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South Korea / Asia

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      19.07.2001 18:39
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      Songnisan N.P. is located in the central province of Chungcheongbuk-do (you can get information by calling 0433 5425267). A three and a half hour bus ride from Seoul's Nambu Bus Terminal(on subway line 3, a few stops from Seoul National University) or a two hour trip from Taejon's Tong-bu Terminal will take you to Poun(the nearest town) or 1km further into Songni Village. The bus ride in itself is highly enjoyable as you travel along winding uphill roads and there is a lot to see inside the National Park(I'd highly recommend a hike to Hwayanggugok Valley, a six km region to the north of Mount Songni itself), however the main reason to come to this park is to view the truly awe-inspiring Popchusa Temple(due to recent romanization changes you will probably also encounter signs for Beopju-sa(sa is Korean for temple) followed by a 5km hike north-east to the peak of Munjangdae for superb views(the latter is a little arduous). Popchusa was founded in 533AD, although it's main claim to fame is the 33 metre high standing statue of Buddha. The sight of the 150 ton gold statue set against a backdrop of autumn leaves is one of THE sights of Korea. Directly in front of the statue is a five-story building which is the only large wooden pagoda in the country(it's also one of the few wooden structures of any kind to have survived from the early 1600's as the Japanese had a habit of periodically invading and burning everything to the ground). Also of note is the great hall, Taeungbo-jon, which is the third largest temple hall in the country and, to the side of the compound adjacent to the large iron pole(itself dating from 1007), a boulder called Ch'uraeam which features a sculpted Buddha sitting on a lotus blossom. Other temples in Korea may receive more publicity( notably Pulguk-sa in Kyongju) but, in my opinion, the serenity of Popchu-sa beats them out of sight.

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