What a weekend! Fortunately for you, I got a bit snap-happy. I remembered to pull my phone out from time to time, so you get a front row seat for all the fun. My friends Scott (New Zealand) and Conor (Ireland) were kind enough to let me tag along as they visited a temple and an ancient grave site on Saturday. Let’s start with the temple…
After lunch on Saturday, I met Conor and Scott in Bullo-Dong (Scott’s neighborhood). We hopped on a city bus to Palgong Mountain, a popular park on the outskirts of Daegu. There are lots of hiking trails and two temples at Palgong – one is near the top of the mountain and the other is at the bottom. We chose the one on the bottom – 동화사 (Dong Hwa Sa). This temple’s claim to fame is that it has the “biggest Buddha in the world,” which is either blatantly false or lacking specificity. There is at least one Buddha that is much taller in Korea. It was very impressive, nevertheless.
Although it is called a “temple”, 동화사 was more like a Buddhist community. The entrance to the compound was guarded by four giant wooden soldiers and an old guy in a security uniform who charged us 2,500 won (about $2.50). Everywhere we went, workers were busy removing lanterns and cleaning in the wake of Buddha’s recent birthday. Most of the lanterns were still hanging, which made for some great photos.
After we visited the first few temples and the gift shop, a short hike took us to the foot of “the biggest Buddha in the world.” The statue towered over a large cement courtyard and a huge wooden temple. Dozens of smaller statues were scattered around Buddha’s feet. The rear of the courtyard was a curved walkway lined with intricate carvings of Hindu gods.
As we were leaving, we walked through a parking lot that connects the compound to the main road. Near the bottom, a few hundred yards from the rest of the compound, we passed a large boulder extruding from the side of the mountain. In the center was a faint carving of Buddha that appeared to have been nearly erased by time. I would have thought it was completely forgotten were it not for two small flower pots at the foot of the stone. This was my favorite part of the tour – it felt like the most direct connection to the history of a place that has become a tourist trap.
Enjoy the show.
Until next time.