Last week I took my last trip for what could be quite a long time (more on that later) and the destination was South Korea! I never would have thought to visit Korea on my own but I have a few friends living there teaching English so the idea was sparked in me when they moved there. The timing worked out so well last week with a long harvest festival/holiday here and India, great ticket prices and it coincided with the cherry blossoms coming into bloom!
The evening I arrived to Seoul, Bree and I immediately headed to Hapjeong to drink tea and have a sweet at Snob Cafe, because we like dessert first! Then we wandered down the street to Hongdae which is a huge busy shopping area filled with lots of expats and army folk. We had dinner, did a little shopping and headed home. Bree has the cutest little Korean apartment!!
On Sunday we woke up and headed to Hangan Park at the Han river to see a cherry blossom festival. I just about cried the whole day, the blossoms were so beautiful and I couldn't believe I was finally getting to experience something like this! After the festival we took a metro then the bus to Petite France in Gapyeong. The whole little village is themed after the book The Little Prince, this story is very close to my heart as my Aunt Sharon gave me a copy for a birthday one year and it is one of my only childhood books that I have kept. We walked around there for quite sometime before heading off to Itaewon (I think!) for a dinner of yummy thai food!
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye"
On Monday I headed to Jogyesa Temple, a buddhist temple located right in the city. I have been to many Tibetan buddhist monasteries here in India and a couple of buddhist temples in Hong Kong and every where is a little different but South Asian buddhism is quite different from the Tibetan branch that I am accustomed to. The biggest difference is the architecture of the temple, then the fact that in Korea there are not prayer wheels or prayer flags and not nearly as many incense being lit (all of these are ways to send your prayers into the universe.) However, the spirit is still the same there and I sat inside the temple for nearly two hours during prayers and was completely floored by how strong and powerful the prayers were. I don't discuss my spiritualism much on here but Buddhism is a form of faith I connect with on many levels (though I could not call myself a Buddhist) so being there during prayers really moved me. I met some very sweet volunteers there one of which spent a few months in North India in McLeod Ganj where the Dalai Lama resides! After Jogyesa I walked to a little traditional tea shop where a few monks bought me cakes and Korean tea then parted ways. I walked down the road a bit further to Gyeongbokgung Palace just in time to see the slightly cheesy "changing of guards" performance that they do in front of the palace every hour. I headed inside the grounds and walked past the mass crowds back into the gardens and far building and found peace and beauty. Being in Korea felt like fulfilling a long time child hood dream. The architecture, people, food, language, everything. I sat in the garden for a while and just took time to thankful for the experiences I have been able to have over the last few years.
Paper lamps are being placed in all of the temples in preparation for Buddha's birthday!
At Gyeongbokgung Palace
The sweetest little cafe! Look at the wrapper on those Macroons!
Tuesday I spent most of the day wandering the shops of Insadong and the alleys and houses of Bukchon Hanok village. These homes are built in traditional Korean style and it feels like being in a different world, yet you can see the high rise buildings of Seoul in the distance. I felt a little bit like a creeper because people do actually live here, it is a neighborhood but there were a handful of other people walking around as well and there are maps specifically for going through the village so it is commonplace. But still, I felt like a peeping Tom!