• Day40

    Last Day in Korea

    October 6, 2019 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Our temple stay continued with a fairly typical Buddhist monk wakeup time: 3:50am! They have another drumming ritual starting at 4:07am precisely, so we had to be up in time for that. Much the same as last night, though still quite cool to see. This was immediately followed by morning prayers and meditation in the main hall of the temple, so we followed our guide in.

    I'd figured out that if I folded the prayer cushions three times I could sit high enough to be cross-legged on the floor without much discomfort, so that's what I did! I'm pretty bad at meditating, but it was really cool to sit in the same room as all the monks, seeing them all in lotus position, still as statues. Listened as they went through the ritual singing and chanting, then the worst part which was 10 prostrations before the Buddha. Basically a burpee, you start in a standing position, bow and then kneel before bowing to the floor so that your knees, elbows, nose and forehead all touch the ground. Then you rise to a kneel and stand again. Ten times. I guess if you're meditating properly the pain isn't noticeable.

    Prayers finished, we had an hour before breakfast at 6am which I used for a bit more merciful sleep. Breakfast was much the same as dinner, though less spicy and with a soybean soup that had squishy rice cakes in it, a bit like gnocchi. I wouldn't call it tasty, but it was nice enough. Temple tour at 7am with a monk, though we were mainly revisiting spots we had already seen yesterday. We got to go inside the tripitaka pavilions, but you can't see the actual blocks and no photos are allowed inside.

    A little free time which we used at the coffee machine to load up on caffeine and chat to the others. At 8am we had a woodblock printing session where we got to print our own copies of the Heart Sutra, the same way copies would be printed from the tripitaka. The woodblocks are of course just imprints of what you want to put on the paper, and the Chinese had this printing technology centuries before Gutenberg. His innovation was the idea that having lots of letters meant you could quickly and easily change what was being printed each time. The Chinese, of course, with thousands of characters, didn't have that luxury!

    Last step on the program was chatting with a monk over tea. It was the same monk who had guided us with the meditation the previous night, and it was nice to see her in a slightly less formal setting. Very surprised to learn that she had been at the temple for 30 years, and had started the process when she was 9, so she was at least older than us! But I guess with the shaved head and the genetic "Asian women don't wrinkle until their 50s" thing, she didn't look more than 25.

    The session was nice, but a bit frustrating too because of the language barrier. She spoke a little English and even though our guide interpreted for us, Arlette kept asking odd tangential Marie-style questions (with an additional language barrier since her English was only okay), and the Israeli man kept asking questions by talking about his favourite topic - himself.

    And with that, we were done! Packed up, said goodbye to everyone and hurried down the hill for the 12pm bus back to Daegu, where we got another bus south to Gimhae. This was a flying stop, as there was a tentative WHS to visit here - Tumulus mounds! Ancient burial mounds from kingdom that even pre-dated the Silla. There wasn't much to see in either the museum or the mounds themselves, just a lot of locals walking their dogs around the mounds since it was a sunny Sunday afternoon in a large park. The highlight was probably when we saw two dachshunds! But at least we've been and ticked it off, as Korea will probably push it through in the next couple of years.

    From Gimhae we got an hour-long local bus into central Busan, second-largest city in South Korea. Gimhae is basically a satellite city, sort of like Penrith I guess. Our hotel was downtown near the train station which must have been a good idea when we booked, but it was a long way from the bus station and the airport, both of which we actually needed, so it wasn't a great choice in the end. The room was nice enough, and we passed the evening working before our traditional final meal in a country: McDonalds.
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