Thursday, 26 April 2012

Spring is Here

On the whole our last few weeks have been peaceful and routine. The rising temperature has brought with it increased rainfall, leading us to trade jackets for umbrellas. Still, most days are pleasantly sunny, and all across the city cherry blossoms have been flooding the streets with colour. Beauty, however, is fleeting, and these petite pink flowers last only a short while. Already they are drifting to the ground and giving way to a sea of green as all manner of foliage begins to grow again. Rapidly the landscape is changing, and each day it is becoming more of a pleasure to explore. It wasn't until late on the Sunday of the Gunsan cherry blossom festival weekend that the rain ceased and we were able to make it out to nearby Eunpa Lake. Despite the late hour the crowd was still sizable as we strolled beneath the majestic early spring display.

The modest city of Gunsan, if it is known to anybody outside of Jeollabuk-do at all, is renowned for two things; the US Air Force base, and the world's longest man-made dyke. Last week we were fortunate enough to be taken out to see the latter with a new friend and his family. The Saemangeum Seawall, which measures 33.9km from end to end, was officially opened to the public in April 2010 and is the key step in the Saemangeum Reclamation Overall Development Project. The project, first announced by the Korean Government in 1987, aims to reclaim the mudflats of the Geum, Mangyeong and Dongjin rivers, creating 400 square kilometres of new farmland and freshwater reservoir. Sightseers can walk or drive along its length, courtesy of a pristine four-lane bitumen surface, to reach a rest stop and tourist centre at the midpoint of the wall.

This tourist area is located on one of the Gogunsan Islands, a collection of more than 60 islands which dot Jeollabuk-do's west coast. A number of walking paths scramble over the most central of these islands, offering fantastic views to those who are willing to work for them. Recently Emma was lucky enough to trek one of these paths with a few colleagues on a school picnic day.

The Geumman Plains, previously known as the Gimje and Mangyong Plains, were renamed once more in 1986 to become the Saemangeum Plains. The letters of the name Geumman were juggled to produce mangeum, meaning 'fortunes', and sae, or 'new', was added as a prefix to reflect the Government's hopes for this reclaimed land. Heading across this impressive feat of construction gives one ample opportunity to stare out over the endless blue ocean. Eventually it reaches China, beyond where the eye can see.

After completing the drive down the seawall we continued south to the Naesosa Temple in Buan. Naesosa was built by the Buddhist monk Hye-Gu in 633, and then rebuilt by Cheong-Min in 1633. Nestled at the foot of Kuaneum Hill, the temple site enjoys the quiet company of fir, cherry and magnolia trees. Of particular interest to us were the fearsome statues of the Sacheonwangsang gods who guard the temple. Naesosa is a popular destination for local sightseers and temple stays are also offered. It is a very serene, picturesque location.

Make sure to check out the full photo galleries here and here!

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