Cheonggyesan (청계산) is a beautiful mountain that extends over Seocho-gu district and stretches all the way down through Gwacheon, Uiwan and Seongnam. Intersected by a pristine 2km fresh water valley, it is said to be one of two guarding mountains in Seoul; the other being Gwanaksan.
Despite its height (620m), the hike to the top is pretty steep in parts, but overall it’s relatively easy going. The unspoilt surroundings certainly don’t hurt and are a great distraction from those aching calves when you’re nearing the summit.
There are several trails to choose from at the entrance; I opted for the Maebong (2200m) course.
One my way down, I stopped by Cheonggyesa Temple (청계사), which is very close to the main entrance.
The hike left me a little stiff, but it was nothing a little tofu, kimchi and makgeolli couldn’t fix.
Getting there: Take subway Line 3 to Yangjae Station. From there, get on the newly opened DX Line (Shinbundang Line); this will take you right to Cheonggyesan Station. Get out Exit 2 and follow it all the way to the underpass market.
Busan’s a great city. Visits down here always feel too short. I did get a chance to check out Gamcheon Art Village over the weekend though. I left Saturday afternoon from Haeundae, grabbing bus number 1003 just outside Angel-in-Us coffee shop across from the Busan Tourism Center. This took me to Jagalchi Fish Market (40mins). From there I took a 10min taxi ride (KRW5,000) the rest of the way.
Set high up on a hill overlooking the city, Gamcheon is full of constricted alleyways, colorfully painted housing, steep inclines, and friendly locals. There’s a huge emphasis on art here. And for good reason. The relatively impoverished neighborhood morphed into the open-air art installation that it is to bring a little life and happiness to the area.
Once populated with refugees from the Korean War, the community has come together over the years to improve their conditions through art.
The artwork itself is pretty interesting, especially the Mirrored Wall, the huge mural at the entrance that reflects the other side of the street. When you face it from a distance, the distorted wall-sized painting looks almost like you’re entering an animated world.
Best drop into to the village center up on your right just after the entrance and grab a map (KRW 2,000). The map will lead you on an ‘art hunt’ whereby if you collect all seven stamps from the various art houses along the way you receive a handful of unique picture postcards.
There are three courses. I decided on Course A which cuts through the heart of the village and then winds its way back up to the entrance. But rather than follow the curved road that encompasses the village back, I walked all the way back down to the main road, cutting through side streets and meandering through more alleyways.
Arrows painted on the sides of the houses guide visitors through narrow streets, past embankments which boasted incredible views over the port, and into the art houses themselves.
To find out more, simply drop the Busan Tourism Office a line (they speak English), or shoot me an email and I’ll point you in the right direction.
American multi-instrumentalist Esperanza Spalding will be bringing her jazz roots to AX-Korea in Seoul this coming Friday (September 7). Show starts at 8pm. Tickets are KRW 110,000 (seating) and KRW 99,000 (standing).
Spalding began her classical training as a cellist but her musical journey took a much different direction when she discovered bass at 14.
Citing Ron Carter and Dave Holland as musical heroes, the hugely talented singer-bassist is also a fan of fusion music, often blending Brazilian rhythms in her work. In 2011, she scooped up both a Grammy for Best New Artist and a Boston Music Award for Jazz Artist of the Year.
For Spalding, the music industry has reached a point where women seem to rely more on their sex appeal rather than their inherent talent.
She prefers to let her musicianship shine through rather than relying solely on her looks. “To write original music,” she says, “One must read and stay informed about the world.”
Spalding’s style is largely attributed to her fears that jazz music “has wandered from its roots”. If you’re not familiar with her work, I strongly encourage you to give it a listen.
In an industry inundated with manufactured, bubble gum pop, her music is a welcoming breath of fresh air.
Contact Justin at Private Curve for more information: email@example.com/ (02) 563-7110.
Tickets can be purchased through Interpark: ticket.interpark.com/ 1544-1555.
