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Korean Temple and Evil Billy

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Monk at the Korea Buddhist Temple
I have to admit that I was a little nervous about going to Korea, at first. I think it stems from the problems that lie with North Korea…but that has nothing to do with South Korea, so I know it makes no sense. Perhaps it has something to do with a smaller amount of tourism than other asian countries which might lead to the same sort of nerve racking problems I had in Prague (Czechoslovakia) years ago…when no one knew english and everything kept going wrong.  Regardless, my worries about Korea were all in vain.

Busan, Korea
Don’t get me wrong, Korea was a little confusing and a bit overwhelming. My first impressions of the city of Busan was that it was exploding with color from absolutely millions of signs advertising god knows what…everywhere.  A bus dropped us off  in the middle of insanity central. There were people everywhere and it was somewhat early. The ONLY thing that looked familiar was a Starbucks that nestled itself in next to a hotel and some other shop. The traffic was worse than a NYC block.

Busan Korea
Billy and  I managed to find some stairs that led down to where the subway would be. There were some deserted hallways that went off in different directions as we entered the underground system. It was obvious that this part was for underground shops that had not opened yet. A nice Korean policeman happened to be down there and realized we were trying to figure out how to get to the train. He motioned in one direction and we marched off for a city block or two (underground) until we finally found the subway entrance. Next came the computerized machines where you buy tickets. Thank God there was a button that said “English”. As I was trying to put Korean money into the machine, a nice young man came over and tried to explain in one or two english words, that I would have to get change from another machine to use smaller bills. 

Busan Metro Station
After all was said and done, we walked further down some stairs and managed to catch a train . All we knew was that there were a bunch of symbols on the train map showing where we were and there were some symbols showing were we needed to be…..about 20 stops further….out in the middle of nowhere. 

Suburbs of Busan, Korea
So, what I can’t figure out is if it’s always my fault that we’re tracking off to ridiculous places to see temples….or if Billy is using some kind of Jedi mind trick on me to make me think that I want to see temples. I like temples, but there are lots of them and I have to tell you…most of them are upwards. They don’t EVER seem to build them on flat ground. 

Train ride to the temple
We rode for a long time on the train. Hundreds of Koreans got on and off the train and eyed us curiously. There were no other tourists…I’m thinking it’s not a norm for this particular subway. After about 15 train stops, an older man approached us and said “Hello” in English.  I am ALWAYS suspicious. I’ve learned my lessons over the years about people trying to take advantage of tourists. However, as he began to talk, it became clear that he was a nice man and simply wanted to practice his english. He was a retired professor from the local university. Then came the questions…..lot’s of questions. 

Busan Korea Metro...just a few more stops
Perhaps Koreans are comfortable with asking  probing questions of each other or complete strangers, but he wanted more detail than I would even tell my mother. No harm done though, we just smiled and answered as best as possible. 

Passing train
Now, on the map, it shows that such and such temple is at the end of the subway exit. Very simple…ride the train, get off see big temple. Not so. As we walked up the stairs to above ground, we looked up and down the street and it was clear that we had ventured into a suburban outskirt that looked nothing even remotely Zen.  I saw a random car repair shop, a small bakery and a few signs I couldn’t decipher. We decided to walk up the block a ways to try and find a direction sign for the temple, and a cab driver jumped out…”Take you to temple!!” he exclaimed.  As usual..I say no…I don’t trust anyone…let alone cab drivers. “No thank you”  I nodded. Now we’re nasty Americans.  I walked on confidently and rounded a street corner. There is a sign that says…”such and such temple” with an arrow pointing that way. We keep walking….and walking….”There’s no temple here Billy…lets go back to the subway.” Yeah, right…like that ever works. No we must keep walking., why would I bother pretending otherwise? After walking another few blocks…we see a sign that says “such and such temple….3.5 Km s” Ahhhh!!!!

Taken on our hike up the hill
Okay, so…I’m not a wuss….I can handle a good walk, but I have to explain…the sign pointed uphill…up a mountain road. I’m going to leave out the endless whining, complaining, arguing and colorful explicits that ensued, but let’s just say that I didn’t get my way and ended walking up the mountain road…ahead of Billy (evil Billy) in a huff and bitched the entire way. (I don’t want to hear it Leslie!!!). In my defense, it was hot..humid..mosquitos…trees on both sides so that you could not see anything and I had walked for eight hours the day before. We had no water....but doofus HAD to go see the temple.  

Entrance to the Temple
So….after what seemed like hours of mountain trekking, sweating and plotting Billy’s future demise, we finally reached the top. A gate appeared before us and it was clearly our temple. Yes, folks, I have to report that there were hundreds of more steps involved in our temple viewing process. The monks feel much, much more at peace at zero oxygen levels. 

Entrance to the Temple
After we reached the top of those stairs, I hear…“Water…1 dolla”….those were never sweeter words. There was a little old Korean man with rusty english selling  various items out of a cart. I would have given him 20 dollars for that darn bottle of water. 

Korean Temple outside of Busan
Now, here’s where I eat humble pie. Although Billy (evil Billy) didn’t know what we would end up seeing at the end of my torturous trek up mount ridiculous, the results were worth it. The temples were beautiful. There were mountains surrounding us on three sides, filled with trees turing the color of fall. 

Temple grounds

There was a wonderful breeze that you can only seem to get that high up and a quietness that made it all special. The smell of incense was blowing through the area, along with the fresh smell of trees and nature. Luckily, at this height, the oppressing humidity from the city was not as present.

Temple Grounds

It was interesting watching the people meditate in various temples buildings (including outside on some mats) and watching monks lead a meditation chant along with incense and chimes. 

Temple Grounds

There was an upper and lower courtyard area to the compound, but the sounds of chanting and bells were heard everywhere.

Buddhist praying at Temple

I was very quiet as a snapped a few photos here and there. I tried to be respectful to the people and their customs. I used a telephoto lens to capture shots where people were partaking in their rituals. There were people inside out outside of the various buildings. These Buddhists (below) were sitting outside in front of a small Temple.

Buddhist at the Temple

There were a number of buildings on this mountain that made up the temple compound.  These buildings were hundreds of years old, but rebuilding and maintenance were obviously necessary. 

Temple Grounds

There were men who were re-roofing some areas.  It was possible to buy a roof tile which would have your name signed on the underside by a temple representative and it would be placed in the reconstruction. The grounds were actually quite a bit larger than what I'm showing in these photos. You could easily spend quite a while up there just walking around. 

Temple Grounds
What I really liked were the multiple colored lamps that were strung along the lower pathways of the main entrance of the Beomosa Zen temple. 

Lanterns on the Temple Grounds

Once you reach the second tier, there were multiple yellow lanterns. I’m not quite sure if there was any significance to the color (like there is in China).  I have placed multiple photos of the temple in my Flickr album HERE.


shelley said...

you shoule be nice to brother billy

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