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Now and Then: Jikjisa Temple

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An aerial shot of Jikjisa Temple from the last century.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, was first founded in 418 A.D, and it’s believed to be one of the oldest temples on the Korean peninsula. It’s believed to have been established by the venerable monk, Ado. In fact, one of the meanings behind the temple’s name has to do with Ado. The name “Jikji,” in English, means “pointing directly,” which is in reference to Ado when he pointed at a perfect spot to locate a future temple that turned out to be Jikjisa Temple. Another meaning behind the temple’s name is that it refers to a Seon expression where one is “pointing directly to the Original Mind.” One final meaning behind the temple’s name is that during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), temples weren’t built by using rulers; instead, they were measured by hand. In English, “Ji” means “finger.”

Monk Ado, a Goguryeo monk, is legendary in his own right. It’s believed that he was the first missionary monk to introduce Buddhism to the shamanic Silla Kingdom, which formally accepted Buddhism in 527. Originally much smaller in size when it was first established, Master Jajang-yulsa further expanded the temple to some forty buildings in 645 A.D. Jikjisa Temple enjoyed a further renaissance with major renovations in the 10th century under the geomantic recommendations of Master Doseon-guksa.

Like so many other famous temples throughout the Korean peninsula, Jikjisa Temple faced almost complete destruction during the Imjin War in 1592. Ten years later, in 1602, some twenty buildings were rebuilt. Jikjisa Temple faced repeated destruction by fires throughout the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), as well as further damage caused by fighting during the Korean War (1950-53). It wasn’t until 1966, with governmental support, that the temple was finally rebuilt to its former glory by 1981.

Today, Jikjisa Temple is the 8th regional headquarters for the Jogye-jong sect, which is the largest Buddhist Order in all of Korea. It was also the first temple to participate in the Temple Stay program in 2002. The temple continues to provide the Temple Stay program to any and all guests. In total, the temple houses a National Treasure and ten additional Treasures. The one National Treasure it does house, National Treasure #208, is the Gilt-bronze Sarira Reliquary from Sakyamuni Stupa of Dorisa Temple.

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Another aerial shot.

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A shot of the Mansye-ru Pavilion.

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A look towards the temple’s main hall.

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 A look towards the Biro-jeon Hall.

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Another temple hall.

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A picture from what looks to be Buddha’s birthday.

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And one more look at Jikjisa Temple in all its splendour.

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A look towards the Mansye-ru Pavilion, today, through the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The Biro-jeon Hall to the left with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall to the right.

The post Now and Then: Jikjisa Temple appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.


Inspiration through Dance - Dance To Connect in Busan

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Being part of a multi-racial society can be a barrier to making friends due to the limitations of language, but recently here in Busan four groups of people crossed that divide in a most unusual way.

The Dance-To-Connect workshop arranged by the American Embassy Seoul and the American Prescence Post in Busan invited the Battery Dance Company (BDC) from New York to hold a week long workshop in Busan.

The worksop was hosted at the Sohyang Music Theatre near Centum in Busan and comprised of four groups of people numbering about a hundred strong.

The four groups were split into, North Korean family members, disadvantaged children, a choir and multi-national housewives.

The theme of the show was to highlight the emotions of the lives of people in each group. I was very fortunate that my wife, a Filipina was one of the housewife group members and became the photographer for the event.

The event started on Sunday 25th January and lasted until Friday 30th January. On the opening day each group was assigned a dance instructor from the famous Battery Dance Company, who would guide them in Modern Dance towards the final performance which was not actually made known to the participants until later in the week. 

Clement Mensah, African by birth but trained as a dancer in London and later joined the Battery Dance Company in New York was the instructor for the housewives group that I followed.

The opening, was to have the housewives talk in their own language about the stereotypical view of the housewife and how it influences their role in society. Clearly sitting in a group trying to talk of such a personal subject needed some encouragement until one or two strongly focused ladies presented their views and issues about life a multi-racial household.

The starting point was for each dancer to dance out their name, this helped everyone to recognise each other when there was no common language between them. This melting pot of nationalities included, Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese and Ukrainian with limited common language skills. There were a few of the group members that knew each other previously but in general they were strangers to each other. It is amazing that even weeks after, I see some of the dancers still recognising others by the name-dance.

Then each member would have to dance out their daily houshold routine in front of the whole class -twice !, and even at this point it was interesting how the second performance improved over the first.

