One of the last places we took a trip to when my mom was here, was Maisan Provincial Park, or “horse ear mountains”. The name comes from the obvious 2 rock peaks, which from a distance resemble horses ears. The park is
located just near the town of Jinan, a 40 minute bus ride from Jeonju. We were trying to think of a day trip to do from Jeonju, and my Korea Rough Guide book had a short description about Jinan, which gave us this idea. It was a great choice as Tapsa Temple is a truly unique place and unlike any of the other temples in Korea (which all seem to look very similar).
After arriving in the small town of Jinan, we caught a bus from the terminal to the park. I guess the town doesn’t get many foreigners as the old men who seem to spend their days hanging out at the terminal, were very excited to see us and had fun jabbering away at us in Korean.
After arriving at the park entrance, you wind your way up through a few tourist shops and restaurants. We first reached the smaller, more traditional temple of Unsusa before we got to Tapsa. We arrived early in the morning before most of the crowds, so the walk was rather empty and relaxing.
After passing the restaurants and little shops, you get to this lake just before the temple. You can even hire a swan paddle boat.
The word “Tapsa” means “Pagoda” and the temple is surrounded by 80 pagodas. What is amazing about this, is that the pagodas were single-handedly constructed by one man over 30 years. Even more amazing, is that these stone towers are not held together by any adhesive and the rocks simply balance on each other. It is still unknown how they “stick” together as the valley experiences strong winds (we can attribute to the very strong winds!). The man behind this magic is Yi Kap-Yong. After the start of his pagoda “project”, Yi Kap-Yong became a monk and so the area is now a Buddhist temple.
Behind the temple, you can walk up to between the horse-ear mountain. Unfortunately, the rocks are closed for restoration so we couldn't climb them, but the walk to the middle of them is quite a decent walk (I think around 300 stairs if I can remember correctly), and there are many pleasant Buddhist features along the way.
The flowers are lovely in the summer.
The temple just below the horses ears.
What the horse's ears look like from the distance.
You can bang this giant drum and it sends an eary echo down the valley.
Our trip to Tapsa and Maisan Provincial Park was well worth it and definitely a truly unique place to visit.