Monday, April 5, 2010

Vacations are dangerous. They mean time away from the internet. That in itself would be fine. It's just that things pile up so dangerously in just 12 hours that attempting to sift through more than 12 hours worth of email, blog updates, newspapers, and such makes me feel slightly nauseous. Apparently, the key to feeling better is sleeping 13+ hours until your body stops hating you quite so much. Which is why there were no blog updates this weekend. Sunday afternoon I managed to drag my butt out of bed and make it out to Tongdosa to visit the Cragon and see the temple ('sa' actually means temple). Tongdosa is about an hour from Yangsan on the red 12 bus. The bus also goes into Busan so I imagine you could grab it from there too.

Tongdosa is more what I imagined life in Korea to be before I got here. I knew that Korea was populous but I didn't quite grasp it. I mean New York is populous...but not with the same level of density. The architecture is more of a blend between traditional and modern because it's been added onto here and there rather than bulldozed (or bombed) and started from scratch.

The walk from the bus stop toward the temple. Just look at the battered traditional roof with the modern apartment building behind it. SO COOL. Not to mention the mini truck. I'm kind of amazed these things can get up hills with full loads.

And the wilderness, my god. The forest surrounding the temple is pristine, dotted with purple wild flowers and absolutely stunning.  It was utterly refreshing to breath sweet air, look at a temple hundreds of years older than my country and enjoy the company. Everyone seemed elated to be outside and enjoying the scenery.

I even did the unthinkable: I managed to bring my camera with me AND remember to charge the batteries beforehand. I didn't even trip over anything major for the afternoon. Until of course, I fell over laughing but that's entirely permissible. I'll save those stories for a slow news/life week.
Yay for signs! I am terrible at remembering these sorts of details about where I go.
The temple is about a kilometer away from the main gate. You can take the leisurely walk in (lots of benches to ponder the prettiness from) or drive your car up a different path and park near the actual temple.
 Even the instant coffee has to fit in! Obviously, this was one of the original temple outhouses. :-)

This is the giant (modern) Buddha outside of the museum. I actually spent an hour in there, they had a pretty great collection of art. The signage was uneven. Sometimes there were great signs in Korean, English and Chinese and other times it was just Korean. The only thing I wish is that the signs talked a little more about the artistic context for the period rather than just who is who in the paintings and so forth. I should really take a class on Korean art one of these days...

 Before entering the museum you have to put on slippers....this is a great idea in theory but it was definitely a one size fits all sort of deal. The Cragon has decidedly Western sized feet.
 Okay, I will admit that I was dying to take more pictures of the monks walking around. It just seemed so disrespectful. I finally snapped this one when, as you can see, the woman in front of me went mad for photos. The monk was super polite and even posed with the woman's friends/family. I wasn't quite so bold but I took advantage of the moment.
Easily my favorite part of any temple is when you walk through the entrance and see the protecting guys who keep away evil spirits. I mean come on, this guy is crushing a DRAGON with his bare hand. That's bad ass.

Me: I wonder who those people are supposed to be.
Cragon: my co-workers said they represented the Japanese.
Me: Are you JOKING?
Cragon: Nope!
This is...very Korean. But to be fair, the Japanese did burn down an earlier version of the temple. They have a right to be a wee bit irritated. 
I kept snapped pictures of the paving tiles all day. One without my foot and one with to get a good perspective on size. As usual, I got many stares for being slightly insane. Oh well, I think they are pretty.

I absolutely adore Korean temples...but signs advertising upcoming events or whatever in ways that don't blend in, really rub me the wrong way. That being said, I loved seeing the buildings that weren't restored completely on the outside.

No idea what this is, I've never seen anything like it at a temple. Very interesting though.

Again, what on earth is this for??? Candles? Somehow, I doubt it's an instrument of torture though it kind of looks like it....

Just so everyone knows: sometimes I hate blogger with a fiery, fiery passion. I keep thinking about changing to wordpress but Blogger DOES do things that I like and changing URLs would be a pain.  Why do I hate blogger today? Because I've spent 30 minutes uploading photos and fidgeting with formats and then it SOMEHOW ATE HALF OF THEM! This is why there are pictures without captions. Blogger broke my creative soul and by that I mean broke my will to rewrite things. ....I'm not melodramatic at all. Nope, not a bit.

There were lots more little buildings and amazing nooks to discover but picture overload for the blog! One day, you'll just have to visit on your own.
All in all: Tongdosa is fabulous and everyone should go. Well, if you live in the Busan area that is.


Tony said...

I came to your blog through my friend's blog and just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed this post. I have a friend that is Korean and I'm sure he would love to read this too so I'm going to point him in your direction. He's always telling me about Korea, so it was good to see the interesting pictures on your page along with the stories behind them.

Alex said...

Awesome! Welcome to the adventures!

I had Korean friends in high school who talked about Korea sometimes but it's nothing like seeing the pictures/living it. Glad you are enjoying!

Nancy K said...

Great pictures Alex. I love the painted beams. Reminds me of some temples in southern India.

Alex said...

The painted beams are why I love temples in Asia so much (well, okay, China and Korea since I haven't been to many temples outside of there). They have similar styles but are all beautifully unique. I can't get enough of them!

Rachel S said...

Very strange, 2 different times I have been able to see all the photos at home, but not at work. Maybe I should work at work, and not check your blog (hmmm, that is a thought). But I just have to read it as soon as I know you have a new one posted. I am so hooked!

And I do love all the photos. Great pictures and great stories. Thank you.

Tim said...

Weird! I used to work at the High School and Middle School there about 5 months ago...did you happen to walk by the weird bar? 'Beetles Bar' The town was so small...but I miss it all the same :(

Alex said...

@ Rachel: Short, fulfilling breaks can lead to more productive work time!
@ Tim: Yes! I'm pretty sure I have a picture of it too somewhere....
Also, agreed: Tongdosa is awesome.