This was the opening for Clement to use their emotions to act out in 'Modern-Dance' style, some of their activities and later to add emotion and build a dance routine around this.

Over the course of the week, Clement built on the subject of the household routines and selected parts to be used in the final performance.

For me there were some memorable days, one of those was asking the group to form either pairs or small groups and try to lift or carry each others weight. With little guidance I saw some very strange moves and efforts and found myself being called to photograph some hilarious moments as they struggled and collapsed into piles on the floor. By the end of the thirty minutes I was the one sweating !

The final performance was on Friday night, the first time the group saw the theatre was about two hours before the performance when they pitched up to practice their routine under the direction of the lighting and performance director's command.

The theatre is a truly beautiful place with almost 1200 seats in two teirs. The stage was enourmous in both depth and width. From the audience the lighting, sound and visual effects were stunning. When I saw the final practice I was amazed and excited and knew that I had to get it right in the camera because this was a remarkable event.

The final performance would have the performance by the amateur dance groups interspersed by a performance from the professional Battery Dance Group.

As previously agreed by the Organisers I have put many of the photos of the amateur performers on Flickr for anyone to look at, these can be found at : (please like your favorites)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kabayanmark/sets/72157650149898997/

The choir had been tutored by Mira, she is a very talented songwriter, musician and dancer. Three of the four songs were written by the children and the last by Mira. All were fantastic and worthy of praise, at the same time they danced out thier routines, clearly some appeared to depict the struggle in North Korea and the survival of these people. It was hard to believe that just a few days before they were not even dancers, now they looked professional. One of the dancers introduced the western influence of break-dancing by spinning around on the floor and using one handed break-dance routines.

The housewives bought their piece of homelife to the stage with real pazazz, it was obvious that the group had bonded well and turned their 26 person routine into real eye-candy using the routines they had designed and practiced themselves during the week.

Not to take anything away from the true professionals though, the routines of (Battery Dance Company) were amazing. In all honesty, and I am sure like so many of you reading this, I never developed a liking for this expressive modern dance style. This is probably due to not understanding it, but after a week with these groups I not only understand the art of modern dance but feel the passion in the story of the dance. Clement put on many solo routines, clearly an amazingly talented dancer with a strong muscular body that most men pray for. His routines depicted the developemnt of 'man'from birth and through life in a way that stirs the passion of the audience. It was like opera without the singing and the music added another dimension to your perception of the dance.

The BDC  were four, they each performed impressively both individually and together in a flawless performance that made the audience pay full attention.

Equally however we must remember that the BDC has turned ordinary people into great dancers in just a few days and that the dancers put a lot of effort into becomming those great dancers to everyone's delight.

From an outsiders perspective, I saw individual people dancing in their own tightly controlled space on day one, clearly aware of the group perception of themselves, to a group of flamboyant dancers using every inch of space they could get, share it withothers and even buckets of tears when they finally said goodbye. If this is about connecting people it worked to perfection. the group have formed lasting bonds, got thier own social network group and will soon attend a reunion dinnner once more.

thanks to the American Prescence Post in Busan; Mr. Kim DB, and Mr. Byung Junghwan in particular for their efforts.

FB : "Battery Dance Company"

Website:   http://batterydance.org

 


Created with flickr slideshow.

Half price movies with the CGV app

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One of my favourite activities in Korea is to watch half price movies in the morning at CGV cinemas. Tickets are usually 5,000 won instead of 10,000 won, and if you choose to indulge yourself at the ultra-sized Starium cinema, it’s 8,000 won instead of 12,000 won.

So how do you find out which movies are half price? Download the CGV app (below left) and search by cinema or movie (below right). The app is in Korean, but you’ll get the hang of it after a bit. =) If you have trouble reading the movie titles, just swipe right through the movie posters until you find the one you want.

The CGV app's download screen in the Google Play store. The CGV app's

The little sun icon (circled in red) indicates that it’s a half price morning movie. The Korean letters 자막 (also circled in red) mean that subtitles are provided.

Happy watching!

*This post is not sponsored by anyone, it’s just my personal experience, so I don’t guarantee that prices will stay the same.

I maintain this site as a hobby and have personally verified or experienced most of the information posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you’d like to contribute an update or additional useful information for other travelers, please comment below!
Prices provided in Korean won or US dollars.


Korean Double Consonants: The Terrible Twos

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Having trouble with figuring how how to pronounce Korean double consonants?

You’re not alone!

