Today was the first full day I spent in Seoul!
In the morning I set off to the Jogyesa Temple, the head temple of the Jogye Order of Seon (Zen) Buddhism. It turned out to be not too far from Jonggak Station and Underground Shopping Centre, where I’d been the night before.
As I entered the main hall, I saw it was filled with people sitting on cushions. A,t 10am, some monks entered the temple and began the service. I had about 3 books that people had given me, and those around me kept helping me find my place in the book, but I just couldn’t read Korean fast enough to chant! I recognised the Great Compassion Dharani and the Heart Sutra at the end, but not much else except for a period of chanting ‘Namu Amita Bul’ (Homage to Amitabha Buddha).
Afterwards, I took some photos of the temple and had a look at the Templestay building, which had a Buddhist bookstore in the basement. I got a copy of one of the books at the temple, called 우리말 천수경 (Urimal Cheonsu Gyeong – Thousand Hands Sutra in Our Language, i.e. Korean). I got a mala (chanting beads) from one of the shops nearby the Jogyesa, which sell Buddhist statues and goods.
Afterwards I found the Daiso near Jonggak Station, and got a chicken burger and chips from Lotteria for lunch. Lotteria is a Korean fast-food restaurant chain. Afterwards I got a bath towel from Daiso (pretty small by NZ standards but bigger than that provided by the Airbnb) but couldn’t find any more plug adapters.
Next stop was Dongdaemun. I had heard that you could get cheap clothes there, and so I managed to get a pair of trousers from a street stall for ₩15,000 (around NZ$19). I then headed to Dongdaemum Shopping Complex, which is a massive shopping centre with four areas or 동 (dong), A, B, C and Shopping Town. Sometimes there are different things on the same floor but a different dong.
I had a “chocolate latte” (essentially a hot chocolate) at the cafe at Dongdaemun Shopping Complex and talked to my mother for a while. I then went back to the Airbnb to rest, and I put a load of washing in to wash. I found a couple of books about Korea, including the Lonely Planet guide, in the bookshelves at the Airbnb, but they were in French. Well, to me that’s the second best thing to finding them in English.
I headed out to Gangnam, intending first to go to Coex, a huge shopping centre. I had to take two trains, and one the second one I struck up a conversation with a young woman next to me, and she’s agreed to help me learn Korean!
Coex was huge, and most of it was underground. I got a book on Korean conversation from the bookstore there. There is also a library inside Coex, with books stacked up high, but my photos of it didn’t turn out too well. I still haven’t got an electronic hot water bottle (left my NZ one at home thinking I could get one from Lotte on the first day), so I though Hyundai Department Store may have one. Judging from the floor directory, however, it didn’t seem to be a department store but more a collection of individual shops or counters such as Calvin Klein Jeans or Polo Ralph Lauren, and they all seemed to be high-end fashion goods. Didn’t see anything to indicate electronics.
After having dinner at McDonald’s, I head to Gangnam Station and took Exit 9. Gangnam at night is full of bright lights, just like Shinjuku in Tokyo. There were bars, restaurants and shops all over the place. The main street was so busy and there was no place to cross, so I had to go back down to the station and up again to get to the other side.
As I headed back from Gangnam Station to the Airbnb, I witnessed a sea of people waiting for the train. I don’t even think I saw so many people in a small area in Tokyo waiting for a train
So all in all, a pretty good day.