This week’s post will be short and sweet. Along with my friends Grant and Tammy, I rode up my favorite coastal road to see a hidden Pohang jewel known as Daewonsa (대원사)–or the Dragon Temple. When Grant pitched the idea for the ride to me, I assumed it was a long distance away. “Dragon Temple? Where’s that?”
“It’s at Chilpo Beach,” he answered. I was surprised, to say the least, since I’ve ridden through and around Chilpo countless times and never seen–even heard of–this Dragon Temple. Intrigued, I agreed.
So we rode through Jangseong-dong and wound our way up the recently completed Highway 20. As always, the ride was pure bliss; we wound smoothly along the coast and enjoyed the frigid sea air. Few things in Pohang put me in a better mood than a ride up 20. We passed Chilpo all too quickly and I began to wonder just where we were headed.
We soon crossed a small bridge into a quaint fishing village, where Grant broke off from the main road and led us down a road which alternated between abysmal pavement and dangerous gravel. We’d scarcely ridden for a minute when we stopped; our destination stretched before us.
I’ve seen plenty of temples in Korea. As with temples in many countries, after visiting a number of Korean temples the individual characteristics of each tend to blur together until any distinctions are lost. Daewonsa is not even remotely interested in being ‘just another temple’. For me, it was entirely unique.
The reason it stands apart is evident from the name: the Dragon Temple. Daewonsa has the usual Korean-style temple structure at the top of the hill (look in the upper left of the picture above) but it also houses a dragon that coils up the hillside.
Far from being a decoration, the dragon can be entered via its mouth–allowing worshipers and tourists alike to visit the sanctuary within and the art museum/tunnel beyond. One can actually walk the entirety of the serpent, till the cave-like hallway terminates at a small shrine in the bowels of the beast.
Visitors enter the same way they came in, through the mouth of the dragon. It is an interesting sensation emerging from the gloom and ducking out from between an impressive set of canines.
We left some time later, feeling relaxed and content with the ride. There’s nothing quite like finding an exciting new experience where you live!