On September 1 a group of seven pilgrims will leave Bunwhang-sa temple in Gyeonju to re-enact the famous journey the Korean Buddhist saint Wonhyo made from Gyeongju to the area of Wonhyo-bong more than 1,300 years ago.
This is the second Wonhyo pilgrimage. The first one, an exploratory trip, took place in December of last year. In that journey, the pilgrims covered just shy of 500 km, much of which was walked along back roads and mountain tracks. The journey took them from Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Korean Shilla kingdom, to what is known as Wonhyo’s cave near Dangjin, on the west coast of South Chungcheong Province, just south of Incheon. The second pilgrimage is expected to finish in the same place.
Wonhyo’s journey resulted in his enlightenment. Legend has it that he and fellow spiritual seeker Uisang, took shelter from a storm in an old tomb they thought was a cave. During the night Wonhyo became thirsty and began searching on the ground for a gourd of water. He found one and picked it up and drank deeply from it. The water was sweet and refreshing and he slept deeply until dawn. In the morning he discovered that the vessel he had drunk from was not a gourd but a human skull. It was not filled with sweet, clean water but instead was full of dirty rainwater, rotting meat and maggots. He was so revolted by what he had drank that he fell on his knees and vomited. At that moment, the question came to his mind “Why? Why was the water so sweet and refreshing in the night and yet so revolting in the day?” The answer came to him that it was his mind that determined the difference between the water at night time and in daytime, not the water itself. He realized that truth is created by the mind. At that moment, he attained enlightenment.
MacGregor said the pilgrimage was a joint effort between him and his friends and was inspired by the kindness and goodwill from Koreans that he and his friends had experienced during their stays in Korea. “We wanted to say thank you to Korea and Koreans in a special way, and what better way than through a pilgrimage to honor Korea’s most beloved and respected Buddhist saint, Wonhyo.”
To learn more about the pilgrimage visit http://www.inthefootstepsofwonhyo.
BRIT Award-winning singer-songwriter James Morrison will play Yonsei Auditorium Sunday, October 7, 2012. Part of Private Curve’s Beautiful Singer-Songwriter Series, it marks Morrison’s first time playing Seoul and promises to be a good night.
Widely known for his hugely successful 2006 debut single “You Give Me Something“, Morrison went on to release a string of chart-topping albums (Undiscovered and Songs for You, Truths for Me) and international hit singles, including “You Make It Real” and “Broken Strings“.
He has performed with industry giants Jason Mraz and Nelly Furtado, and even wrote ”Quello che dai” for Italian singer Marco Carta.
Morrison first started singing at a bar in Derby, England, and was later scouted for a chance to record a demo. This led to the recording of his debut album ‘Undiscovered’ in 2006 which became a tremendous hit. In its first week of release, the album soared to first place on the UK album chart, and went on to sell 100,000 albums worldwide.
The Beautiful Singer-Songwriter Series was launched in 2008 by one of Korea’s prominent concert promoting companies, Private Curve Co., Ltd, and has brought the likes of James Mraz, Jonsi, James Blunt, The Swell Season, Ben Folds, Jamie Cullum, Rufus Wainwright, Raul Midon, Jung Jaehyung to the city.
Tickets: R-zone 121,000won, S-zone 99,000won, A-zone 77,000won (VAT included)
Concert Inquiry: 02) 563-0595
Tore off out of Seoul last weekend for another road trip. It’s becoming sort of an annual ritual. Last year we took an amazing road trip along the southern tip of the peninsula, from Yeosu all the way up to Busan. The year before that, we camped, drank and BBQ’d on beaches along the east coast.
Korea really has some amazing scenery. Only kicker is, you have to break free from the conveniences (clutches) of the city to revel in it. This year’s journey took us from Namhae to Suncheon and Gwangyang, and then up along the west coast.
Namhae really is a magical place. Still largely underdeveloped (for not, that is), the drive in grants scenes like the one below. It’s remote, rustic and relaxed. My kind of place.
