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South Korea: Manisan mountain

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Manisan mountain | South Korea | Asia

[Visited: August 2010]

We were a little tired while we were on the bus to Gangwa island, and when the bus came to a final stop and we got off, we verified with two old men that we had, in fact, crossed a bridge and arrived on Gangwa island. After a short wait, we took another bus that dropped us off near the foot of Manisan, or Mani mountain, on the southern part of the island. We bought our tickets, and as it was a warm day, also some additional drinks before we started hiking up the green mountain.

Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): View from Manisan mountain: the west coast of Gangwa island

The hike up Manisan proved easier than expected, despite some steep stretches and the 900 steps made of blocks of stone, and we arrived at the 495m summit in well under an hour. But once there, we found out, to our dismay, that the altar of Chamseongdan was closed. Walking around the ancient stone base of the altar showed that it was actually very well protected by high fences and barbed wire: there was no way to get in without getting badly hurt. We had something to drink on one of the boulders near the altar, and started to enjoy the views. Actually, the weather had cleared. It was getting warmer, but the views were getting better as well. We moved to a viewing platform next to a helipad, from which we had great views all around, over the island and its brilliant green rice fields, its neighbour islands, the international airport of Seoul, the skyline of the South Korean capital, and the altar that we could not visit.

Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Wooden pole near the summit of Manisan mountain

Actually, Chamseongdan is a large stone altar that was originally built in the 24th century BCE. According to legend, the founder of Korea, Dangun, built it himself, and made sacrifices here to the heavens. The altar is still being used: on 3 October, Gaecheonjeol Day, or National Foundation Day, the creation of ancient Korea is still commemorated here. In addition, this is the place where a sacred flame for national athletic events is ignited. But on this day, there were only many Korean visitors, and we descended to again to the entrance of Manisan. Somewhere inside us, though, a desire to return on one of those scarce days Chamseongdan altar is open for visitors and the scene of ancient ceremonies.

Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): View from below of Chamseongdan altar
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Ancient Chamseongdan altar on top of Manisan
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Yeongjongdo with the international airport of Seoul seen from Manisan
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Mountain ridge of Manisan is covered by trees
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Muddy coastline of Gangwa seen from Manisan
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Islands, Yellow Sea, and Seoul seen from the top of Manisan
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Viewing platform from which you can see the altar of Chamseongdan on top of Manisan
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Tree-covered hill, part of the Manisan ridge
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Chamseongdan altar on top of Manisan
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Hiking up Manisan over a rocky path
Picture of Manisan mountain (South Korea): Path leading up Manisan

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