No doubt that Korean consonants are a challenge to pronounce.

This is especially true when you’re first learning Korean!

The key here is to be patient and understand that this pronunciation isn’t easy for anyone learning Korean.

However, there is a sliver lining to this problem! If you’ve studied the Korean double consonants, that means that you’ve already learned the Korean alphabet. Pat yourself on the back, because by learning Hangul (Korean alphabet), you’ve taken the first step towards making massive Korean language progress.

If you are reading this and haven’t learned Hangul, then you can download our free Hangul guide here. It will only take you about 60 minutes to learn.

Or if you’ve learned Hangul but don’t feel too confident with the Korean alphabet yet, then you may want to check out the free Hangul guide to help reinforce what you have learned.

There are two different versions of the Korean double consonants:

  • Identical Twin Consonants: Two of the same letters next to each other
  • Fraternal Twin Consonants: Two different letters next to each other

We’ll go over both versions below!

1. Identical Twin Consonants

Five of the Korean consonants have twin counterparts, known at “쌍”s. For example:

  • ㄱ = 기역
  • ㄲ = 쌍기역

So you can simply put a “쌍” before the name of the single consonant to describe the twin consonants.  The five twin consonants are ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅉ, ㅃ, and ㅆ.

The tough part is making the pronunciation distinction. The twin consonant is basically the same as the single consonant, except it’s said with emphasis. Here is a list of the single consonant sounds, their twin counterparts, and the pronunciation:

Hangul Sounds like
k
kk
d
dd
j
jj
b
bb
s
ss

If you were going to say the word “상” in Korean, then it would sound like “saang”.

If you were going to say the word “쌍” in Korean, then it would sound like “ssaang”.

The difference is in the emphasis and the strength of the “s” sound. The twin consonants sound almost aggressive because they are so sharp. 

This will take a while to get used to, so don’t stress about them too much. You can practice by typing in the words in the Naver Korean dictionary http://krdic.naver.com/ and pressing the pronunciation button and repeating correctly.

Korean double consonants Naver Dictionary

You can use the Naver Dictionary to practice Korean double consonants!

For example:

Also you can ask Koreans to correct you if you’re pronunciation is wrong and make a note to focus on that point.

2a. Fraternal Twins (single-syllable)

The other kinds of “double consonants” that you’ll run into appear in the bottom two positions of syllables.

For clarity, let’s define the positions of the letters in the syllable. We’ll use the syllable “앉”.

  • First position: “ㅇ”
  • Second position: “ㅏ”
  • Third position: “ㄴ”
  • Fourth Position: “ㅈ”

These double syllables are quite challenging because they produce different sounds than what you’d expect based on the standard pronunciation rules. Also, they’ll make different sounds based on whether they have syllables trailing behind or not.

Let’s start with the ones without trailing syllables, which we will refer to as “single syllables”.

i. Fourth Position ㅈ

If you have this combo in the third and fourth positions, the “ㅈ” becomes silent.

The way it looks The way it’s pronounced
[안]

ii. Fourth Position ㅎ

If you have this combo in the third and fourth positions, the “ㅎ” becomes silent.

The way it looks The way it’s pronounced
[찬]
[잔]
[실]
[만]

iii. Fourth Position ㅅ

If you have this combo in the third and fourth positions, the “ㅅ” becomes silent.

The way it looks The way it’s pronounced
[갑]
[업]

iv. Third Position ㄹ

If you have this combo in the third and fourth positions, the “ㄹ” becomes silent.

The way it looks The way it’s pronounced
[밥]
[익]
[읖]
[묵]

2b. Fraternal Twins (multi-syllable)

Do you remember the four letter positions from above? If not, make sure you do! They’ll be important here as well.

If you have a double consonant in the third and fourth positions and the next syllable contains an “ㅇ” in the first position, then the pronunciation may change.

In most cases, the fourth position letter in first syllable jumps over and takes the position of the “ㅇ” position in the second syllable.

For example, if you have the word “읽어”, it’s pronounced “일거”. That’s because the “ㄱ” jumps over and replaces the “ㅇ”.

Let’s cover four situations above, and see how they act when there is a “ㅇ” in the trailing syllable first position.

i. Fourth Position ㅈ

If you have this combo in the third and fourth positions, the “ㅈ” moves to replace the “ㅇ”.

The way it looks The way it’s pronounced
앉아 [안자]

ii. Fourth Position ㅎ

If you have this combo in the third and fourth positions, the “ㅎ” stays silent. The third position letter replaces the “ㅇ”.

