December 30, 2009
SoKor Day 20: Songgwangsa Temple and Karaoke
This morning we got some extra sleep which was great. The pace of my trip over the last couple weeks has been really intense, and I was expecting a bit of a change of pace when joining up with some other folks for traveling, which was great. We took off in the morning to a coffee place for some "Western food" - a pretzel and cappuccino - at this coffee house that had a straight-up ripoff of the Starbucks logo. We then went to Lisa's school to "check in" and then headed off on a bus to Songgwangsa Temple.
It was a long bus ride through the countryside, and I just loved it. As in Japan, the farm houses and even little sheds all had awesome, interesting, traditional roofs - that was so cool. There was a lot of very flat land which is filled with water in the summer ("rice paddies"). We got to the temple after a couple of hours on the bus and it was just awesome.
The temple entrance was very ornate, and had the very colourful and bright painting underneath it that seems common at Buddhist temples around South Korea. There were lots of dragons on the gate entrances too, so cool. We wandered into the temple area and into the "Hall of 1250 Buddha and disciple statues". You could tell that the sculptures were kept in very good condition and there is a lot of care taken over the temple area, too. Inside the main temple, we were not allowed to take photos, but it sure was impressive in there. 3 huge Buddhas were in there, all about 20 feet tall at least. We spoke to a few people and admired the art and culture, before heading out and back to the souvenir store. There I got some placemats, a wall covering with a lotus flower on it and some bracelets for friends. All the money from the souvenirs goes to support the temple operation and the monks directly, so I was happy to get lots of stuff to take home there, knowing the proceeds went to a good cause. On the way out we walked past an icey lake and saw some monks walking by.
Then we got some tasty hot chocolate for this cold, blustery day and caught a bus back to Suncheon. Brr it sure is colder here than in Japan! Once we got back to Lisa's I had a quick shower and then got ready for dinner with some of Lisa's co-teachers and friends.
For dinner we got something called "Dalk Galbi" - which was, surprisingly, neither "Duck" nor "Galbi" (beef ribs). Rather it was actually a sweet chicken stir-fry with chewy rice cakes that looked a bit like ribs, but were not! Other than the Ho dok pancake last night, this was my favourite meal so far. There were lots of side dishes as usual here, and the Kimchi was much better here than last night - it was less strong, but still tasty and spicy. After a great communal dinner we went to a Target-like store called "Home Plus" for Ice Cream for dessert. At one point there was a "Home Plus" theme song that came on over the loud speakers and apparently sometimes all the workers stop what they are doing and perform some dance to it?! We saw a few of the workers busting out some moves, but not too many unfortunately :)
From there we went to Noraebong (Karaoke!) We picked up some Soju and Aloe juice first at a corner store. They gave us a "serviceuh" of some free chips. The girls in the store recognized Lisa and her friends (I believe they were students of Lisa's) and so I took the opportunity to encourage them. I told the girls in the store they they spoke very good English, and they were a bit shy but responded, "Thank you very much!" It was funny. Outside of the store we saw some boys from a local school too and they said, very quickly, "Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!". Lisa and friends said this was very common as they were excited to try out some English and are always surprised when it "works" and foreigners respond. So they were very excited to chat with us, too.
We got inside the Noraebong room, and it was hilarious. They had wireless Mics and a wireless controller to add more songs to the queue. There were also lots of tambourines!! The microphones had echo to them, and there were tons of English songs for selection and we totally rocked out Guns & Roses, Green Day, Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, etc. It was totally sweet. It started with just 4 of us there: Me, Lisa, Scott and Lindsey but lots more folks arrived over the evening and it was a really great time. We were there for 5 hours!!
We got back and I finaalllly got to pet Mokah the nervous cat, very briefly!! After a very long day it was time for a good sleep. Before bed I had some tea for my throat after singing so hard at Karaoke. :)
Cool roofs from the bus window on the way from Suncheon to Songgwangsa Temple
More cool roofs
The fanciest South Korean bathroom, ever
Me taking a picture of the main gate to the temple
Trying not to freeze in the cold wind with Lisa
And now for the absolutely glorious, vibrant painting...
So maaaannny coooool gates like this
Description of the temple
This was the oldest gate
Old gate and telephone booths
Frozen lake and more of the temple
Freezing my buns off, but excited for the walk around the temple
More cool architecture
The entrance to the hall of Buddhas
Main doors to Hall of Buddhas
1250 Buddha and disciple statues
Dragon and beautiful roof work
This dragon was really cool too
Description of the Hall of Buddhas
Some more brave visitors on this cold day
More amazing roof painting
Monk's housing area
"Dalk Galbi" - neither "Duck" nor "Galbi" (ribs). Instead, a glorious chicken stir-fry that was totally awesome.
At a department store hanging out
Best symbol ever for "rest room"
Here we go to Noraebong!!
Scott and Me belting out some Backstreet Boys
Mike-uh and Lis-uh
Still rockin' some mad tunes with Scott
Here comes the dancing
Tried out Soju and "Aloe" juice
Rockin' some tunes hard with Lis-uh