Saturday, January 14, 2012

korea bucket list: templestay.

last weekend, i had to opportunity to spend the night at a buddhist temple. i'd read about templestays on various blogs and websites as i was getting excited to move over here and obsessively looking up any and all cool things to go do. so when i got the invitation to tag along with corey and three of his coworkers, i took full advantage.

the temple we stayed at is called golgulsa temple, located in gyeongju. it was pretty much exactly what i was hoping for -- secluded, on the side of a mountain, gorgeous scenery and buildings...

the purple pin is (sorta kinda) where i actually live, and the blue dot is where the temple was. we had to take a bus to get down there, but it only took a few hours and it was a pretty drive.

after taking the bus across the country, we had to hop onto a local bus, which dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. we wandered down the street and finally saw this off to our left. the gate!

i don't know if i'll ever get over the colors and details at these temples. so gorgeous.

looking out onto the street from the entrance gate/temple grounds.

after getting checked in and dropping our bags in our rooms, we had to get changed into our snazzy templestay uniforms and head to dinner. poor corey wasn't allowed to eat with us girls though -- meals are divided by gender.

after we ate dinner we headed to a building farther up the hill for an orientation video and the evening chanting. it was really, really cool to listen to the chanting. apparently the temple does a sort of bootcamp for kids during their winter vacation? there was a group of elementary-aged kids who actually seemed to be enjoying themselves, so i'm going to guess that was just more of a camp... but there was also a group of high school boys and they looked like they hated life. someone compared it to bootcamp... except buddhist.

anyway, some of our activities were mixed with these kids, including that evening's sunmudo lesson. i think the sunmudo lesson was one of my favorite parts of the templestay experience. as a dancer, i've always been fascinated by martial arts, but i've never really tried any of them. we had an hour and a half lesson and it was pretty awesome. started with a very yoga-like warm up and then what followed reminded me of tae chi, ballet, and maybe a little bit of kickboxing? it was a very, very basic lesson, since everyone in there was at a beginning level, but still wore us out.

this is a video of sunmudo training that was made by the people at the temple (apparently they have their own youtube channel...). the monk on the ground at the beginning was actually one of the two who taught the class i took. he was kind of intense.

after our sunmudo lesson, it was 9pm, and lights out was at 10pm since the morning's activities started at 4:30am with some chanting and meditating.

not a bad place to be at 4:30am, i think. however, i totally failed at meditating. you're supposed to empty your mind and focus only on your breathing. instead, i was focusing on not falling asleep in a sitting position. and how did i do this? i started composing this blog entry in my head. sorry, buddhism. i tried. but i was very sleepy.

this was pretty much what we ate for all three meals we had at the temple. it was also very important to only take what you would actually eat -- you could go back for seconds, but you were not to waste even a single grain of rice.

this was the building we stayed in.

so besides the sunmudo lesson, my other favorite part of the templestay was our teatime with a monk! he was really, really awesome. very funny. we asked him questions and he answered. very honestly, too. it was pretty damn cool.

after teatime, we trekked up the ridiculous hill to finally do some sightseeing. we'd walked up and down the mountain, but it was either late at night or very, very early in the morning. you probably can't tell from this picture, but this hill was killer. seriously the worst ever -- especially since it was the third (or fourth?) time we'd been up it.

then after the hill, there were stairs. like, a lot of stairs.

iiiiii can show you the wooorrrrlllddddd... (i was singing songs from "aladdin" pretty much all weekend... everyone wanted to kill me, i think.)

on the way up... lots of stairs (some were treacherous) to see:

carved into the rock!

tucked into a cave in the mountain.

then we got to watch a demonstration -- the first part was traditional dance, which was absolutely gorgeous.

and then there was a sunmudo demonstration! it was pretty cool to see some of the monks showing off their skills. very impressive.

haha. yeah.

gettin' packed up and ready to checkout. the rooms we stayed in were also very traditional.

and we slept on mats/comforters on the floor.

it was a damn cool experience. i'd definitely like to do it again before i leave korea. different temples seem to have different specialties/focuses, so i'm planning to do some research and see what else is out there.

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