Our entire visit to South Korea was the most culturally diverse trip to date. Staying at a Buddhist Temple was the ultimate cultural experience of the trip. We spent 24 hours at the Ganghwa Lotus Latern Meditation Center in Ganghwa, Korea. Reservations were made over the phone and confirmed via email. The process is quite simple as our hostess/reservationist spoke English.
The subway/bus trip took us about two hours Northwest of Seoul. Upon arrival we were shown to our rooms (no mixed couples in rooms) and given clothing to wear. We then shared a snack of boiled potatoes and sides with the three resident monks and other guests. Later that day we met with one of the Monks that explained Buddhist traditions, meditation, history, etc. We even spent about 20 minutes meditating, my mind wandering after about 10 minutes. Guess I have much to learn.
We retired to bed quite early, 10ish, knowing that we would rise at 3:30 AM in order to start the day with chanting and bowing in the Temple with the Monks. Let me tell you about that task. 108 is a significant number in Buddhist culture. 108 bows is what we did. 108 is about how old I felt the next day when climbing stairs. If fact my wife almost fell out of the Temple at about bow 73 when she lost her balance ( no worries, she maintained her spot in the Temple). We meditated, worked, and walked the grounds all before breakfast.
A trip to another Temple, question and answer sessions with the Head Monk, meals,and just plain quiet reflextion time were some of the other activities. Also talking with other guests from all over the world rounded out our 24 hour stay. You can stay for longer periods of time if you like.
I learned more in that 24 hours than the previous 45 years. It was a GREAT experience. Make sure you make time for this adventure!
Jogyesa is the largest Buddhist temple in Seoul, and the headquarters of Korea's main Buddhist order: Jogye. You climb up the steps to enter the main hall of the temple, which is quite austere. People are praying there silently. It is very Zen. You should remove your shoes before entering.
It is in a narrow street, hemmed in by other buildings, so it is easy to miss and quite difficult to take a good photograph of ,without a wide angle lens.
It is 5 minutes' walk from Insadong-gil.
If you are looking for a really exciting experience in an original and beautiful piece of Korea, then visit the Golgulsa temple, which is located approximately 30km from Gyeongju/Kyongju in a nature park in the montains in direction to the East Sea / Gampo (Bus line 100 from Gyeongju station, plus 15min walk from the bus stop). Gyeongju is in the south east of Korea, 4h from Seul by train. The monks in this temple are practicing Sunmudo, which is similar to Taekwondo ? very impressive! Included in the overnight fee is participation in the temple live, which includes a Sunmudo training in the evening and the morning in a modern sports hall. As I am not a good sportsman, I only participated in the stretching lessons for the beginners/ older people, and this was really extremely impressing ? I think it is a world-1st class location to do this! I was stunned by the very friendly hospitality in the temple, although I am no Buddhist. Of course you should respect and love Buddhism, the 4h00 morning celebration and the 5h00 Zen meditation is obligatory (otherwise 3000 knee bows are required or the complete temple has to fast one day J). Sleeping is in a modern guest house in Korean style on a well heated Ondol floor. I found the temple by accident on a cycle tour from Gyeoungju to the East Sea ? I stayed only 1 night ? but if I have the chance to come there once again, I will stay a bit longer!
Jogyesa temple offers 1 or 2 hour tours (Japanese or English)for only 10,000 ($8) which includs English tours of the temple, participation in tea ceremony, meditation, scripture painting, Buddhist paintings, and lantern making. A five minute walk from Anguk station (exit 1).
This memorial shrine was dedicated to King Gojong. It was erected in 1904. This memorial also counts as ground zero from which all distances in the country are measured.
In Sajik park is this altar used by the Joseon kings for twice a year rituals to celebrate planting and harvest.
Many documents describes the strategies of the two opponents and their allies.
Unbelievable, how someone can fill such a huge building with so much war memoribilia ...
The museum shows large amounts of documents and other memorabilia, which was used during wars, like this ship.