Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Many Hikes to the Golden Buddha of Bukhansan

While Adrienne was visiting, I discovered directions to the elusive Guknyeongsa Temple in Bukhansan National Park, where I have been hiking several times. On a few of those hikes, I could see an enormous Buddha sitting high above the trees, but for the life of me (and Ben when we tried) could not find it.

But then, someone wrote a blog in the winter that had very specific directions.

Adrienne and I decided to hike there. It was awesome. I also took Allison there. Then, I took another group of friends there. I hiked to the giant Buddha 3 times. During each hike, I announced I was never hiking again and that hiking was the worst.

Then, I'd get to the top and think, "Ahh yes, this is why I go hiking."

I have a love-hate relationship with hiking. I get no pleasure from hiking to the top of a mountain, but once I'm there I'm very happy I hiked. I also enjoy the way down, which is usually when I take pictures.

Adrienne and I hiked up in early April, when the weather was still pleasantly cool. I had very specific directions, which was good. In order to get to the temple, you have to climb through what appears to be a person's backyard, then climb up their stairs and into a hidden path.

I knew that this was the case, but a very insistent Korean hiking group wanted to lead us there themselves. This would have been fine if they weren't mildly condescending. And if they could speak English.

Hikers in Korea are intense. I've seen them climbing sheer rock cliffs, pulling themselves up by ropes. (I did not do that because I would immediately tumble backwards and die). Some of these people are quite old, but go sprinting up those mountains like it's nothing.

The entire time, one of the men who refused to go away kept saying, "You are a very good hiker!"

I am not a good hiker. Adrienne is an okay hiker but was announcing her hatred of exerting herself.

It took us a while, but we eventually made our escape. Yes, I know, it would have been good to practice my Korean, but I was with Adrienne and she speaks zero Korean and would have been left out of the conversation. And the whole reason of going was to hike with her, even if there was mutual complaining involved.

We made it to the Buddha in a little over an hour. It was awesome and definitely worth the hike.

Here I am in front of the Buddha.

Adrienne posing in front of the Buddha.

This specific Golden Buddha of Bukhansan is the largest sitting Buddha in East Asia. I believe that the temple was founded about 1300 years ago. It is very beautiful.

Adrienne purposely cutting off my head.

Adrienne leaping in front of my picture.

The Buddha is surrounded by thousands of tiny buddhas as well.
Adrienne sporting her new glasses.
There's the reflection of the golden Buddha in the window of the many other buddhas.


Lovely reflections.
The view from the temple.

Adrienne copying the man in this picture.

Adrienne looking normal for once.

Here i am refusing to be caught unprepared.

Adrienne making her usual face.
Notice the hoodie. Unfortunately, the other two times I went hiking, the hoodies were not needed.
The constant cutting off of my face.

On our way back down, we saw the cutest squirrel I've ever seen. It was so fluffy!

And had really pointy ears!

I took more pictures on my way down the mountain, due to not dying of exertion.

Bukhansan national park is really beautiful. The mountains in Korea are quite small compared to what I grew up seeing in Washington, but they seem unique. Rocky with a mixture of trees.

Here I am falling off a cliff.
Here Adrienne is also falling off the cliff.

This helicopter was flying about and constantly interrupting our hike. Later down the mountain, it landed right next to us and blew dirt in my eye.
The water in the stream along the path is quite clear and inviting, but you can't go in it.

This was a smaller temple on the way up/back down the mountain.

He's so happy!

Adrienne photobombing. I should stop posting normal pictures of her to encourage her to stop this.

The flowers were beginning to bloom, but the trees didn't have their leaves yet!

Adrienne took a brief ballet break.

So inviting and so unavailable.

There's a mini waterfall.

There was a spider.

Adrienne pretending to jump into the water.

Oh, Adrienne...

I am inserting a brief interlude between Guknyeongsa pictures. Adrienne and I attempted to find Banpo bridge and see the light shows. The internet directions were completely wrong. It led us to this bridge, which was not only not lit up, was not within sight of any other bridge. It was extremely far away from the Banpo bridge. I will try to get there before I leave. We hung out under this bridge for a bit and looked at Seoul by night.

Adrienne spent most of that time under the bridge making constant attempts to ruin my pictures.

Continuing the year of visitors, Allison came to visit at the end of May and we hiked up to Guknyeongsa again. I can tell you, it was freaking hot outside. We were both extremely hot and at about the halfway point up the mountain, Allison announced, "I don't think this is worth it!"

At that part of the hike, I announced that would be my last hike, since summer was coming and it was already extremely hot. And, in case you didn't know, it gets extremely humid in Korea in the summer.

But, we made it after much complaining and declarations of our hatred of hiking.

I missed the buddha in this picture.
Allison agreed once we got there and stopped aggressively sweating that it was worth the hike.

At the end of June, on my friend Erica's birthday, she wanted to hike up to the giant Buddha. I knew how to get there and volunteered to lead the hike. The group I was with were stronger hikers than I am. Jenny and I walked up slowly and purposely left them behind to straggle in the river, because we knew they'd catch up with us. Also, I didn't want to get in trouble for going in the river when we shouldn't.
My friends being rebellious. I was clearly not being rebellious.

It was Erica's birthday that day!
Jenny, my fellow hater of hiking and I. Amelia's hands are in the picture.
I think this picture is hilarious.

This time up the mountain was pretty awesome. It was extremely hot and humid, but once we got up to the top, one of the monks gave us a small tour around the temple. He let us all ring the bell two times, so about 20 times total, which was surprising.

Catherine and Jenny.

The bell we rang.

The monk who showed us around. He was so friendly!

He taught us a bit about the temple and then played the drums for us, which was really interesting and amazing. He had no need to do that for us, but he offered and we gratefully accepted. He taught us the various reasons people meditate etc.

It was a lovely day.

Overall, the hiking trips were definitely worth it. My love-hate relationship will continue, since I always love the result of the hikes I complete! The beautiful views are always worth it.

Here he was ringing the bell.

The following pictures are a couple of my instagram pictures from my many hikes up the mountain.

Here is the monk playing the drums for us.


  1. Wonderful! I want to go! Do you think it would be okay hike to do with kids?

  2. I am curious as to what entrance you used and what bus you took to get there. Also how long did the hike take you round trip?

  3. It's been a couple years, so I don't remember the exact bus and entrance, but this website should tell you:

    I'd say the hike round trip is 2-3 hours depending on how long you want to spend up at the Buddha statue. It's ok do with older kids. Little ones might get tired!