The way it looks The way it’s pronounced
찮아 [차나]
잖아 [자나]
싫어 [시러]
많아 [마나]

iii. Fourth Position ㅅ

If you have this combo in the third and fourth positions, the “ㅅ” moves to replace the “ㅇ”.

The way it looks The way it’s pronounced
값아 [갑사]
없어 [업서]

iv. Third Position ㄹ

If you have this combo in the third and fourth positions, the “ㄹ” is pronounced and the fourth position letters moves to replace the “ㅇ”.

The way it looks The way it’s pronounced
밟아 [발바]
읽어 [일거]
읊어 [을퍼]
묽어 [물거]

If you’re uncertain about the pronunciation, you can always check the Naver Korean Dictionary  to check!

What words do you find most challenging to pronounce?


Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn

Korean lessons   *  Korean Phrases    *    Korean Vocabulary *   Learn Korean   *    Learn Korean alphabet   *   Learn Korean fast   *  Motivation    *   Study Korean  
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Drawing Seoul

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Yet another interesting week! I had entered my drawing for the Seoul Typography contest held by the Seoul Metropolitan Government on the first week of January. I have a passion for doodling and I had used doodling with the idea of depicting the four seasons of Seoul as my entry for the contest. I was selected for the final round last week and this week, my drawing was selected to be one to receive the Special Commentaries award :)

Special commentaries at the Seoul Typography Award


Feeling soo happy! My drawing is now under the copyright of the Seoul city so I am not able to display it to you all. Anyway, here are some more of my doodles. Do see more of my doodles in instagram account here.


Cheers to life! 건배 :)

TKQ on Vacation

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I'm off to Indonesia with the BF for vacation! Which means no more blogging, and hopefully seeing some of this in Bali:


Lee Hyori certainly is living the sweet life. Have a great New Year and see you in March!

~TKQ


Win copies of – Make Out in Korean: 3rd Edition – by Tuttle Publishing

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After the tremendous success of Making Out in Korean, Tuttle Publishing is now out with the 3rd edition of this book and to celebrate its success they are giving out 3 copies of this book.

For those of you who are not aware, this book is very handy for those who are new to the dating scene in South Korea or who just got hitched. This books has conversations on topics from making acquaintances, discussing likes and dislikes, going out to developing romantic relationships and much more. The revised edition includes more idioms with the same categories, but MOST importantly includes the phrases in Hangeul,

This book is to the point and does not sugar-coat phrases during translations. It is – the resource – for learning the Korean slang language and to understand how the locals speak the language. This isn’t a phrasebook for board meetings: it’s a phrasebook for making new friends in Korean bars. If you want to learn some great insults, cuss words, and the worst ways to compliment a women, read this book.

Chapters in this book include: Eat, Drink and be Merry, Curses and Insults, Party Talk, Getting Serious as well as Lover’s Language.

If you would like to win a copy of this book there are 3 simple things you need to do -

  1. Share / tweet this post (from our TheKoreaGuide Page on facebook) so we can track it. 
  2. Tell us why you need a copy of this book (in the comment section below)
  3. What would be your idea of a romantic Korean date (reply in the comment section below)

We will randomly select three most creative replies, so give it your best. Take a step ahead to impress your Korean Valentine this year with new love phrases in Korean. All the best :)

More about this book:

Making Out in Korean: Third Edition

Making Out in Korean is a fun, accessible and thorough Korean phrasebook and guide to the Korean language as it’s really spoken.

Nan neoga joa michigesseo! Uri tto mannalkka?—(I’m crazy about you! Shall we meet again?) Answer this correctly in Korean and you may be going on a hot date. Incorrectly, and you could be hurting someone’s feelings or getting a slap! Korean classes and textbooks tend to spend a lot of time rehearsing for the same fictitious scenarios but chances are while in Korea you will spend a lot more time trying to make new friends or start new romances—something you may not be prepared for.

If you are a student, businessman or tourist traveling to South Korea or North Korea and would like to have an authentic and meaningful experience, the key is being able to speak like a local. This friendly and easy-to-use Korean phrase book makes this possible. Making out in Korean has been carefully designed to act as a guide to modern colloquial Korean for use in everyday informal interactions—giving access to the sort of catchy Korean expressions that aren’t covered in traditional language materials. As well as the Romanized forms (romanji), each expression is given in authentic Korean script (hangul), so that in the case of difficulties the book can be shown to the person the user is trying to communicate with. In addition, easy-to-use phonetic spellings of all Korean words and phrases are given. For example “How are you?”—annyeonghaseyo? is also written as anh-nyawng-hah-seyo?

