Before I set off today, I visited the temple round the road from my Airbnb. A monk was performing chanting there. I prayed to Kwan Se Eum Bodhisattva to help me find true love, and then left.
My prepaid SIM card had run out, so I needed to get a more permanent one. I visited KT Plaza (Korea Telecom Plaza), where I was informed that since I didn’t have an Alien Registration Card, I could only get a SIM card for 3 months. The man didn’t speak much English, and he informed me that the SIM card would only start working tomorrow. This would have meant I couldn’t access Naver Map (and couldn’t find my way around the city), couldn’t access my dictionary or translate app, and I couldn’t contact anyone if I needed help. I walked out.
LG and SK wouldn’t sell me a SIM card without an Alien Registration Card either. The lady at LG, did, however, give me the address of KT Square, which looks like the head office of KT. I went there and found a man who spoke some English, and he got me set up with a 3 month SIM card and 1GB of data, which all in all cost just over ₩30,000 (around NZ$38).
After having lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant nearby, I decided to visit Guksadang, a Korean shamanist shrine. Unlike Japanese Shinto, Korean Shamanism has not been organised and shrines are not generally frequented by the public like Shinto shrines are in Japan.
After catching the bus out to a more residential area of Seoul, I began the trek up Mount Ingwansan, which was where the shrine was located. Before the shrine, there was a lovely little Buddhist temple. The sides of the stairs leading up to the temple were decorated with paintings that were beginning to peel away.
I realised as I was walking up that one of the photos on my phone wasn’t saved. I checked my camera and sure enough, the memory card wasn’t there – it was still in my computer! I had to take all these photos with my phone.
In the temple itself, there were enshrined statues of Amitabha, Kwan Se Eum and Ksitigarbha, along with a smaller statue of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha.
After doing some brief meditation at the temple, I set off to look for the shrine. Further up the mountain there is a sacred rock called Seon-Bawi, a rock that some see as shaped like two monks. You can read more about it here.
I could hear the sound of cymbals in the distance, and assumed it was coming from the shrine. However, after asking a couple of people, it turns out the shrine was actually a building I had already passed. Upon seeing the Chinese characters on it, I worked out that they were pronounced ‘Guksadang’.
I peeked inside the shrine, having read on a web page about it not to enter. I saw a few pictures of people in there. Nothing spectacular, but then I don’t really know much about Korean Shamanism. You can see pictures of the inside here. but the altar with all the food offerings was not there when I went.
I headed into Myeongdong on the bus and visited the Catholic cathedral. It was a mix of old and new – the old High Altar was still there, yet the Stations of the Cross were quite strange and modern-looking. There were a bunch of people there, so I thought that a Mass was about to start, and so I didn’t try to go to the crypt, where the remains of Catholics martyred in the Joseon dynasty are interred.
Next stop was a cat cafe. There are a few in Myeongdong, and this one was advertised by a person in a cat costume. I had to pay to get in (can’t remember how much) but the price included a free drink. There were a few people there, and a bunch of cats. The cats didn’t seem all that friendly at first to me, but after moving around to different cats, I managed to get some who were interested in me. There was a small black cat that looked like a Devon or Selkirk Rex, and another cat like that which had hardly any fur. This cat jumped up on me so I patted it, and it felt funny because there was so little fur.
I chatted to a friend for a while and then had some dinner at McDonald’s. Their self-service machine is set up to mainly work with cards, and I had to wait until the card transaction had failed before the option to pay cash was presented (at least it’s better than KFC, which had no cash option at all and I ended up showing them a photo of my order).
I decided to take a bus back part of the way so I didn’t have to walk as much. However, I got on the bus going the wrong way! I quickly hopped off and got back on going the right way. After getting off, I decided to get a taxi back to my Airbnb. It felt weird sitting in the right-hand seat of a car and not driving – I wonder what driving on the other side of the road will be like?