Korea, day 10 and 11 (overnight at the Buddhist temple)

This entire trip seems like one unexpected day after another.

We left Busan and made the 3 hour drive to the Green Tea Plantation in Boseong. It’s a gorgeous plantation and I shared a photo on Twitter that day.

I discovered a number of things about green tea. The first harvest in the Spring is considered the most desirable and the last harvest in the late summer/fall is the least desirable. The price difference is 7x and the tea is labeled by harvest date here.

After a few hours exploring we drove to Gurye to the Hwaeomsa Temple. This Buddhist temple is located in the southwest corner of Jirisan Mountain. It was constructed in the year 544 and then subsequently destroyed and rebuilt over the years from all the wars and invasions.

We stayed overnight at the temple. We were given simple clothes to wear and different shoes. We were divided into two rooms. Men/boys in one room and women/girls in the next. Each room was about 20’x15’ or so. Each of us had two blankets. One served as the “mattress” and the other was to cover. We each had a pillow. That was the entire furnishing of each room. There was electricity and a heated floor

Before dinner we had a 45minute orientation. We were taught how to bow, when to bow and all the additional rules of the temple.

When it was time for dinner, we quietly walked into a large room where we ate. It was sort of a simple cafeteria. Rows and rows of tables, a kitchen and all the food was on a large table to share. The rules in the cafeteria: complete silence, you must completely eat all the food you put on your plate and each person is responsible for hand washing their own played and utensils. The food was completely vegan which was fine with me. It was a little rough for James. The monks ate with us.

After dinner we had free time and then bed time at 9pm. At 3am we were awoken to drumbeats on the hill. We walked together in the dark through the grounds into various areas and then to the prayer room. The monks chant and we all bowed in unison at many many times throughout the service.

Free time from 4:30am until 6am breakfast meant we could take a quick nap and that is just what we did. By 6am we woke up and were starving. Back to the dining hall, again in complete silence.

When we finished breakfast we went on a hike up the mountain. A river to one side of the trail and unreal vistas in every direction. It was so beautiful.

We had a short one hour free time until 11am and then we met with a monk who taught us about Mala beads. It’s their prayer beads for bowing and meditation.

We learned the significance of the number 108 which I won’t go into right now. But to make our own beads we had to fully bow 108 times. A full bow starts from a standing position. Then you kneel and place your head to the floor. With each full bow we placed a single bead on a string. We did this 108 times. I think it took an hour. My knees were aching by the end.

By early afternoon it was time to depart the temple. All of us were exhausted and ready to find lunch somewhere. But it was an amazing and beautiful experience in so many ways. The life of a monk is something beyond what I can fully comprehend. They have a humble appreciation for the moment that is inspiring.