Skiing in Muju

We finally got around to going skiing on the last weekend of January. We went to Muju resort and I must say I was really impressed. Dean and I really love skiing and had wanted to go for a while. We were a bit weary about skiing in Korea compared to skiing in the Alps and we were worried we would be dissapointed.  But actually we had a great time. It's a good thing we waited so long in the season to go as I'm sure if we had gone earlier we would have spent all our money on skiing weekends. Skiing in Korea was really interesting and a completely different skiing culture to that of France. The slopes were decent and the snow was good too. Although there wasn't much snow around, the slopes were well kept. It was really crowded at the bottom of the slopes. The lines to get the lift up the mountain were really long but once up the mountain the slopes were empty and the views are beautiful. We look forward to a couple more trips before the season ends. These are just a few snaps from our iphones. We were way too busy skiing and making the most of our short time to focus on taking photos.

To get to the resort was really easy. We took a bus to Muju town, about 9000won and 2 hours from Jeonju, and then a free shuttle bus to the resort, about 45 minutes. The ski rental and passes are also well priced and easy to organize. You even get a great discount with your Korean bankcards (nh and kb cards). 

Gochangeupseong Fortress

Now that we are in the heart of winter, it is often difficult to get motivated to leave the house to explore new places. But, we are always looking for easy day trips from Jeonju and so we started off the new year with a trip to the small town of Gochang. We were eager to check out the Gochangeupseong Fortress. Gochang is about an 80 minute bus ride from Jeonju. 

Dean and I both love being outdoors and in nature so Gochang has definitely been one of our favourite outings. It is not often in Korea that you can escape the thousands of people, but the Gochang fortress was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. There were only a few families around having fun in the snow.

We arrived in Gochang to thick snow which made the fortress look particularly beautiful and gave it a different feel to what typical pictures showed. We were dressed really warmly (Nowadays I wear 2 jackets!!) but there were blue skies, the sun was out and the weather was actually rather pleasant.

 The entrance fee to the fortress is 1000won. 

The fortress is just behind the town and was built in 1453. It was used to defend against Japanese invasions. You can walk along the wall which is 1.6km. We walked around the whole fortress and didn't see anybody, it was great!

Inside the fortress there are many different paths and there is a bamboo forest which is an interesting contrast to the surrounding pine trees.

I would definitely recommend a visit to Gochang fortress. It was nice to have a change from some of the typical Korean sites, especially since it was so quiet.

Directions

The available directions online were a bit vague but the fortress is actually easy to get to. When you leave the Gochang bus terminal, walk left at the main road. After about 500m, turn right at an intersection just before a school. Walk for about 150m, cross a bridge. and the fortress entrance is straight ahead. 

An afternoon in Muju

Now that we are nearing the end of autumn, warm days are far and few. Fortunately for us, we were blessed with a lovely warm sunny day when Dean, myself and a couple of friends decided to take a trip to the town of Muju. Muju is a popular ski destination in winter, and so we were eager to pay it a visit to check it out before ski season starts. We were also hoping to catch the last colours of autumn but the trees were already turning brown. We didn’t do any planning and were sort of expecting to arrive in the town and that the ski resort would be obvious. However, we arrived to a somewhat sleepy town with no sign of anything that would suggest it would offer skiing. We have since learnt that where you ski is Muju Resort and not Muju town. Two separate places. The bus to Muju from Jeonju takes 2 hours and costs 9000won one way (longer and more expensive than we were expecting). When we arrived we grabbed some lunch and decided to go exploring some of the mountains instead of travelling further to find the skiing area. 

The town was really quite and I think the locals were a bit surprised to see a group of foreigners wondering the quiet streets. We followed a trail to the top of a small mountain and got some beautiful views of the surrounding rural areas. 

I was a bit lazy with taking photos but here a few snaps. 

Muju isn’t exactly the most exciting place to visit but it was nice to go on a short hike in the warm weather. When the ski season opens, I hope we will make some frequent trips to the resort for some skiing. 

Guemsansa Buddhist Temple

Our director is so great!! During the week she gave us a list of some things we may want to do in Jeonju and asked us to choose one and we could go with her and her family on the weekend. We decided to pick the nearby Buddhist Temple Guemsansa because we wanted to see what the surrounding area of Jeonju was like and get a bit into the mountains. We started off our outing with some lunch at a very fancy Italian restaurant in Jeonju. We had a 4 course meal and it was delicious. Although Joanna and her family can’t speak English that well, it is very fun to talk to them and compare our cultures. Joanna’s daughter is actually in one of my classes and her son is only just learning English at kindergarten. Her husband can’t speak any English but knows the odd word.

After lunch we headed to Guemsansa Buddhist Temple. Guemsansa means “Golden Mountain Temple”. Guemsansa is in the slopes of the Moaksan Mountains (in the Moaksan Provincial Park) and is about 40 minutes out of Jeonju. The mountain scenery was beautiful. In the national park there were many people starting the hiking trails and relaxing, having picnics. Koreans are the most kitted out hikers I have ever seen. Considering that hiking is their national past time, these hikers looked so professional in their special colourful hiking clothes and carrying hiking poles. The Guemsansa Temple is extremely old and was first established in 599AD. There are male and female Buddhist monks living at the temple and we saw a few walking around in grey robes. You can even do a temple stay at Guemsansa, which we may consider in the future. We spent the afternoon wondering around and looking at the temples. The architecture is so beautiful. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take photos inside the temple but the one temple houses the largest indoor Buddha statue in the world, 11.82m and 2 Buddhas on either side of 8.8m tall! We had a really great day with Joanna and her family and we were so happy to spend time with them. We definitely want to head back to Moaksan Provincial Park sometime and explore some hiking trails. I think we should visit again in Autumn because everything will look stunning with the changing colours of the leaves.

Us with Joanna and Henry in front of a man made waterfall.

Walking up to Guemsansa.

The entrance to Guemsansa.

Maitreya Hall that houses the 3 huge Buddhas.

In front of Maitreya Hall.

Yukgak Tachung Soktap, one of the old treasures, was built between 918-1392.

In front of one of the halls. You can see the gold Buddhas in the background and a lady praying.

Joanna and I. Note the height difference.

Buddhist lanterns.

Lighting candles and making wishes.

With Henry and Rachel.