entrance to Bongeunsa Temple
On this day we decided to visit one of the famous Bhuddist temples, the Bongeunsa Temple. Set amidst all the big grey high rise buildings in the Samseong-dong area (suburb) of Seoul, it was an oasis all of its own. The temple is 1200 years old and built in 794 A.D. during the reign of King Wonseong. (he sounds like a very cool dude)
You can see the building in the middle of this photo, in the Gangnam Style video clip. Can you spot it? It's at the 32 second mark of the clip.
As you enter the gates, you are greeted by the 4 statues of the Celestial Kings, (the Sacheonwang-sang)They are placed there to protect Bhudda's teachings and the places Bhuddism is practiced. Each statue protects a direction each- north, south, east and west. In the information booklet it says, the kings have beautiful smiles but the king on the right looked more like he was grimacing to me.
It was very fascinating to find out a little bit about Bhuddism and it was even better for the kids to not just read about another religion, but to fully immerse themselves in the sights and experience of it. I think they were blown away by some of the sizes of the Bhudda statues.
People come into this part of the temple to light candles and leave presents for Bhudda but by far the most beautiful part of this outdoor room was the hundreds of paper lanterns above us.
The artwork around the buildings where monks and Bhuddist members go to meditate and worship is simply stunning, so intricate and detailed. Every part of the design represents or symbolises something about their religion.
I snuck a quick picture inside. You have to take your shoes off and everyone has a little mat that they sit on. It is very peaceful and quiet and I would have loved to sit in there for a bit and just be still. It was a very reverent place and it was a great opportunity to teach the kids about respecting other culture's beliefs and even though we may not understand what all the teachings and symbols meant, we knew that it meant alot to the people there and that was enough.
That huge Bhudda again.
Some of the representations looked a little scary.
The temple was set in very beautiful lush surrounds. It was lovely to see so much greenery. In a city of 12 million, Seoul doesn't really have room for lots of parks.
Hello, I'm taking a photo!!
The temple has now opened itself up the public so instead of just monks, lay members can also be included in prayer, meditation, Bhuddist services and volunteer work to help modern-day Bhuddism reach out to the community.
Bhudda is so thoughtful. He even provides drinking water. It was early Autumn and so the weather was still sitting at about 22-24 degrees during the day and about 16 degrees at night. Just perfect for thirsty little travellers.
And plenty of little Bhudda statues, in case you run out. ;)
And of course we couldn't leave without the obligatory photo with Flynn. I think he was even more famous than Bhudda. (or Gangnam) Notice how the lady has her two fingers up. That's how everyone poses for photos over there. It kept cracking me up.
So how it went went down was they would pass me their Samsung Galaxy (noone had iphones over there seeing as Korea is the home of Samsung) and I would take a pic of them with Flynn and then they would check it to make sure I took a good shot and then they would move on all excited that they had proof of the blonde babe they saw down the street.
After our temple visit we went to McDonalds. The kids were so excited to find one that looked just like home. Their excitement was short-lived however when they discovered that their fries had no salt on them. I had to laugh. Everyone and everything was so healthy over here - even their fast food.
On the way back to the subway we came across COEX, (this is the Gangnam Style building in the photo at the beginning of this post - Psy can also be seen dancing on the roof of this building in his clip) the biggest shopping mall in the northern hemisphere, but it was so crazy busy that we didn't bother going further than the first hundred metres of shops.
On the way home we stopped at the Namdaumun Market. It's an open air market that traces all the way back to the Joseon Dynasty so it was around in the year 794 A.D. Imagine having that kind of history - just in a market. It's the most widely known market place in Korea where you can buy anything and everything.
Notice the man looking at Jonty. Everyone looked at us ALL the time.
We loved the sights and smells and craziness of the place. It was very crowded and full of people doing business and selling things and I just loved the atmosphere of it.
I did keep stressing that I would lose Jonty amongst everyone but it was easy to spot his blonde hair on the crowd. Plus we felt very safe in Korea. The crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. People leave their stalls just covered with a tarpauline when they are closed with all their merchandise or produce underneath and noone would ever dream of stealing it.