Anilsa Temple, not Apsan Park

In Asia on July 19, 2010 at 8:30 am

Though the forecast said rain, it was a beautiful sunny day. A day to wake up and get to hiking.

After covering the various blister patterns on my feet with a combination of cartoon and clear, waterproof bandages, I shod myself and was off.

I caught a tekshi and asked him to take me to Apsan. What I should have said was “Apsan Park-uh,” but I was not aware of this. The driver gave me candy and turned his Korean talk radio to an American music station. It played J. Lo’s “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” and I felt like I was 14 again as I sucked on the equivalent of a Werther’s Original Caramel. Phil Collins crooned “Against All Odds,” and I prided myself on an early start to the day.

My satisfaction with the cabbie dwindled once we started passing what looked like park entrances. He started driving away from what was clearly the hiking zone, so I just said “Okay, okay” and got out.

The entrance looked a little small and out of the way, but I can’t read Korean so I just figured I would start walking up the mountain. Hiking is hiking no matter if you are in the correct designated area.

Before starting in earnest, I stopped at a building that said “Indian.” I can’t eat Indian food so I was just going to get some water when I realized that there were little posters up all over the place that said “Indian reservation.” There were also pictures of Native Americans on about every wall and a distinct attempt at a rustic flavor. I asked for a menu, which turned out to have mainly overpriced American fare.

Done. I was after some Ramen, but I was sweating like I was in a sauna so it didn’t much matter once I sat down.

My seafood pasta contained some cute little octopi that were too rubbery to enjoy but a minor adventure none the less.

There looked to be two ways up the hill, but I couldn’t decide which looked better so I just paced back and forth cursing under my breath. Suddenly some Korean youth came bounding down the mountain. “Hi! Hi!” they shouted, practicing the only English they knew.

I obliged with my embarrassed, oversmiling Western bit and pointed uphill. “Nay? Yes?” I asked. They didn’t know what the hell I wanted but I starting walking anyway. Some older gentleman gave me what seemed to be very clear instructions in Korean. Super. It looked like uphill was the most logical choice.

The going was rocky and sweaty. Koreans napped in various areas along the way when they were not completely burning me in my trek to the mountain.

It’s important to avoid confusion between hiking with walking. You’ve never felt a Stairmaster like this.

After multiple stops and drenching my t-shirt with the sweat and make-up I wiped as it poured from my forehead, I made it to a little water station. Though I knew Adrienne would advise me against sharing the ladles and drinking from the source, I didn’t care and opted to hydrate.

Then I moved over to the little waterfall to cool my feet and bring down my body temperature. There were two cute little old ladies already there. When I arrived they immediately encouraged me to hurry up and take my shoes off, which I did gladly. But they started to laugh at me when I just dipped my feet.

“No, no, this will not do,” her shaking head seemed to say. One then splashed around her arms and legs and pointed that I do the same. I obliged and was soon splashing in the cold water like a little kid, which satisfied and delighted them. Not to mention felt amazing.

They played and sang like little kids and looked just as limber. There was no doubt they could beat me in any race.

Korean hospitality soon followed and the other woman tossed me a white plum, laughing as I stretched out my monkey arms to catch her toss that fell just a little short.

The waterfall created a cool mist as I enjoyed my plum and relaxed. I was tempted to dunk my full body under the falls but felt that might not be the thing to do when in Rome and settled for a trek down the mountain to get home to a cold shower.

I checked out the Anilsa Temple before I left. I had no idea it would be there, but I’m glad it was. There were not a lot of visitors, just a group of men doing repair work.

The temple was built in 927. Yes, that’s over 1,000 years ago. According to the info panel, it was used as a place of refuge for King Wang Geon as was a cave that can be found behind it. The fact that these people have been here, walking this mountain, for hundreds of years, seriously impresses me and speaks to the history and custom of this country.

The way down was more straightforward, but the ride home was not. I saw bus 410 which I assumed I could ride back to where I wanted to be. After a few stops I found myself in…Apsan Park. The real Apsan park, like the real entrance, like where I was supposed to be. Unfortunately, my clothes were drenched with sweat, and I could not bring myself to start the process over again.

I wandered around and was told that taxis would be coming by. One came by within five minutes but I was not yet out of the woods. “Boemeo negrai.” I think that’s the neighborhood where I’m staying. “Soo sung shee jung.” This I believed to be a magical incantation that would bring me even closer to the apartment.

The ride home was completely unfamiliar. Then it looked as if we were heading downtown. Passing Boemeo Junction which I knew was kind of where I wanted to be. New tactic: “Grand-uh Hotel-uh.” He took a turn and I knew definitely wouldn’t be downtown even though I would be a 15-minute walk from home. But then, like a beacon from heaven, I saw it: the American Standard store, just a block from home.

“Okay, okay, okay!” I shouted to the cabbie.

Less than five minutes later, I had my cold shower.


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