special restuarant- Unamjeong. The filming site of the drama, Gourmet (starring Kim Rae Won & ). Unamjeong is also the name of restaurant named in the drama. I wonder if the actual restaurant was already in existence before drama....

Anyway, the whole place was rather magical because it was snowing..

It's fine dining at this restaurant..

Bibimbap & Bulgogi

The highlight of the menu is the bibimbap, which uses raw beef. I must confess, I was a little appehensive about raw beef. But Julie kep reassuring us that it's very fresh and very safe and very sweet. So here goes...

It was pretty good. Actually, it was delicious. I'm not sure if I really tasted the raw beef as it was so mixed up with all the ingredients and the sauce but it was yummy. I finished the whole bowl!

Quirky note: Brass bowl was used because it's meant to keep the food hot longer.

Inside the restaurant

I really love the atmosphere at this restaurant but I'm curious if anyone would drive up all the way there just to eat.

It was rather early by the time we finished dinner so a few of us decided to visit the casino. Hehe!

There are about 19 casinos in Korea and the one at Kangwondo Land is the largest. Like Singapore's law, the locals have to pay a fee to get in whilst it's free for foreigners. Just show your passport at the registration counter. No photography or recording allowed though.

The place was packed...moatly with Koreans though. I spent about 45 minutes walking amongst the tables and machines and watching people play. It is rather fascinating. I did want to try my luck but as none of my companions wanted to do so, I felt a little shy. Which was just as well anyway coz me got no gambler's luck.

Quirky note: There is wifi at the hotel but only for Korean based and Korean phones. One of the guy had a Samsung phone and he was THE ONLY ONE who could receive wifi.

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