Sanglim Forest, located in Hamyang, South Gyeongsang Province may seem like a random reason to travel outside of Seoul, but going for a walk here means so much more than just seeing the trees in a forest.
It takes 3hrs and 20mins to get from Seoul to Hamyang by Express Bus. This is the only option because trains don’t travel here. A lot of people assume that the only reason I’d want to go Hamyang is because I’m from there and before I came to Seoul, no one ever talked about this particular forest. I later came to find that it’s the oldest artificial forest in Korea, created 1,100 years ago under Choe Chi-won of the Silla Dynasty. Installation artist Jang Min-seung and composer Jung Jae-il collaborated last year to create records about their observations of this artificial forest. Then, they released an app called, Sanglim, which features videos of the forest coupled with a digital album made especially for the place. I always wanted to go to Hamyang because it was my dream to listen to the song “Sanglim” in Sanglim Forest.
First day Sanglim–Jianjae, Odojae Pass–Seoamjeongsa Temple–Jeong Ilpum Myeongga Hanok
Second day Ildu Gotaek House, Gaepyeong Village–transportation Express Bus
Transportation time 3hrs 25mins
tickets 18,000 won (from Dong Seoul Express Bus Terminal)
Sanglim Forest mineral spring
Field of lotus flowers near Sanglim Forest
Hamyang is a tranquil town in the countryside. To get to Sanglim Forest, I took a bus at Jigok-myeon Gaepyeong Village—where I stayed overnight—traveled ten minutes by bus and then ten more on foot. If you are heading to Sanglim Forest from Hamyang Bus Terminal, you can walk there. The first thing I saw when I entered the forest were trees. Even though it’s an artificial forest, it didn’t look like one because 1,100 years had passed since it was first created. The branches of the trees growing along the road wall off the sky. For some reason, the Sanglim app, which was supposed to automatically play its songs, didn’t work. Even though I had to press the play button manually, it was indeed special to listen to “Sanglim” in Sanglim Forest. The smell, the wind and the song of the forest all intertwined with each other. For those living in Hamyang, Sanglim Forest is part of part of their everyday lives. It was not a forest of secrets, as I had once imagined it to be.
TIP. The Sanglim app Jang Min-seung and Jung Jae-il uploaded five songs and a video to their Sanglim app, all of which were inspired by Sanglim Forest. You can only download their music via WiFi, so download it in advance.
Ildu Gotaek Hanok
Our friend Jaerongie at Ildu Gotaek Hanok
You can easily go to Sanglim Forest or Gaepyeong Village by bus or on foot if you are in Hamyang. But to go to Seoamjeongsa Temple, I had to call a cab. Seoamjeongsa Temple is located where the mountain range of Jirisan is. Rock-carved Buddhist statues, stand in different parts of the temple. I’d never seen such a sight before. Seeing all the mountains surrounding tortuous Jianjae Pass and Odojae Pass, Seoamjeongsa Temple’s main building, the wind-bell that was dangling at the end of the eaves of the temple and the stone statues during my 30-minute taxi ride was breathtaking.
Hamyang is not as well known as Andong, but it too is a town with yangbans (aristocrats) and hanoks. There’s even an old saying that goes “Andong on the left and Hamyang on the right.” And here, “Hamyang on the right” refers
to Jigok-myeon Gaepyeong Village, where Ildu Jeong Yeo-chang, a famous Joseon scholar, was born. One of the cultural heritages located in Gaepyeong Village is Ildu Gotaek Hanok, built by his descendants in the 1570s. In the village, along with this old house, there are about 60 hanoks that are more than a hundred years old. I spent my last hours in Hamyang sitting on the floor of Ildu Gotaek Hanok, doing nothing but staring at the clouds. I took the Express Bus to Seoul at 2:50pm. Reminding myself of Bill Bryson’s words: “There is something about the momentum of travel that makes you want to just keep moving, to never stop.” I put the scenery of Sanglim deep inside my heart as we returned to Seoul.
Located in Gaepyeong Village, Jigok-myeon, Jeong Ilpum Myeongga Hanok is run by Jeong Do-sang, the 16th descendant of the scholar Ildu Jeong Yeo-Chang. He started this business in honor of his ancestors and to preserve traditional Korean culture. Sitting on the hill where you can see the whole village, nature is this hanok’s garden. At night, countless stars that you can never see in Seoul will move you. There are 13 rooms that can accommodate two to 20 guests and their restaurant is so famous that people who don’t even stay here come to visit.