One of the more spectacular temple complexes in South Korea awaited us a few hours drive further into the mountains of the east central area.

We weren’t sure what to expect – we knew that it had been established only in 1945 and had become the headquarters of  the Cheontae school of Korean Buddhism. We knew that the buildings there were quite fancy and that thousands of devotees were present at any one time.

As we pulled into the car park at the bottom of the steep valley where the complex is located, and saw the hundreds of vehicles, the gift shops and restaurants, the ongoing construction of a massive, ornate building next to a service station – I suddenly had a flash back to when I had visited the infamous pilgrimage site of Lourdes in southwest France many summers ago.

I think there is an underlying similarity to many Korean sites of interest – they generally seem to involve parking at the bottom of a great big hill then walking to the top. Now, Guinsa had a little bus that took us halfway but by the time we had arrived at the temple I certainly appreciated the extra oxygen in my blood from giving up smoking a few weeks before.

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