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Buddhist temple

Spin Kicks, Spirituality, and a Sunrise: Templestay at Golgusa Temple



It's never a bad idea to start out a new year with a few extra good karma points... you never know when you'll need them.  So, instead of spending New Year's Eve drinking too much in a crowded, overpriced bar in Seoul, I decided to ring it in at Golgulsa, a Buddhist temple located just outside Gyeongju, South Korea.
Templestays have been gaining popularity amongst tourists and usually involve a short-term stay in one of the 900 traditional Buddhist temples in Korea.  Participants follow a rather strict schedule to experience a day (or two or three) in the life of the monks that reside there.  A templestay was something that had been on my bucket list for a while, so when I found a special New Year's program on the official Templestay website, I knew I had to sign up.
It was about a five hour trek from Seoul to Golgulsa Temple that required two bus trips, a bit of waiting around, and a short walk to the temple grounds from the final bus stop.  Once I had arrived, I was given a brief introduction to the program, a map of the complex, and special clothes that I was to wear during my stay.  I was then directed to my room where I would be spending the night with about fifteen other women.  The room was a rather large common area with pillows and blankets spread out on the floor for sleeping.  There was a bathroom with a toilet, a few open showers, and sinks that were to be shared.  I've become use to this arrangement after living in Korea for a few years but wondered how other Westerners not used to copious amounts of nakedness would handle the situation.

Gangwon-do in Autumn

A Temple By the Sea – Haedong Yonggungsa (guest post)

CISK note: this guest post comes to you courtesy of T Paul Buzan, who has a lot more stories and pictures available at koreaconnection.net.

Life in Korea is a high-octane rush of work and play, late nights and early mornings, and routine adventure. It’s exciting – and frequently exhausting. No wonder caffeine is a staple of most diets here.

But there’s only so much coffee and green tea a person can drink. At some point you have to slow down, breathe, and take a few minutes to just chill out and recharge. Where to go?

One of the most peaceful experiences you can have in Korea is visiting a Buddhist temple. Imagine: Beautiful, natural scenery; the air sweet with the smell of incense; the rhythmic chanting of monks. It’s the perfect antidote to a hectic weekend in Seoul.

Ready to plan a relaxing trip? Read on to learn about one of the more unique temples Korea has to offer.


Destination: Beomeosa (Busan)

The largest Buddhist temple in Busan, Beomeosa feels both homey and solemn, if such a thing is possible. Enter through the storied gates and become aware of the temple’s 1,300 year history.


Destination: Songgwangsa (Suncheon, Jeollanam-do)

The monks were everywhere. One was beating his wooden moktok, another was laboriously carrying a load of plants, and a third was walking through the courtyard. A number were meditating behind one of the hall’s closed doors, while even more were seen walking in a separate section of the temple, restricted to visitors. One was even seen bringing a Dunkin’ Donuts bag into the monks-only section. At that point, the Lady in Red pinched me, telling me that this is indeed not a dream – there really are lots of monks here. Then again, why wouldn’t they be?


Destination: Yongmunsa (Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi-do)



Not to be confused with the surrounding Yongmunsan Resort (용문산관광지), Yongmunsa offers a thousand-year-old tree just outside of a temple founded as the Silla dynasty was ending. It seems a bit disingenuous to put an amusement park right next to a Buddhist temple, but there it is.

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