Today was a day of temples. First off was the Jingak Order temple. Jingak is an esoteric Vajrayana school of Buddhism founded in 1947. The main building turned out to be not the temple, but an administrative building. The temple was in the side building on the top floor. There were no Buddha images, but a tablet with 옴마니반메훔 (Om ma ni ban me hum; the Korean rendition of Om Mani Padme Hum, the mantra of Avalokiteshvara) surrounded by a lot of other text in Korean.

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Jingak Order Temple (the small building to the right of the large building, which is looks to be an admnistration centre.

Next was Gwanmunsa, a temple in the Cheontae Order of Korean Buddhism.

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The Cheontae Order is a revived version of the Chinese Tiantai Order, founded by Zhiyi in the 6th century CE. I had to take a bus from the train station to get there. This was my very first time in a vehicle driven on the right hand side of the road (in New Zealand, we drive on the left). The consisted of a large, seven-storied building with elevators and a reception desk. The main temple area was on the rooftop, with a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha (the historical Buddha) in the middle, with Avalokiteshvara (Kwan Se Um) on the right and Mahasthamaprapta (Tae Se Ji) on the left. There was a lady sitting at the information desk, and she gave me details about a Cheontae temple in Pyeongtaek. I got a free book about Cheontae Buddhism from the front reception desk.

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The temple area on the roof of Gwanmunsa

I decided to head to Bongeunsa, another major Buddhist temple in Seoul. The quickest way was to go by bus. However, finding the right bus stop was a difficult task. Finding the right side of the road was a necessity, and Naver Map doesn’t show you which way you’re facing, so you have to either orient yourself with landmarks on the map app or start walking and watch the blue dot on the map. I erroneously thought I had to get to the other side of the street, so I went back down to Yangjae station, and while I was there, got a bowl of tonkastu ramen for lunch.

The Bongeunsa, as it turned out, is just across the mall from Coex, where I’d been last night. It was a beautiful temple, with buildings scattered across the grounds, much like some Buddhist temples I visited in Japan.

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Approach to the main hall at the Bongeunsa

As I approached the main hall, I could hear the rhythmic beating of a moktak, a wooden percussion instrument used in Korean Buddhist ceremonies. I entered the temple and a chanting service was in place. I didn’t know what they were chanting but tried to bow and prostrate at the right time. At another hall called the Myeongbujeon, a monk came in and did some chanting to Ksitigarbha (Chijang). As I climbed up the stairs to one of these buildings, I saw two cats lying there, with a food bowl beside them.

After visiting Bongeunsa, I had an ice chocolate (but with no ice!) and talked to my mother for a while. I came back to the Airbnb briefly to drop my books before heading out again. After asking at a Hi-Mart whether they had electric hot water bottles, I eventually ended up at Wangsimni Plaza in my quest for an electronic hot water bottle. I visited Emart, a massive department store, but to no avail Many people couldn’t undertstand me, and I spent ages going round in circles, with some saying we don’t have hot water bottles and still I haven’t found a hot water bottle yet (either electric or hand-filled)

I then headed to Itaewon, one of Seoul’s “party districts“. It is filled with bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants as well. There were heaps of people, including quite a few non-Asians. I was refused entry to one club because I wasn’t wearing jeans, but then it may have simply been an excuse – I don’t know.

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