On Saturday I picked up the car at Avis (190,000 KRW for two days, including insurance and GPS) at 5:30am and was on the road by 6am. Made it down to Namhae by 11ish, grabbed Min and then headed to first to the beautiful Suncheon Wild Teahouse, tucked up in the hills just off the road leading to the thousand-year-old Sunamsa Temple.
Here we were served tea the Korean way, keeping with the traditional practices of ‘tado‘, or ‘way of the tea. The little bite-sized nibbles that are served with the tea (a tasty melange of whole grain and honey) are delicious. I had to order seconds.
The teahouse was gorgeous, and the sleepy afternoon haze certainly hurt either. It was hard to uproot ourselves afterwards and get back on the road.
Next up was Suncheon Bay. Home to tons of migratory birds, the wetlands are incredibly scenic. A great vantage point is Yongsan Observatory. The 40min walk from the parking lot, through blowing reeds is actually pretty meditative, for lack of a better word.
I’ve heard so much about Suncheon but never had the chance to make it down. It’s a great sleepy little town with some beautiful surrounding landscape.
From there, we drove up to Gwangyang. The city is famous for its bulgogi (marinated beef) so naturally we had to have a try ourselves to see what all the fuss was about. It didn’t disappoint. The meat was phenomenally good.
The next morning, we made our way to Mohang Beach in Byeonsan National Park. It isn’t one of the better beaches I’ve been to in Korea – my favourite ones are just north of Pohang, along the east coast – but it was a great little pit stop to soak up some sun and nurse a couple beers.
An hour or so later, we heaved our rumps off the sand and plowed ahead to Boryeong to a feast of fist-sized scallops and other shell fish. Not a bad way to end the trip.
Boryeong is where the annual Mud Festival takes place. I was there not too long. Penned a piece for CNNGo in which I included all the details for those wanting to check it out. The beach is nice and wide, and the boardwalk is lined with some fantastic seafood restaurant.
Woraksan is one of Korea’s most challenging and certainly more beautiful mountains. Towering 1,094 m (3,589 ft), its landscape is home to several temples, Buddhist shrines and historical relics. Hiking up its craggy cliff walls is no easy feat but the views that await one from the summit more than make up for it.
Given its isolated location, it’s one of the least visited national parks in Korea. This can be a good thing. For those looking to get away from the chaos and congestion of Seoul, this is about as remote as it gets.
Blessed with verdant gorges, waterfalls, pristine lakes, fresh mountain water streams and Korean White Pines, the views are simply stunning. The park is also home to an abundance of wildlife and rare plants. Local officials have gone to great lengths at preserving Woraksan’s ecological diversity; trails are marked with signs indicating hiking courses are regulated to prevent forest fires.
A good point of entry is the Deokjusa Temple entrance, located in the quaint city of Deokju. From here there are a number of trails – the longest being 4.9km – that lead all the way up to the summit. The temple is also just over a kilometer from the gate.
Running alongside the trail is a crystal clear water stream that trickles down from the mountain peaks – perfect for dipping the feet in and nursing some beer after a long hike (which is exactly what we did!).
Also just up from the entrance is a walled fortress that stretches ten kilometers around the entire mountain. Dating all the way back to the Goryeo Dynasty, the fortification was once used as a defensive perimeter against invading Mongols, and later as a barrier against the Japanese occupation in 1592. It is the first of several historical relics along the journey up the mountain representative of what life was like thousands of years on the peninsula.
A little further up, on the southern foot of Woraksan to the east of Deokjusa’s Hall of Sakyamuni, is an enormous Buddha stone carving (마애물). From there, the terrain is hugely challenging and unforgiving. Those looking to reach the summit should be prepared for a serious workout, and should set aside five to seven hours to make it up and down. In some parts, the stairs continue almost at a forty-five degree angle for what seems like an eternity.
Getting there: From Dongseol Bus Terminal (Gangbyeong Station, subway Line 2). Buses leave every two hours starting from 6:40am. Fare is 13,000 KRW for the three- hour journey.