Article updated last April 04, 2018.
I woke up at around 9AM, had a Kimchi noodle for breakfast, took a bath, packed my things and headed straight to Yangcheon-gu, Seoul South Korea, for my Templestay activities at International Seon Center. I left early so that I could wander around, and drop by nearby restaurants for more taste of South Korea, as well as for a cup of black Iced Café Americano.
So, going back to, the International Seon Center...
The temple is located at:
167 Mokdong-ro (Sinjeong-dong)
Yangcheon-gu, Seoul, South Korea
I booked the program, “The Breath & Rest Templestay” through KLOOK, where I only paid PHP 2993.10 from its original price of PHP 3191.00. With KLOOK, you can earn rewards by inviting friends, on top of the generous promotions that they offer from time-to-time. And should you join now, you can get as much as P166.00 discount towards your first unique travel experience.
After booking, the Temple manager contacted me and confirmed my reservation. She also provided an easy map and guide, on how to find the temple, which is just within city limits. Both the temple manager and the monk, were very well versed in English, hence you can learn a lot during the program. And just as advised, I arrived around 1:30 PM, since the program starts at 2. I was then escorted to my room and was given a quick briefing on the schedule of activities that was already posted inside. A rundown of house rules and regulations was also presented.
Experiencing Korean Traditional Culture. Learning How to Chant and Evening Chanting at the Great Dharma Hall
And, the major Temple Stay activities…
- Meditation Practice: Seon (Zen) Meditation, from [the Templestay Guidebook in Seoul], “is the very essence of Korean Buddhism, as a Buddhist practice with the purpose of shedding light on the true self. [It] literally means ‘an entry into Samadhi (Dwelling in tranquility),’ the core of the Korean Buddhist performance to fin one’s true self. Zen is the state of mind where no distractions get in, guiding the practitioner to a truer picture of the self. It is described as enlightenment or ‘Gyeonseong’ (insight into the self). And, instead of Taking Rest from 5AM to 7AM of the next day, a Buddhist Nun (Female Monk) invited us for a meditation.
- Teatime with the Guiding Teacher: This is an hour talk with your guiding teacher (a Buddhist Monk/Nun) where we had the opportunity to ask, and share anything, about life’s questions, individual differences, to what could be anything that could provide real happiness… how to cope with stress, and just anything out of the blue…
- 108 Prostrations (Baekpalbae): This was truly a very humbling experience. I almost cried in realization on how much we need to show respect to other with the nature of the Buddha. From the same guidebook, “Each of the 108 prostrations is considered repentance of one’s wrongdoings and thereby expiating 108 defilements. 108 prostrations stand for one’s wiliness to make a new start and take concrete action to get down to the basics of Buddhism. That is, repentance and a great resolve to attain great enlightenment. As an empty mind, can contain something new, your empty mind or thoughtlessness will have you experience the Buddha’s nature throughout every moment of the 108 prostrations.”
The experience was totally out of this world. I never felt so much relaxed, especially all that you do whenever there is free time, is just reflect, meditate, and should you wish to learn more about Korean Buddhism, books are available inside the room where some can even be taken home for free. The food was amazing; I never had such delightful and delicious vegan meal. The staff were nice, friendly, and accommodating. The time and money spent was all worth it. Definitely, this will make one go back to Korea from time-to-time. I am looking forward to another Templestay this winter, and it will be in one of the traditional temples up Korea’s mountains.
Right after checking-out, I passed by a nearby coffee shop to have my daily dose of Café Americano. It was just the start of autumn, the weather was still a little warm but with a touch of little cold breeze, so I had my drink “iced”. I stayed for about an hour, since they have free Wi-Fi, and so I can transfer some photos from my camera to my phone.
Sitara Indian Restaurant
And since it was already lunch time, I went back to Hongdae (the place where I stayed on the first day), to have lunch in and Indian Restaurant – “Sitara”. And yes, although I was in South Korea, I was hunting for some Indian or Mediterranean cuisine. For 9 months now, I stopped eating pork and I just could not stand having any touch of pork on my diet. I found a lot of vegan restaurants, however I had difficulties finding them since most of their names were written in Korean alphabets. Language differences cannot be denied, and I was afraid of me asking for no pork, might end up being served with one.
After lunch, I went straight to Eunpyeong-gu
– one of the districts in South Korea, and looking at the map, it is located towards the North. I had to be in this place, because this is where my Airbnb Booking was located.
I was very lucky to have found Jun Ho’s (my host) listing at Airbnb.com, where I was only charged PHP1271 instead of PHP2286 after using up some referral credits for referring some friends to Airbnb. If this is your first time booking through Airbnb, you too can get as much as PHP1100 (or equivalent $) discount towards your first trip by signing up through this link.
Should you visit South Korea, aside from Maru Hostel, Hongdae, I would also recommend Jun Ho’s place; it is very accessible through Bulgwang Station. It was just about 20-30 meters from the subway station, very safe and secured since it is at the 6th floor of a condominium building. Everything is furnished, including some charger adapters. You might just have to bring a small towel, since there isn’t one provided. They operate in a self-check-in system, where the instructions are clearly provided after approval and confirmation of booking. Self-check-out is also automated, which should be at 10AM the following day. There are also a lot of restaurants and convenience stores nearby, and best of all a mall that opens around 10:30 AM is also just a walking distance. Here’s an easy guide on how to find this recommended place!
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
Since I already have some free time, I went to Dongdaemun Design Plaza. I was also looking for a traditional Korean Fan, and I was referred to this place by the waiter at Sitara Indian Restaurant. This place, according to: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr, “has a meaning of Dream, Design, and Play. It holds various exhibitions, fashion shows, forums, conferences, and other domestic and international events. Registration for touring the architecture is available on-site and other event schedules and kid program information are available on the website.”
According to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki, “is a major urban development landmark in Seoul, South Korea designed by Zaha Hadid and Samoo, with a distinctively neofuturistic design characterized by the ‘powerful, curving forms of elongated structures’.” “The DDP has been one of the main reasons for Seoul’s designation as World Design Capital in 2010. Construction started in 2009 and it was officially inaugurated on March 21, 2014.”
Their operating hour is Tuesday-Sunday from 10AM to 7PM with extended hours of up to 9PM during Wednesdays and Fridays. This landmark is very accessible since it is connected to Seoul Subway through “Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station”. There are also a lot of shopping malls and duty free shops around the area, including stalls that appeared to turn into a street market at night.