This Korean phrasebook includes:

  • A guide to pronouncing Korean words correctly.
  • Explanations of basic Korean grammar, such as, word order, questions, and formal vs. informal tenses.
  • Complete Korean translations including Korean Script (hangul).
  • Useful and interesting notes on Korean language and culture.
  • Lots of colorful, fun and useful expressions not covered in other phrasebooks.


Sudeoksa Temple – 수덕사 (Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do)

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The oldest building in Korea is housed at Sudeoksa Temple in Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on Mt. Deoksungsan in Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do, the exact date of Sudeoksa Temple’s construction is unknown. Because of this ambiguity in its origins, there are numerous stories surrounding its creation. According to records at the temple, the Buddhist monk Sungje-beopsa built the temple during the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C to 660 A.D). It’s also believed that the temple was first established in 599 A.D. by the Buddhist monk, Jimyeong-beopsa. And later, the temple was repaired and restored by the famed Wonhyo-daesa. Either way, it’s believed that Naong (1320-76) repaired the temple during the reign of King Gongmin (r. 1351-74). Like Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Sudeoksa Temple was one of the very few temples to remain unscathed during the extremely destructive Imjin War (1592-98). As a result, it houses the oldest wooden structure in Korea, the Daeung-jeon main hall, which dates back to 1308. The main hall is also recognized as National Treasure #49. Throughout the years, the temple has undergone numerous renovations in 1528, 1751, 1770, and 1803. Currently, Sudeoksa Temple participates in the popular Temple Stay program.

You first approach the temple through streets of restaurants and stores. Eventually, you’ll come to the temple’s ticket booth, which is also where the four pillared Iljumun Gate stands. Further up the path, you’ll encounter the Geumgangmun Gate. The exterior green walls are painted with guardians, and the interior to this gate houses two muscular Vajra warriors. To the rear of the gate are two large painted images of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) riding his blue haetae and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) on top of his white elephant.

Thirty metres up the trail, you’ll next come to the wide Sacheonwangmun Gate. Like the Geumgangmun Gate, the exterior walls are adorned with four fierce guardian murals. Inside the boxy Sacheonwangmun Gate are four of the scariest and intimidating Heavenly Kings that you’ll find at any Buddhist temple in Korea. The entire path up to the expansive Hwanghajeong-ru Pavilion, you’ll spot a number of pagodas along the way including an elephant-based stone lantern, as well as a seven-tier pagoda and dharma.

Passing under the Hwanghajeong-ru Pavilion, and mounting the rather steep set of stairs, you’ll finally enter the temple’s main courtyard. Straight ahead, and framing the historic main hall, is a three-story pagoda whose finial is crowned by a golden top. The Geumgangbo pagoda was constructed in 2000. Contained inside the pagoda are three sari (crystallized remains) from the Historic Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, that the temple received from Sri Lanka. To the right of this pagoda is the Beopgo-gak that houses the fish gong and the Dharma drum. To the left stands the Beopjong-gak that houses the temple’s large bronze bell.

A little further up and you’ll next come to another pagoda. This historic three-tier pagoda is believed to date back to the early Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). Behind this pagoda is the Daeung-jeon main hall, which is not only National Treasure #49, but it’s also the country’s oldest wooden structure. Dating back to 1308, the hall is almost unlike any other more modern building. Squarish in design, Sudeoksa Temple’s main hall is similar to the Geukrak-jeon hall at Bongjeongsa Temple in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do and the main hall at Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Unassuming on the exterior, the main hall houses five statues on the main altar centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the right hangs a mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). Additionally, there are numerous Goryeo era paintings spread throughout the interior of this historic main hall.

To the right of the main hall stands the Myeongbu-jeon. Contained within this hall is a green haired seated statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s surrounded on all sides by beautiful wooden reliefs of the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon. Out in front of this hall is a white granite statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who is also joined by another greener incarnation of Gwanseeum-bosal on the lower terrace. Housed inside this hall is a stout statue of Gwanseeum-bosal under a vibrant red canopy and a contemporary painting of this Bodhisattva.

There are numerous hermitages spread throughout the folds of Mt. Deoksungsan like Geukrakam Hermitage and Seonsuam Hermitage.

