Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bongeunsa Temple Tour in Seoul

Earlier this month, Maggie and I took a weekend trip to Seoul to visit Katie, Kyle, and Allie. We had a four day weekend which meant we had the rare opportunity to take part in the Bongeunsa Temple Tour (Every Thursday at 2pm). Bongeunsa is a 1,200 year temple tucked right in between gigantic buildings and a bustling city atmosphere. While it is seemingly surrounded by chaos, the inside of the temple grounds is one of the more peaceful areas in all of Seoul.

The tour was fantastic! We had a very knowledgeable guide who spoke very good English. He walked us around the entire temple area, telling stories and discussing the history of the temple. One thing that stuck with me was how peaceful and calm it was inside the temple grounds, but when you walk up a small hill you can see that the temple is literary right smack dab in the middle of a HUGE city! Buildings, apartments, streets--it feels like you are suddenly transported to a different world.

We were able to spend about ten minutes inside one of the largest temples, and we learned all about proper temple etiquette when it comes to bowing and praying. I was blown away by the amount of Buddhas inside the temple. Check out this wall...there are literally hundreds of them all lined up together.

Next stop: Tea time! But this wasn't your average tea sesh. No, we got the real deal on this tour. We all piled into a little tea room where two kind ladies taught us the proper way to prepare, brew and serve several types of teas. I think my favorite part was the side snacks that they served with the tea. We get side dishes with everything in Korea; I love it!

Then it was off to the meditation section of the tour. We all sat in a big circle where we were greeted by a Buddhist monk. He spoke through a translator and told us about his life, philosophies, and the many benefits of meditation. He taught us the proper way to meditate and even did a quick Q&A session to answer any questions we had. Awesome guy! I wish I could have snapped a photo of him, but I left my camera in my jacket. Whoops!

The last part of the tour was a flower making activity. Sweet! Arts and Crafts! If our school did this tour as a field trip, our kindergarten students would be dancing around the room at this point, hooting and hollering about the glorious fact that they get to do some sort of craft. Our project was to make colorful paper lotus flowers. It was super fun, and I even felt a little bit like a student myself while I picked out the paper and glued it all together. Now I know where all of the students' excitement comes from.

If you are in Seoul and have the Thursday off work, the Bongeunsa Tour is a great experience. You'll learn a thing or two about temple history and Buddhism, and you'll come away with a kick ass arts and crafts project to hang in your apartment.

Cost: 20,000 Won
Time: 2pm to ~4:30pm every Thursday
Phone number: 82-2-3218-4895 (English)
Bongsunsa Website
How To Get There

Have you been to Bongeunsa (or any other temple in Korea?) Share your experiences and tell us where to go next!

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