My weekend started bright and early on Saturday morning, as I left at 6 am to take the subway into Seoul to meet my other travel buddies for the weekend trip to the Buddhist temple. Upon our arrival in Seoul, we loaded a charter bus for our 4.5 hour journey to Byeonsanbando National Park in South West Korea.
The sunrise over the Han from the subway.
When we arrived at the National Park we had the opportunity to go to the beach on the Yellow sea, and climb the huge rock formations that were all over the beach. Although the weather was cold and windy, it was still an amazing site to see. I definitely tried to enjoy the two hours that we had. Even being full of sand, and a bit wet from the high tides, I found myself wishing that I could just jump in and have a brief swim.
After the beach, we found our way back to the bus and on our way to the Buddhist temple. When we arrived, we had to change into the traditional costume worn by the monks. Baggy pants that reminded me on Alladin and an over sized linen jacket. How else are you going to experience a new culture if you don't put yourself into the environment, right?
After we changed, we sat and learned the basic temple rules, the simplistic nature of the monks lives, and what was expected of us during the weekend. More of less we couldn't wear shoes in any of the buildings, we had to line our shoes up properly before entering buildings, we had to learn how to bow while at the religious services, and we couldn't leave any food on our plates during a meal. More of less, not too much was expected of us, but then again this is how these men live their lives every single day.
(The main temple on the site where we were)
From here we went to dinner, where we had to sit and eat in silence, and afterwards we had to wash our dishes using buckets that were provided outside. I swear these dishes could not have been cleaned, but, I wasn't going to argue.
After dinner we had the evening service which consisted on the daily bows and the Prajna Paramita Sutra (which is devotional chanting). Following the service we had a tea ceremony with Sunim (the head monk).
3:30 am came quickly. Hearing the sound of the dong woke me right up. Even though it was still pitch black, I was excited to experience the rest of the weekend. It was soon 4 am and we had the pre-dawn morning service followed by sitting Zen meditation. Meditating is painful at first, but you soon get lost in a world of thoughts and the time went by so quickly. It was such a serene feeling.
At 6:00 on Sunday we had the formal monastic meal ceremony which also really interesting. There were four bowls, all that needed to placed in a certain way while we sat on the floor. After eating, we had to clean the bowls using a piece of radish. After breakfast, we went to the kitchen to learn to make gimbab. The "g" is pronounced like a "k" for all of you in America. Gimbab is basically rice rolled in seaweed paper- so similar to sushi, but obviously not as good. We made the gimbab for our lunch, so we could have it during our 4 hour hike and waterfall trek.
The hike started around 8 am, and we were told would be around 4 hours until completion. It was awesome being up in the mountains, especially in mid-October when all the trees are changing colors! I didn't even mind the hiking, it went by so quickly!
I have so many other pictures, so let me know if you want to see them! After the hike, we had the opportunity to shower before hitting the road for our long trip home! I definitely took advantage of the shower and found myself asleep for the first part of the trip home.
Overall, a great weekend away and I can't wait for the next, I'm going on a rock climbing trip in 3 weeks!
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