Admission to the temple is 2,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are a variety of ways that you can get to Sudeoksa Temple. From Seoul, you’ll need to get to the Nambu Bus Terminal and board a direct bus to Sudeoksa Temple. The bus ride lasts about two and half hours and should cost about 8,000 won. From anywhere else in the country, you’ll first need to get to the Yesan Intercity Bus Terminal. From there, you can take a rural bus to Sudeoksa Temple. Here is a list of potential buses that you can take: Bus #553 (8:20), Bus #547 (9:40), Bus #558 (10:50, 17:35), Bus #551 (12:00, 15:00), Bus #557 (13:20), Bus #549 (14:00), Bus #555 (15:55), Bus #556 (19:15). These buses will take about an hour and forty minutes to get to the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10. Beautifully situated in northern Chungcheongnam-do, Sudeoksa Temple lies just below the peak of Mt. Deoksungsan. With it housing the oldest wooden structure in Korea, there really is no better reason to visit this ancient temple. Besides this, the entry gates and the wooden reliefs inside the Myeongbu-jeon should be enough to pique your interest.

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The welcoming Iljumun Gate at Sudeoksa Temple.

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One of the adorning dragons on the Iljumun Gate.

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The Geumgangmun Gate at the temple.

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A decorative, yet fierce-looking, guardian on the gate.

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One of the protective Vajra warriors inside the Geumgangmun Gate.

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The elephant-based stone lantern.

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The Sacheonwangmun Gate seen from behind.

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One of the intensely fierce-looking Heavenly Kings.

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The expansive Hwanghajeong-ru Pavilion

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A look around the surrounding environs at Sudeoksa Temple.

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The Geumgangbo pagoda and historic main hall.

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The fish gong inside the Beopgo-gak.

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A better look at the historic Daeung-jeon main hall that dates back to 1308.

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The Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Sudeoksa Temple.

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And to the left is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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And then it was time to go.

The post Sudeoksa Temple – 수덕사 (Yesan, Chungcheongnam-do) appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.


The Pros and Cons of Hiring A Tour Guide in Siem Reap

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Chillin with Mr. Chang

Whether you’re traveling solo or not, international trips can be very stressful. There’s a lot of planning to do beforehand and just as much to figure out/pay attention to after you arrive. For some people, these challenges are part of the beauty and excitement. For others, the whole point of going on vacation is to spend time with their brain turned off. Either way, hiring a guide is worth considering. There are advantages to be enjoyed by both independent and brain-dead travelers alike, as well as a few downsides. It may not be necessary or even possible in every place you want to go. But specifically when it comes to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat, there’s a never-ending list of reputable guides you can hire and it’s a choice I highly recommend.

Pros:

  1. You’re with someone who knows the local language and is familiar with the city.
  2. You have instant access to authentic, personal information about the culture.
  3. You have your own personal photographer at your disposal.
  4. Before the trip, you can receive help/suggestions with planning your daily itinerary.
  5. Once you’re there, your guide can help you stay ahead of/avoid the crowds by timing your temple visits perfectly. They don’t rush you, or force you to “stay on schedule.” But they know the routes of the big tour buses and how to hit places at the right moment.
  6. You’re supporting the local economy and tourism industry in a positive way.

Cons:

  1. Depending on your budget, it can add quite an expense. I paid $50/day, which included a guide and motorbike for 5-7 hours each day. To rent a car instead of the bike would’ve been double the price and half the fun.
  2. You might not get along. This is unlikely, but a possibility nonetheless. I booked my guide in advance, and hired him for several days. He was very nice, professional and knowledgeable. But his speaking style was a bit aggressive and rushed. If I had waited and booked him the day-of, I could’ve nicely lied when we finished and said I wanted to see the rest of the sights on my own…and then just hired someone else. But he was counting on me to stick with him for 3 full days, and I didn’t want to back out and try to rip him off. So I kept my word.
  3. A guide can unintentionally overwhelm you with facts. All the historical  info was great at first. But closer to the end of my tour, I became less interested in who built what and which story a carving represented. I just wanted to enjoy the area and take cool pictures.

At the end of my trip, I was really glad to have had a guide with me…for 3 out of 4 days. By the last day, my temple pass had expired and he was taking me to places that didn’t involve him doing much “guiding.” As a result he became more of an overpriced driver. But like I said, it was still definitely worth it overall.



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