Last Thursday was a public holiday and so in my wisdom I took to public transport as the bus for Guinsa is clearly signposted at gate 16. At 06:55am I was reliably informed that the first bus direct from Chungju was 9 or 10am but I should take the 7:05am to Jecheon and change there. Job done I purchased my ticket and reclined to the sound of “Everyday Robots” for the 50 minute journey. Everything hunky dory, the sun shining, my mood bouncy and the prospect of some Buddhist cultural splendour attractive.
Arriving as usual on time I alighted the bus and went to purchase my Guinsa ticket; the bs would leave at 10:30am, yes ten bloody thirty. Well my friends Jecheon minus the film festival does not rock! Everything was shut except the always reliable Dunkin’ D’s. I decided to potter around but after an hour wandering through very grey streets and climbing a hillock to a park with squat down bogs destination Dunkin’ beckoned. What do you do when bored,? Yes you eat ridiculous amounts of unhealthy food! After a bagel and two delectable donuts I staggered back to the bus terminal to read some digitised photo mags. Another coffee was in order so I approached the counter, the woman was on the phone and turned her back on me! She then decided, whilst still on the phone, to clean the sink. Five excuse me’s later I went to G25 and popped a coffee from the caffeine oven. I say caffeine oven because they look like an oven and have a glass door also I know not what they are officially named.
The ride through the countryside to Guinsa was lovely and a kindly lady offered me those green bitter rice cakes that induce gagging and later bowel movements. Fortunately after my first bite she nodded off and i was able to dispose of the leftovers without causing offence. The bus driver I thought was even kinder as he made his way up the mountain and deposited us at the halfway point with only 500 metres to climb. It turned out he wasn’t s kind as I thought and this was actually the bus terminus. I enquired about return tickets hoping to spend two to three hours wandering around the massive temple complex before returning home. It was 11:30am and the ticket clerk said 12:40pm to Chungju. I asked about later buses and he said 18:40pm and despite asking 4 or 5 folk that was the best I could ascertain. I had either 70 minutes to get up and down the hill with no Jill or 430 minutes to court a Jill and get wed!
I decided the risk was too great, I settled on the 70 minutes sprint marathon. Power walking up a 45 degree incline is trying but the prospect of an unenforced Zorb back kept my mind focussed. Guinsa was busy with senior citizens helping prepare for the great mans birthday, lanterns were in the probes of being unwrapped and hung, the giant ornate lanterns I remembered from last year were already in place, it truly is a monumental effort to get all this ready just for a 5 or 6 day celebration.
Guinsa (1945) is the headquarters of the sect of Cheontae Buddhism and its roughly two million followers. The arduous climb it makes the nirvana of the top terrace even sweeter. The fabulous spring weather, and bright azaleas and myriad species of trees enhanced my experience. The grand ornate buildings, beautiful foliage and colourful lanterns dancing in the breeze distracted my thoughts from my tightening lungs :-). Guinsa patrons swerve an excellent vegetarian lunch but of course I had no time to sample it. I had 15 quiet minutes at the top before making my descent to the terminus and the 2 and a half hour journey back to Chungers.
Maybe never again!